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Teachers can help students attain the self-actualisation stage, where they perform at their fullest potential

Parvathy Jayakrishnan sheds light on how teachers can help students attain the self-actualisation stage, where they perform at their fullest potential

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A classroom often has 25-40 students learning together and they may all be from different backgrounds and learning levels. Before expecting students to reach their true potential, teachers need to meet them at their current levels. Psychologist Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation suggested that before individuals meet their full potential, they need to satisfy a series of needs. This is popularly known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and it is widely followed in educational circles. Maslow’s theory is explained in a pyramid where the most basic needs are at the bottom. He prioritises physiological needs, safety needs, social belonging, esteem and then self-actualisation. "What one can be, he must be.” That is the true meaning of attaining self-actualisation and Maslow believed that to attain it, one must not only achieve the previous needs but also master them.

Fulfilling children’s needs

Physiological needs are those required to keep the human body functioning and they are, of course, most important; breath, water, food, shelter and warmth being some of them. Students need to have their basic physiological needs satisfied to function well.

Their second most important need is safety. Safety includes personal security, financial security, health and well-being and safety needs against accidents/ illness and their adverse impacts. It is not enough that our children feel safe at home. They need to feel equally safe in school, whether dealing with a teacher or a security guard at the gate. The school needs to ensure that their students are in a safe and loving environment when they are there.

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The third level of need is interpersonal and the deep need to feel a sense of belonging. This is very important for students as they need to be able to make friends and feel a sense of belonging in social groups.

Esteem is the need for students to feel valued and respected. This includes developing a high self-esteem. Children with low self-esteem tend to seek fame but in reality it does not help improve their self-esteem. On the other hand, a powerful verbal feedback from the teacher can instantly improve a child’s self-esteem.

So, to achieve self-actualisation, all the above-mentioned needs need to be fulfilled. A teacher should not assume that a student can achieve his/her full potential the moment they enter the classroom. They need to be assessed and the gaps in their needs should be filled appropriately.

To achieve physiological needs, water can be kept in the classroom for students to access when thirsty. It’s a small step which can be very beneficial. Research proves that student behaviour is better when they stay hydrated. Classrooms can also provide nutritional snacks (or schools can urge parents to send them from home) to keep students active through the day. Often, students are rushing to school and they tend to skip meals. This, in turn, affects their behaviour in the classroom. A simple granola bar can sustain their energy levels for a few hours and they can concentrate better.

If a student is sleep-deprived for some reason, he/she can be allowed a short nap to get back his/her concentration. Of course, the teacher can make sure that this is an occasional thing and not a regular habit. Sleep-deprived students tend to learn less as their concentration levels are low and they tend to disturb others in class too.

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To ensure safety, schools need to strongly condemn bullying and ensure that every single case of bullying is severely penalised. The behaviour of school staff also needs to be monitored and any complaint from a student needs to be attended to and not brushed away.

To ensure a child’s social needs in the classroom, they can be seated together and made to form groups where they learn to work and play together and share their things. They need to feel that their classroom is a family and treat one another with respect.

Self-esteem of a student can be improved by providing concrete feedback. Even peer feedback is equally important. Teachers can create opportunities for students to share positive peer feedback.

These are some ways that the school/ classroom can help their students attain the self-actualisation stage, where they are performing at their fullest potential.

Goal setting

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Another theory that works for classrooms is called the goal setting theory by John Locke. It involves the development of an action plan designed to motivate and guide a person or a group towards a goal.

One of the most effective ways to stay motivated is to set goals for your students. However, the type and quality of goals you set affect how well they will work.

The simple act of setting an effective goal gives them a better chance of realising that goal. Given below are several principles crucial to setting effective goals.

