Denise Powell Primary wellbeing coordinator
“If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
—— Roald Dahl British children literature writer
This year I feel very humbled to take on the role of wellbeing coordinator within our extensive CCA programme. Every day, our pupils are challenged in a variety of subjects. From Chinese and English to the arts and sciences, we place high expectations upon their young shoulders. As educators, we recognise the pressure and stress our pupils face. Both teachers and parents sometimes place too much emphasis on academic performance . What ultimately is our goal for our pupils? Do we want them to achieve success or happiness? Are both intrinsically linked, or can you achieve one without the other? The holistic development of each and every child is central to our mission at Huili School Shanghai. We use our role as educators to not only teach but also to support the mental, physical and emotional health of those under our care. A calm and happy mind focuses better on tasks. An effective communicator shares their opinions and becomes actively involved in their own learning. Self-assured and independent students are more likely to be confident in their abilities to tackle challenges head-on. This is the attitude we wish to foster in our pupils — the determination and fortitude to succeed and reach their goals. This year, I have had the privilege of introducing two new CCAs focused on developing positive wellbeing in our pupils. I want pupils to feel a sense of worth and belonging; a small community centred around positivity and accomplishment in which they can truly be themselves.
The first of these CCA programmes is intended for grade 1 and 2 pupils and is entitled 'Unlocking My Potential.' This CCA focuses on the needs of our youngest pupils at Huili. Entering a fully bilingual environment would prove a challenge for anyone, never mind a young child who is still developing their language skills in their native tongue. Thinking back to my time as a pupil, I felt confident to share my thoughts and opinions during my school lessons, but what about those pupils who doubt their abilities? How can we help to support them in developing their self-esteem? Throughout this semester, this small group has discussed feelings and emotions, sharing those hesitancies the pupils may have not felt comfortable sharing in a whole-class environment. Focusing on building positive mental health, they have questioned, shared opinions and even helped each other to translate at times. Through role-play activities and paired presentations, the pupils have not only focused on working cooperatively, but gained self-confidence in their public speaking abilities. The Huili Values are at the core of everything we do in our school environment. This young group have explored the power of words, both as a harmful and healing force. They have practised peer feedback techniques, offering constructive comments to encourage and help each other to improve and grow.
Our 'Steps to Success' CCA was developed for the upper primary pupils. With increased pressures and responsibilities, these young minds can often struggle to cope with the changes happening in the world around them. Together, we examined practical ways to cope with stresses and worries and how to tackle them independently; seeing things as a challenge rather than a chore. We have explored several important questions. Among them: What things in my life can I control? Can I decide how much homework my teacher assigns? Can I prevent my favourite activity from being cancelled? How can I learn to cope with these events in a positive, mature and independent way? We have also examined how simple things like organisation and prioritising tasks can have an impact on overall mental health, helping to alleviate anxiety and promote positive thinking. Taking responsibility for our actions is an essential value.We explored the impact of our choices and the consequences they generate. This group has also been given an opportunity to practise mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to become fully present and aware of what we are doing. Using the APP, Smiling Mind, we took time at the end of our sessions to engage in guided meditation. This gave our pupils the opportunity to calm their minds and bodies, freeing themselves from the mental clutter and scatter thoughts that distract them. This APP is a wonderful resource for both pupils and parents. It can be easily used at home and integrated into daily routines. There are sections dedicated to children, school, adults and even family. Our Upper Primary pupils enjoyed practising mindfulness so much, they even requested extra sessions! I am extremely proud of the journey both of these CCA groups have taken this semester. I feel honoured to have watched them grow into more confident and positive thinkers and I hope they will continue to transfer their new skills into their own life experiences. With a positive outlook, anything is possible for our pupils. Healthy, happy minds lead to more successful learners. Encourage laughter, prioritise happiness and above all else, smile!