The 21st Century learner has to keep up with a grueling pace of change, and it’s our job at SMUS to make sure we prepare students for what’s ahead – academically, socially and emotionally. Students’ ability to maintain a state of emotional well-being while balancing competing needs and priorities impacts their health, achievements, and fulfillment.
Our Health and Wellness team is committed to developing a culture in which the health of the body, mind, heart and spirit is considered daily. With the myriad of opportunities available to them, its important students learn to practice moderation.
When students (K-12) practice contemplative techniques, they learn and perform better and are more emotionally and socially healthy. One technique we have been practicing is mindfulness: taking the time to rest our minds and focus on the present moment. By integrating this kind of contemplation, to increase individual awareness and empowerment, we can improve health and balance school-wide and better prepare students for the challenges of university and beyond.
A focus was set on helping ensure that students:
- know the value of and take time for self–reflection;
- get to know themselves better and understand their needs;
- gain clarity about how their choices affect their well-being; and
- develop a “toolbox” of strategies that contribute to their resourcefulness and emotional resilience.
To establish mindfulness practices, professional development opportunities were offered for staff and a number of mindfulness initiatives were put in place at the Junior, Middle and Senior levels. As a result, students have learned to “decompress” using mindfulness activities which alert them to the present moment, and focus their attention on breathing and relaxation. Many students — even children in Kindergarten — now ask their teachers if they can take a “mindful moment”. They say it makes them feel calmer, more relaxed and peaceful.
One of the songs we sing regularly in Chapel at the Junior School beautifully summarizes this endeavour:
Come and find the quiet centre
In the crowded life we lead,
Find the room for hope to enter,
Find the frame where we are freed:
Clear the chaos and the clutter,
Clear our eyes, that we can see
All the things that really matter,
Be at peace, and simply be.
Next year, our team hopes to maintain and further integrate our mindful moments. This simple practice has a profound impact. We know that as students become more aware, they notice the relationship between their thoughts, feelings, and actions, and can begin to take charge of their inner processes. When students notice what they are feeling — when they are feeling it — they exercise better judgement and take more appropriate action.
As a result, we envisage healthier, happier, and more balanced students!