  1. Clarity. A clear, measurable goal is more achievable than one that is poorly defined. Be specific. The most effective goals have a specific timeline for completion. When a teacher sets a goal, she needs to be specific about the task. For example, while giving homework, specify the date of submission, the exact tasks that need to be done and the procedure to do it.
  2. Challenge. The goal must have a decent level of difficulty in order to motivate the child to strive toward the goal. Say, a student is consistently scoring Cs in a subject; her immediate goal should be to bring it to a B. The goal should be challenging and achievable.
  3. Commitment. Put deliberate effort into meeting this goal. Share the goal with someone else in order to increase your accountability to meet that goal.
  4. Feedback. Set up a method to receive information on the student’s progress towards the goal.
  5. Task complexity. If a goal is complex, make sure you give the student enough time to overcome the learning curve involved in completing the task. If a goal is really tough, make sure you give the student some padding so that he/she has the best chance at succeeding. After all, the goal-setting exercise is to see improvement.

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Moral Education in Scohools

The instillation of moral concepts is necessary for people of all ages, but it is essential for younger children.

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Students’ sense of right and wrong compels them to let go of paranoia, envy, and self-importance and instead learn to collaborate for the benefit of the larger good. This is because their sense of right and wrong demands that students let go of paranoia, envy, and self-importance. Swami Vivekananda thought that the essential factors in achieving one’s goals were the bravery to act on one’s beliefs (both in oneself and in God), patience, and consistently working. God said chastity, patience, and perseverance are the most critical factors in overcoming any obstacle.

 

Establishing a solid root requires more than having strong moral convictions and a desire to learn; similarly, for the body, having a healthy heart will aid in generating healthy leaves and branches. A well-known saying states, “when a character is gone, everything is lost.” In contrast, the proverb also says, “if money is lost, nothing is lost,” “if health is lost, something is lost,” and so on. Schools around the country have started including a subject known as moral science in their academic programs to instill ethical and moral values in today’s and future students. Each day, developing a firm moral foundation becomes more complex.

 

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Students in today’s society are very involved in their academic pursuits and in playing games; however, somewhere along the line, moral instruction becomes obligatory because it provides students with a correct form and guidance regarding how to behave or respond in a variety of challenging circumstances. The instillation of moral concepts is necessary for people of all ages, but it is essential for younger children. It is a common belief that the minds of young children are empty, comparable to a sheet of white paper and that any impressions made on them by adults will remain for a considerable amount of time. Because they are the ones who are responsible for a substantial portion of their student’s mental and cognitive growth, teachers are the ones who have the most responsibility when it comes to instilling a moral foundation in their students. This makes the task of doing so a lot more complicated. At the same time, it is plain to observe that the students who attend that particular school are complicit in undesirable activities such as fighting among themselves and cheating on tests. It’s possible someone saw this. 

 

A child who receives this kind of education will only benefit a little when it comes to coping with the obstacles of real life, such as formulating ideas and conclusions and selecting the most appropriate action to take. To address this problem, educational institutions had to revise their curriculum and initiate the provision of extracurricular activities such as special courses, seminars, and workshops run by appropriately trained counselors. These should be organized under the supervision of teachers who can assist in incorporating “values” lessons into the educational process to encourage the development of well-rounded personalities in students. These should be organized under the supervision of teachers who can assist in incorporating these lessons into the educational process.

 

The word “moral education” refers to an ethical education that supports people in making judgments that will take them down the appropriate route in life. This education is referred to as “moral education” in this article. Truthfulness, honesty, generosity, hospitality, tolerance, love, compassion, and sympathy are some of the core elements of this notion. Following a path of moral education is the one that leads to perfection. Pursuing an academic degree should not be the only goal of education; instead, the emphasis should be placed on the instillation of important moral and ethical principles that contribute to the growth of an individual’s persona and the improvement of society.

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Because it is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed, the hidden curriculum, which refers to the transmission of norms, values, and beliefs imparted in the classroom and the social environment, should be included in the educational system that is in place today. This is because it refers to transmitting such things in the classroom and the social environment. The idea that it is helpful and helps reinforce the concepts taught in the official curriculum is lost in many schools even though it serves to do both of those things. They focus more on the language, the issues, and the marks rather than just the marks themselves. For instance, on the one hand, a school may openly assert and assure that its education policy and procedures are structured so that all students can achieve academic success. Still, on the other hand, the school may only do some of these things.

