QSI Shenzhen’s Student Wellness Initiatives
Mental illness. Mental health. Wellness. Consider how the terminology we use has shifted. Not very long ago, to struggle emotionally warranted labels that denoted one as “ill.” Giving way to this more reactive approach of “treating” mental illness is the proactive stance of seeing the mental wellness of all students as something that can be supported in a variety of ways at school and home, readying the child for learning and life. To be sure, the alarming and rising rates of childhood depression and anxiety warrants a targeted effort by schools. QSI Shenzhen is following suit in its varied approaches to supporting the emotional wellness of students of all ages.
Parent University is a monthly session held for parents that offers a two-fold presentation: one topic centers on supporting English development and the second on a wellness topic, presented by the counselor. Topics have included positive communication, safe boundaries, conflict resolution, building relationships, bullying prevention, distress tolerance, understanding behavior, and many others. Topics are chosen by our school counselors or by parent request.
The Get Happier Project
The middle school classes are excited to roll out the curriculum for The Get Happier Project, founded by Australian Psychologist Ivan Honey. Through the extended metaphor of a car, inspired by Dr. William Glasser’s Choice Theory control system loop, students gain an understanding of their role as the foremost agent of their happiness. The project and accompanying curriculum, including a parent’s guide, equips students with skills to build and maintain healthy relationships, make and own their choices, and resolve conflicts peacefully.
Child Protection Curriculum
Since launching the QSI-wide Keeping Safe curriculum in January, the weekly lesson lead students to understand that part of keeping safe is being aware of your own emotions and your body’s responses. Topics in the Keeping Safe curriculum are age-appropriate and range from identifying your body’s natural signs that a situation or person isn’t safe, to using language about emotions to express yourself in different settings.
Teacher Highlight: Erin Sparks’
Highlighting purposeful practice, 7 year-old teacher Ms. Erin Sparks uses a support system in her class that she calls “breathers.” Breathers are a mindfulness practice that allow students a choice of methods to use to recognize their emotions at a given time and how to use that to be in control of their next steps. Breathers include getting a hug or using a weighted blanket or lap mat, stretching activities, using a sensory glitter bottle, or sharing their problems with a stuffed animal. These choices meet a student’s varying sensory needs so that they are ready to process their choices. and they mirror other classroom practices on all campuses such as flexible seating, sensory breaks, and sensory rooms.
Glasser’s Choice Theory in PLCs
QSI Shenzhen staff gather in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) once a month. PLC groups range from 10 – 20 participants and teachers self-select based on their interests. In the past 4 years, PLCs have included a group of teachers completing the Glasser Certification process as well as focusing on other related topics such as creating a needs-satisfying classroom and building connections within the Glasser Choice Theory framework. One initiative coming out of the PLCs is exploring alternatives to punishment and reward systems.
Sleep for Wellness
Shenzhen’s secondary campus recognized that a lack of sleep was a common detriment to many students in both body and mind. Starting with a survey that helped staff recognize just how bad the reality was for this age group, teachers then helped students understand what a healthy amount of sleep is and how it is crucial for learning. This was followed by reflection about common sleep disturbances like screen notifications from devices, and finally it resulted in the “NaMoSLEEPMo” activity (a pun off the popular novel writing month challenge) where students pledged to sleep for a healthy number of hours per night for the month of March. In this way, sleep for learning and wellness became a campus-wide focus this year.
Parent Support Group
The PSG recognized that it can provide support for wellness initiatives in targeted areas. Last year, funds were allocated to bring the Secondary campus the program FDC Prevention Works , a globally recognized program that educates adolescents about substance addiction.
This year it has dedicated support for a showing of the documentary film “Angst” which discusses the stigma and reality of anxiety. Both Secondary students and parents will be able to attend the showing. It is clear from such a wide range of approaches that student wellness is a vital part of educating the whole child.
Julie Garner, Admissions Coordinator