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What Matters Most … A Balanced Mind

Written by Alvin Hew
SIS Group of Schools, Board Director

The importance of paying close attention to mental well-being at schools

Naomi Osaka, ranked the world’s No. 2 ranked woman tennis player by WTA, opted to pull out from the 2021 French Open – a Grand Slam tennis event – while it was still going on in Paris and after she had won her first match. Whether you agree with her decision – or not – to pull out from one of the world’s premier tennis tournaments, the message is that mental stress is a very real problem…not just in sports but also in life. We need to be especially mindful about this during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Arnold Palmer – a great professional golfer – said: “Golf is a game of inches. The most important are the six inches between your ears.” The margin between success and failure is small.

Schools spend enormous efforts to deliver on pedagogy to impart learning and cultivate the mind. But are schools paying enough attention to the mental well-being of their students? Other than pressures from school and studies, are teachers and faculty aware of the stresses heaped upon our young learners by media and social media?

What is our message to youngsters? Deal with it and get on with your studies? That may or may not help. We need to take time to listen and accept that our young learners need help before it gets too bad.

Now more than ever, we are finding such stories more relatable, and many of us may have experienced mental stress either first hand or know someone who has had to deal with it. As educators, we must be mindful of the anxiety and the mental state of our colleagues and students, and let them know that we are there for them, should they need support.

For students, we have included Social Emotional Learning (SEL) topics in our classes and homeroom sessions, and we will take it to the next level by being more in tune with changes in their moods or attitudes. SEL provides a foundation for safe and positive learning, and enhances students’ ability to succeed in school, careers, and life. Research shows that SEL not only improves achievement by an average of 11 percentile points, but it also increases prosocial behaviours (such as kindness, sharing, and empathy), improves student attitudes toward school, and reduces depression and stress among students (Durlak et al., 2011). Effective social and emotional learning programming involves coordinated classroom, school, family, and community practices that help students develop self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making. More information can be found in an article written by Roger Weissberg published in Edutopia – a George Lucas Educational Foundation.

At the SIS Group of Schools, we understand the criticality of mental well-being of not just our students, but also our faculty. For students, we have programs in place that we can execute – be they Home Room sessions, fun VR sessions – to check on where our learners are with their minds before we get down to the delivery of pedagogy. By understanding where they are mentally, we are in a better position to prepare them to learn and support them in their academic journey.

At the SIS Group of Schools, we also keep a close eye on the well-being of our faculty and team members. Our annual Climate Survey gives us a good gauge on how our teachers are thinking and feeling. We run regular motivational sessions to bring people together to ensure they are not feeling alone and everyone senses, correctly, that they are part of a big family.

In the end, the goal, in sports and life, is always the same: a balanced mind.

This bold decision by Naomi Osaka reminds us that we need to keep an eye on our own mental well-being as well as those of students in schools. Do you know how your school is dealing with your children’s stress?