 

Another example would be that a school may offer only some students the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities. They can spend less time with their children since most parents in our modern, industrialized age have employment. This results in less time for the parents to spend with their children. Consequently, young people suffer from an absence of moral standards and cannot distinguish between evil and good. What happens if the people who live in a society do not behave appropriately, even though our modern civilization is far more advanced and significantly better than it was in the past? People’s moral compass has been steadily deteriorating due to the rapid development of urbanization and modernity, leading to this phenomenon. It becomes impossible to trust anybody, not even their closest friends and relatives. 

 

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With the march of time, you will encounter cutthroat competition no matter where you go, whether at a school, university, business, or any other setting where there is a skill contest. People in today’s materialistic culture are jealous of each other’s achievements. However, instead of becoming suspicious of and envious of one another’s accomplishments, people should encourage, collaborate, and work together to promote the common good. 

 

A considerable shift from the current situation is required in light of children’s significance to the country’s future. As time passes, they experience a decline in their feelings, including faith, honesty, love, and a sense of brotherhood. Children in today’s culture are taught not to trust anybody and to restrict the number of friends they have. In the past, we learned to share and make new friends at school based on our moral convictions. However, in today’s society, children are taught to limit the number of friends they have.

Author – Dr. Dheeraj Mehrotra, Principal, Kunwar’s Global School, Lucknow

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Teacher Training and Innovative Techniques

Education is a symbiotic process where learning happens for both the teacher and the learner and both benefit from each other in the exchange. 

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It’s been two years since the pandemic hit us, leaving these years marked with perhaps the most gruelling yet challenging times for educators and learners. It is a world of constant change and uncertainty pushing education to break from the shackles of old pedagogies which were being followed for the longest time across the world to gain traction in revisiting education from a new lens. It is a fast-paced and dynamic world calling us to reimagine, rethink and redesign the system to point out that the learners of today need to be educated in other crucial spheres of life which will make life relevant, enjoyable, and sustainable for themselves. 

 

Living in an information age, where content is available at our fingertips has made most of our teaching methodologies and syllabus irrelevant. The advent of edtech has provided new methods of learning and teaching resulting in autonomy, independent research, affordability, accessibility, and convenience for both, the teacher and the learner. A world that is information rich and turning virtual in every way is perhaps alerting humans to look more within. To discover who they are, where they belong, how they co-exist in the environment, how are they contributing to the environment, and what purpose they serve.  

 

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The discovery of oneself through one’s own work or deed or creation is education. This goes to say that education is a lifelong endless process of self-exploration. The power lies with the teacher to make this happen for her learners at a young age. Empowering the students to speak their minds and hearts out in a safe and non-judgmental environment will give birth to a society that is creative, unique, and genuine. 

 

Education is a symbiotic process where learning happens for both the teacher and the learner and both benefit from each other in the exchange. 

 

Teacher – the ever-green learner 

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The teacher to offer her best in the classroom must not only be abreast with the latest information from reliable sources (teaching content) but also, work smart by researching the latest teaching tools to get work done in an efficient manner; get creative and implement innovative ideas to get her class excited about learning and most importantly take reflections from the learners about the learning. 

 

The teacher having the attitude to always learn from anybody makes her an evergreen learner. She becomes a person who is young at heart and mind and who can easily adapt to changes and so move with time. 

When the teacher takes the role of a guide/mentor/facilitator and a listener (rather than an authoritative and didactic figure who always takes the center stage), it makes the classroom homogenous and conducive to healthy and interactive discussions. Learners in such an environment are comfortable voicing out their individual and unique ideas, what matters to them, reflections, perspectives, and genuine views on the subject.  

