Let’s break 2 molds that hurt everyone’s wellbeing

Mold to break no.1: The standardised Student mold

Student Wellbeing:  Appreciated and accepted?

The speed at which every aspect of our lives changes is increasing year on year. Rapid developments have pushed adaptability quotient (AQ) to the top of many industries’ “must have” list, when evaluating people’s usefulness. To be adaptable, one must have a strong understanding of one’s personal set of talents and skills, so as to confidently head in a new directions. The standardised education that most young people still experience, falls at the first hurdle in both developing AQ and maintaining strong wellbeing: being appreciated and accepted for who one is. Schools demand all students jump through a standardised set of ‘hoops’, regardless of who they are and where they come from. It is both stressful and demoralising to the majority of students who know they will never exactly fit ‘the mold.’

Tweet: The standardised education that most young people still experience, falls at the first hurdle in both developing AQ and maintaining strong wellbeing: being appreciated and accepted for who one is. - @EduWells“The standardised education that most young people still experience, falls at the first hurdle in both developing AQ and maintaining strong wellbeing: being appreciated and accepted for who one is. – @EduWells”

School accidentally Molds Bullies: As a deputy principal, I work with students who have identified as bullies every week. When many students realise they don’t fit the standardised school mold, they look for easy success elsewhere and this often leads to bullying. Social media has made bullying that much easier and as young people increasingly realise the disconnect between what one must be to have school success and what the world outside is asking for, they are “switching off” this standardised school system and for many this leads to bullying of peers.

Teacher wellbeing: the stress of being an antidote

At the same time, teachers’ wellbeing is also damaged by the stress of try to push unwilling students into this standardised education mold. They also have the job of dealing with the behaviours (bullying & depression) of disengaged students who also arrive at school knowing they will never fit the mold. Teachers work extra hard to make young people feel appreciated in their classrooms, but only as an antidote to knowing the system they work in has little interest in showcasing the students’ individual talents and interests.

Tweet: Teachers work extra hard to make young people feel appreciated in their classrooms, but only as an antidote to knowing the system they work in has little interest in showcasing the students' individual talents and interests. - @Eduwells “Teachers work extra hard to make young people feel appreciated in their classrooms, but only as an antidote to knowing the system they work in has little interest in showcasing the students’ individual talents and interests.” – @Eduwells

A Solution?:  What can educators do?

I am forever urging educators to look to the numerous successful examples in your own country where entire school philosophy becomes centred on unstandardised, project-based, and often personalised (interest-based) learning.  Let’s make the school day itself show an appreciation for every individual and not leave it to the teachers to have to introduce acceptance and appreciation as an antidote to what is very much a purely academic and unreal experience.

Mold to break no.2: The stock market society

Bare with me as I couldn’t write a piece on wellbeing and stress in schools without briefly mentioning something that continuously nags me as both and educator and parent. The people who run the world are all heavily invested in stocks and their markets only have an appetite for one thing: growth. The last 40 years has seen an insatiable demand for monetary growth from these investors. This has led all corporations to keep wages low, bonuses huge, and push extreme consumerism as a norm. This is all to convince investors of yet more future growth. The stagnation of wages has impoverished even the lives of middle class families from needing one working parent to needing both in work. All parents, poor and middle-class, all now  return home every evening tired and robbed of family time. Any housework is rushed and children in most homes are left staring at screens while parents complete house chores or just drink alcohol to relax.

The way in which society has been restructured by the banks and markets, particularly since around 1980, has reduced the quality of life for all and made all families poor in energy and time. This mold that currently shapes society needs to be broken by considerable regulation, so as to share wealth more equally and give back families their time and dignity. Unless society can break this mold, we will only see increasing levels of stress reduced well-being.

Note 1: In 1980 the average Auckland house price was the same as ONE Auckland Teacher salary. In 2018, it is the equivalent of NINE Auckland teacher salaries.

Note 2: As a man originally from England, it was painful to write “mold” without the “u” – I hope you Americans appreciate the effort.

 

 

 

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