Well-being at the ISK
This area of learning provides opportunities to enhance the physical, mental, emotional and social well-being of students. The school embraces the biopsychosocial model in its engagement with its students. Although schools are never ‘secret gardens’ and, of course, exist in a particular context and setting, this programme supports students in developing life skills and in building ‘a sense of belonging’ in our school. We recognise the myriad of factors outside our control – economic, political, environmental, social and familial factors – but wish to nurture the well-being of our students to the limits of what is possible. For example, the school is aware, of the pervasive nature of its ethos on the one hand, and the impact of the ‘built landscape’ on the other. This awareness of a myriad of factors feeds into a proper understanding of Well-being in our school.
It is important to acknowledge that ‘well-being’ and ‘ill-being’ exist as part of the human condition and well-being doesn’t necessary mean the absence of negative moods, feelings of thoughts. Anxiety, for example, is a normal aspect of our lives, while ‘distress’ is not. It is important to affirm that well-being may never be fully realised and everyone experiences subjective states of vulnerability and fragility. In fact it is this philosophical awareness of the nature of the human condition that is the best defence against anxiety and fear.
Although the academic impact of higher levels of well-being is a contentious subject internationally, some Irish research claims a direct correlation between well-being and academic outcomes. We embrace a holistic view of learning in our school, within which well-being is seen as both an enabler of learning and an outcome of learning.
Supportive teachers are essential in any school. One of the most important predictors of good mental health is the presence in the lives of young people of at least ‘one good adult’. We should not underestimate the day-to-day interactions between students and teachers and the importance of role models ‘modelling’ appropriate behaviour. Students can learn, not simply to ‘mimic’ positive behaviour, but to internalise the thinking that supports such behaviour. The development of emotional intelligence is often dependent on such ‘modelling’. Some teachers may appear to have a greater role in teaching about well-being than others but it’s important to recognise the potential of all members of the school community to promote personal well-being, active citizenship and lifelong learning and to recognise and nurture this potential.