 

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She needs to start from where the child is! The teacher needs to identify the two points of knowledge and relate the two points. The starting point is – what the child already knows and the ending point is – what must be taught. The journey between the two points is what the teacher needs to design, implement and revise based on her frequent reflections. 

On this journey,  

1. When explained about the topic’s relevance to them, shows applicability. 

2. When explained about what happens if they don’t learn it, shows importance. 

3. When blended with fun, includes some humor, because learning happens best when one is at leisure. 

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4. When inviting the ‘whys’ and ‘why nots’ questions from the class, provides scope for craziness and innovation. 

Thus, making learning immersive, personalized, and interesting for young learners. 

 

Teacher trainings are not the only way for teachers to learn and update themselves in their field. Weekly ‘Teacher club meetings’ are critical to teachers’ progress if done consistently and in an orderly manner. The meeting is an opportunity to think for themselves and their work to identify their strengths and weaknesses, exchange new ideas, and solutions to problems and build a culture of curiosity.  

 

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Some sample points of discussion in weekly meetings: 

1. Review and Reflection – How was the week?  

2. New idea implementation – what was something new that I implemented and what was the impact?  

3. Best practices – What went well for me and the class? 

4. Discovering other options – Could I have done the same thing differently? If practiced regularly will lead to building a strong cohort that works towards the common goal of the school. 

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It all starts with the teacher. If the teacher practices reflections, she could make children do the same, (helping them to get to know themselves at a young age). If the teacher understands that curiosity drives learning, she could design the lesson plans in a way that creates curiosity in them. 

Children perceive things and learn with curiosity and awe. 

Children learn best when at play! Play is critical to learning. Making mistakes and failing and not being stigmatized from early childhood, allows them to learn and bounce back to strive for more later in life.  

 

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Student agency classrooms bring out their best selves when left on their own to explore and experience the required resources. 

It teaches them self-initiation and taking ownership of their learning. At the end of the class, the teacher facilitates a session where each child: 

1. Reflects and describes his experience,  

2. Asks questions to the group, 3. Makes suggestions if required and 

4. Journals it down at the end of the day.  

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Their reflections help them identify areas of improvement and ideas to implement in the next class, getting them curious and intrinsically motivated to learn. 

This is possible in an environment where all answers received are without being labeled as good or bad and not being reacted to.  

 

The entire process prepares the child and the teacher to be mindful. Being mindful improves decision-making and inculcates patience. 

Children become thinkers and listeners as they are given the opportunity to create and self-express. It leads to lesser frustration as they are igniting their senses to feel their emotions, express them and then know them. 

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In a fast-changing and uncertain world, education needs to change its direction in every step to make young learners, ‘thinkers and listeners of today.’ When all the efforts are focused on building these skills, we are making the young generation future ready to be able to thrive under any circumstance.  

A strong foundation for human development at a young age that makes an individual discover himself, grow to the best of his potential, and be true to himself is education. Such an individual is strong enough to take on challenges and make the world a better place. 

 

A place where there is no answer seen in its binary form, but areas of grey are yet to be discovered; a place where mistakes are celebrated; a place where individuality is honored; a place where reflective exercises are key to the learning process; a place where learners take the responsibility and ownership of their learning; a place where varied perspectives are welcomed and acknowledged; a place where leisure and love are in abundance is a place called school. 

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Author – Toral Shah, Principal at St. Domnics Group of Institutions, Hyderabad

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The need to Re-design School Curriculum

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When I sat down to pen my thoughts on this topic, it made me sit up. Curriculum, education, learning for life, each of these words have a strong connection with our lives, isn’t it? But do we see it in the light that it deserves? Do we ever feel, as educators that what we teach every day has a huge impact on how the child will internalize and make it into his/her way of life? And if we believe so, do we assess the design when we deliver? What are the deliverables? Are they relevant? Does the curriculum make sense to the children? Is it having an impact on them? I feel our curriculum, (a word we use very loosely!), is hardly thought through. Whatever comes out of books is simply taught for the exam.

