The Purpose Challenge
Friday 23 August 2019
How do we develop wellbeing?
Student (and staff) wellbeing is becoming an increasingly central concern. And yet, according to a 2018 survey, many high school students don’t believe their schools have done enough to help them deal with stress (51 percent), understand their emotions (49 percent), and solve disagreements (46 percent), and fewer than half of graduates surveyed feel prepared for life after high school.
The IB recognises that wellbeing needs to be a central concern for all school teachers and leaders. They have a Category 3 workshop on wellbeing and student leadership, and have just published a report which addresses the challenge:
“Today there is increasing emphasis on ‘happy schools’ and wellbeing. Schools have a critical role in supporting students to make healthy lifestyle choices and to understand consequences on lifelong health and wellbeing. The IB has foundational approaches which can be messaged to support this important emerging trend. We take a student-centric approach which values and nurtures leaners’ diverse talents and strengths in today’s competitive, stress-fuelled world. We present learning opportunities that build upon local family/ cultural experiences. And we focus on developing sound judgment through critical analysis of media, advertising and peer conformity.” (IB Messaging Refresh, 2019)
But how should a school develop wellbeing? In her article, Four Ways to Support Teens’ Social-Emotional Development at School, Amy Eva (August 2019) suggests the following four strategies.
- Character strengths: Invite students to use their character strengths: If teens crave respect, it’s important to create a school climate where their strengths are recognized and valued. Check out the 24 character strengths articulated by the VIA Institute of Character.
- Imagine ..: Encourage students to imagine their best selves: Ask your students to respond to the following questions in a 15-minute free-write: What is the best possible life you can imagine? Consider all the areas in your life that are important to you—relationships, school, career, hobbies and interests, etc.
- Purpose challenge: Challenge students to explore their purpose: create opportunities for them to think about how they might contribute to something larger than themselves. The Purpose Challenge Toolkit features research-based online activities that prompt students to imagine how they might leave their mark on the world—and make it a better place. Apart from these prompts, it’s crucial to connect students’ sense of purpose to what they’re learning. Are they studying social issues that matter to them? Are they learning as a means to an end—or to make a difference in the world?
- Student leadership: Value student leadership in your school community: We can’t challenge adolescents to make a difference in the world without offering them opportunities to lead and be heard.
I came across this video when researching for a workshop on wellbeing I am facilitating for staff at the International School of Bologna. Ensuring that all students discover their purpose in life is one of a number of practical approaches to nurturing students' social and emtoional wellbeing.