Education in its true sense means preparing the child for life but let’s look at the way we teach History to our students. Does it prepare the child for life, or is it just factual information and cramming of important dates to clear the exam? Do we make them look at and reflect on the past when we teach History? When we look at the past, do we learn from our mistakes or do we carry a sense of pride? When we learn about our past, we can critically look into it and question it. It is not the information that is important but, what we teach our children when we translate the information. Do we teach the skills of appreciation to our children or to be critical and learn from past mistakes? If not, we need to rethink seriously – why is History being taught?

How much do we remember from the subjects that we were taught in school? I don’t think we retain much and with the current technology, it is not ever tough to get informed. What is tough to find are children who have studied in the best schools with high percentages but do they have the basic life skills? Put them in a difficult situation and they would not know how to manage themselves. So does our education system and curriculum prepare them for life? I have my doubts!

Let’s ask this question – what is it that a child needs to get empowered to lead life independently and learn to successfully manage the tasks of life? These are the questions we need to ask when designing a curriculum.

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For example, social skills are important competency since none of us can live in isolation. And, there is so much that the child learns through interaction and observation. So, do we include lots of collaborative activities in our curriculum so that the child becomes proficient at handling social interactions and negotiations? Does the child realize that there will be discussions and debates and, every time their point of view is not going to be accepted and they will stand to be corrected? Are they ready to compromise? Are they ready to understand that consensus comes out of debate and discussion? If these skills are not taught, then the child is not ready for life. It is not about maths; it’s about doing maths together that is important. Do we look at our curriculum from this point of view?

Does the child have a flair for communicating his thoughts? After all, it is about expressing what ‘I’ have in my mind and if ‘I’ can’t do that, what problems can ‘I’ solve or how do ‘I’ leave an impact? Communication needs control over language, expression, and the skill to assimilate thoughts before speaking. Does our language curriculum teach us this? Does it connect context to what I read so that I can always be appreciative or critical of whatever I read? Do I understand that language gives me an important skill which is the ability to learn on my own, independently?  Is the current curriculum designed keeping these factors in mind?

Are the questions designed both formally and informally? Are the children getting equipped, are they learning to push their thoughts and to look for solutions that are out of the box? Are they getting challenges thrown at them every day in the form of new projects and are they being asked to solve problems? Does the teacher understand that every time she throws a challenge at the child, she pushes the child to think critically and solve his problems? Does she design her tasks and questions accordingly? If the curriculum does not empower the teacher to do that and the child to think hard, we have found the answer to our questions. The curriculum needs to be looked into, urgently!

When solving problems, if a student gets stuck and the teacher doesn’t push the child to think harder and, prompts the child to come up with alternate solutions, she doesn’t teach the child to persevere. The lesson here is that they can’t get everything right on the first attempt. It takes resilience, patience, and dedication. If the curriculum does not teach these skills through the transactions in the class, it needs to be thought through and redesigned.

In today’s time, the intolerance that we see around us, both in the physical and digital world, brings a new thought. The civics teacher should have taught the child the traits and qualities needed to be a good citizen so that they are accepting, tolerant, and respectful of diverse views and differences. But, did the teacher do that, or did she simply complete the course and thought that the child was ready for an exam? Did the computer teacher teach the child, that everything on social media is not necessarily true? Was the child taught to be tolerant of views, to not troll anyone, and that there is a certain age to be there on social media? Was the child made aware of illegal activities in the digital space that hide behind fake identities? Was the child taught digital citizenship, which is what is needed the most today? If not, the teacher needs to seriously re-think the curriculum and train themselves differently.

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A student often questions, does my teacher understand that times have changed and I, as a student, am changing with the times? Will the teacher make the effort to understand the anomalies in the curriculum and my needs? If the teacher is not capable of upskilling herself to ensure that the student’s demands of education are met, learning cannot take place.

Change is essential, needed, and cannot be delayed any longer! Bring on the change!

Author – Amrita Burman, Deputy Director, Sunbeam Group of Educational Institutions, Varanasi

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21st Century Teaching Strategies and Pedagogies

Teaching methods, strategies, and pedagogies need to be worked upon and revised on a regular basis to keep our students abreast with the times.

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The 21st century is an era that is looked upon with unlimited hopes and expectations. There has been rapid progress and development in every domain and man’s hunger and thirst to unravel the mysteries of undiscovered realms has compelled him to come up with the most astonishing discoveries. There have been major advancements in the field of technology which has pervaded all of life’s realms, including the education sector, which has witnessed a sea-change in all its procedures.

 

Imparting 21st-century skills has become the need of the hour, with schools and institutions emphasizing more on the imparting of the same since it is these skills that give a student an edge over the others. Understanding the importance of 21st-century skills and the need for the same to be instilled in our students, we at Adani World School, are making every effort towards raising confident 21st-century learners, who would not only possess knowledge but also be equipped to come up with creative problem-solving skills, critical thinking, logical analysis, to name a few of the 21st-century skills. One would thus agree with me, when I say, that these skills cannot be instilled with traditional teaching methods.

 

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Teaching methods, strategies, and pedagogies need to be worked upon and revised on a regular basis to keep our students abreast with the times. What once seemed to be a far-fetched idea, is now a reality, with our students living in that reality. A whole lot of exposure and information at the click of a button makes classroom sessions stand at a huge risk of becoming redundant and even ineffective. A teacher’s hard work of preparing for the lectures and classroom sessions, thus becomes futile and the entire exercise proves to be a sheer waste of time and effort. At AWS, significant emphasis is laid on devising new teaching strategies, to not only retain a learner’s interest but also stimulate his thinking to know more and comprehend better, since, we believe, that once these two important skills are achieved, we have done half the job. The other half, then lies in instigating a student to self-exploration and trying out new methods, thus being enlightened with answers to his queries. 

 

Towards the imparting of these 21st-century skills, some of the teaching pedagogies that we implement at AWS are as follows:

 

Experiential Learning: Experiential learning or ‘learning by doing is what is followed strongly for subjects such as PBL and Mathematics. Once students themselves get involved in learning a certain concept, the results are noteworthy. This strategy is implemented through the making of a vertical garden, tailor visits to help young ones understand the types of fabrics and the process of cloth stitching before the final product, holiday projects, field visits, and laboratory experiments to name a few. Moreover, events such as Odyssey – Science FestMath FestArt Fest, etc. enable students to put all their learning to the test and explain the procedures in a clear and concise manner to the audience. The Jodo Gyan technique used to impart Math makes calculations not only easy but also attracts the students to try out new methods. One of the most dreaded subjects now become one of the most interesting ones. 

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Besides, getting the students gripped to the sessions, and the absorption of procedures, experiential learning also develops their thought processing skills and analytical skills, not to forget patience and appreciation for the happenings that they see around them. Once a student himself becomes a part of the process and goes through it, the comprehension and retention achieved are amazing. He/She then set out to analyze the reason for the happenings and in this quest does a lot of back working, research, observations, etc., and finally arrives at a logical conclusion. Our aim here is achieved. It then doesn’t take much to put all that has been observed, into writing, in a systematic manner.

 

Story Telling: This kind of strategy is applied more to teach language subjects and subjects like History. When a student narrates a story, it develops him/her communication skills. Is that all? Certainly not…it also develops in the student’s thought-processing skills, nuances of storytelling, such as intonation, voice modulation, expressions (both facial and voice), retention, and comprehension. Also, when a student narrates a story, he is taken over by the feeling that his story must sound as interesting as possible. 

 

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This is done in AWS by way of conducting story-telling activities across grades, the story length varying for different age groups. ‘Literati’ or Language Fest is conducted every academic session, which witnesses various events such as Debates, Poetry-recitation competitions, Elocution competitions, and Drama activities, to hone communication skills in our students. Such events also lead to literary enrichment of our students who also learn about the rich heritage and culture of nations across the world, through stories. Moreover, they gain knowledge about the different genres of writing and also learn about the literary festivals held in our country, the Jaipur festival, being one of them. A whole lot of information is gained by the students through this festival, by way of projects and research work. Group discussions which are carried out at the end of every story or topic of history enable students to come together and discuss a certain topic or issue, helping them to agree with their group members, a voice out their opinion and work together as a team to come up with a solution. Group discussions are thus conducted to promote team spirit, teamwork, and tolerance for others’ viewpoints, different from their own.

 

Certain times, teachers force the creative juices in students to flow by asking them to give a different ending to a story, or a twist in the plot, etc. This makes the air light, lends humor, and enables students to freely communicate their ideas without any inhibitions.

The Spell Bee competition is the most awaited competition, which also marks the culmination of Literati. As the name suggests, this competition tests the spelling power of students, to bring out perfection in their writing.

 

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Value Education: Although not a separate subject, as we believe that values need to be exercised day-in and day-out and do not have a specific calling, at AWS, values are instilled in our students through theme-based assemblies, observing of World Food Day and Earth Day, etc. A sense of gratitude and appreciation and the need for honesty, integrity, helpfulness, and sincerity are woven into the classroom sessions, in every way possible. Moreover, students are made to understand the value of possessing a positive attitude and being optimistic at all times. This also ensures the socioeconomic well-being of the students, which leads to happy students and a happy environment.

 

Enquiry Learning: A spirit of enquiry is encouraged and evoked in all our students. We believe that it is the spirit of enquiry that would help our students identify problems and come up with solutions. These are done across grades, for all subjects through situation-based activities, or even a question thrown to the class, throwing open a platform for discussion. I must state here, that students, as tender and young as they may seem, are filled with ideas and come up with the most unthought, novel solutions.

Future Problem Solving: Our students have been participating in the Model United Nations for the past two years and as they are being prepared for the same, they learn the art of predicting and foreseeing future problems that may arise and think of creative ways t solve such problems. Here they go above and beyond the boundaries of our nation and devise solutions for global peace, as they represent countries across the world. They do extensive research on the problems being faced by the particular country, its relationships with its neighbors, alliances, etc, and then present their argument at the MUN. One of our students also came back with the ‘Best Recommendation Award’ at MUN.

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Outside Classroom Learning: A field trip and a visit to the Neelapattu Bird Sanctuary ensured that learning does not remain confined to the four walls of a classroom, rather than our young 21st-century learners, need more to walk with the times and be well informed. Several times, our Art educator, takes the children out on the ground or under a tree and asks them to draw what best attracts them.

 

These are a few of the teaching strategies that we are implementing in our school to ensure that we raise confident learners. Our objective does not stop here – for we seek to raise educated, confident, aware adults endowed with sensitivity to contribute to the upliftment of society and spread happiness wherever they go, towards which we have:

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N-Embark: Greaders’ Club and Nature’s Club – While in Greaders’ Club the focus is more on instilling a love for reading and books and giving an insight into the publishing industry and what it takes to become an author, Nature’s Club, focuses more on evoking sensitivity towards nature and devising ways to save it from further harm.

All efforts are made towards maintaining a happy school by keeping our students and staff happy. Each one is made to feel special and the overall well-being of every individual is looked into with their problems being solved to the best possible. Student-led conferences are encouraged to develop their confidence and drive away fear. Classroom sessions are often student-led with the teacher’s talk time forming only 20 -40% of the entire session. 

Students are allowed to make independent decisions and then their strengths and weaknesses are discussed in the decision to help them become wide decision-makers. This also makes them independent decision-makers, from small decisions to what they should wear for a class party to making a choice that could affect them in some way or the other. 

 

Meaningful relationships between students and adults are encouraged to help them understand the meaning of one of the most important factors of a happy life. In this technology-driven world, where students are hooked to electronic devices, relationships are fast taking a backseat. Students are thus encouraged to forge new relationships and experience happiness when they form meaningful relationships with their friends, relatives, parents, teachers, etc.

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Resolving conflicts is another important aspect that we seek to develop in our students, as they come together to resolve a conflict that could either be within the class or school or discuss national and global issues, it helps them perceive things from multiple angles and thus broadens their horizon of thinking.

After reading all of the above, we safely say, that through the imparting of 21st-century skills, we at Adani World School seek to raise global citizens, who would devise solutions and strategies to make this world a better and a happier place.

Author – Ritesh V. Mehta, Principal, Adani World School

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Saving Ananya

Six months after losing my 16-year-old daughter Ananya to suicide, questions about stress, mental health, sadness, resilience, and depression, haunt me to no end.

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The most beautiful phase of one’s life is teenage life. We all have fond memories of our adolescent times. This phase is a busy and exciting time in the journey of life. But then all that glitters is not gold. Many young, seemingly happy hearts are stressing beyond the point they can handle. Six months after losing my 16-year-old daughter Ananya to suicide, questions about stress, mental health, sadness, resilience, and depression, haunt me to no end.

What could I have done to save Ananya?

Like any other teenage kid, Ananya was a bubbly young girl, beautiful, intelligent, ambitious, talented, an achiever, and most importantly, a child with a defined life purpose. She was a trained singer and performed at many events. She infused laughter and chatter into every conversation. She had many stories to share about her school day, her friends, and general thoughts about the world. Suddenly, it all ended; there was a silence that created an irreplaceable and irreversible void.

Talking with Ananya was easy. We connected on various topics, academics, career choices, friends, human behaviour, music, nature, and many more. We both shared our perspectives on these topics, and needless to say, we enjoyed these conversations. For a child who was comfortable sharing everything with me, I am at a loss today, wondering why she could not share her darkest emotions with me. How did I fail to recognise that my child needed help? Why couldn’t I, a mother, hear my child’s silent cry?

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I find myself constantly revisiting the days surrounding the moment when I lost my very soul. Ananya had just finished her physics exam and was unhappy that she did not perform as expected. We spoke about what went wrong, and apparently, Ananya blacked out during her exam due to lack of sleep. She felt drowsy and slept for about half an hour in the examination hall. It was a blow she couldn’t handle. The fear of the devastating effect, the loss of time would have on her results was debilitating for an achiever like Ananya. She feared the worst.

Why was my child not ready to accept this perceived failure?

The Silent Killer

Why does suicide become the only choice for some people? Why don’t they look for support? Could society be too busy to catch signs of what the person next to us is going through? How can we unite to support the people around us fighting a battle? It’s time we stop, think, and support every individual around us. Mental illness is a silent killer, and we need to be empathetic.

The Stressors

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Expectations from life come in the form of jobs, family, academics, society, finances, and so on. While an individual makes every effort to give his best, somewhere along the way, they lose themselves to the pressures of life. The lack of satisfaction leads to a feeling of hollowness or deprivation of the absolute joy of life. People of all age groups go through these pressures at some point. Many factors contribute to adding stress, and if we are not emotionally strong enough to deal with it, it can silently push us to depression. How do we overcome these stressors?

The Fight

We all go through emotional ups and downs, and the sad part is that not everyone is emotionally and psychologically well-equipped to fight a depressive episode. What’s easy for some may be devastating for somebody else. Somebody might sleep and get over a challenging situation, yet others might take days or months to deal with a similar situation. It is imperative to understand that we are all built differently. Our Emotional Quotients are different!

The Support

The onus of supporting a depressed person does not always lie with the immediate family. Whenever I think of how we can help a depressed person, I visualize the entire society standing around to help.

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It takes a village to raise a child! -African Proverb

It’s time we bring this into practice. Parents, siblings, grandparents, teachers, friends, relatives, cousins, and colleagues should all come together to help. Mental health has to be treated with empathy alone.

Many a time, all it takes to comfort a depressed person is one word of inspiration or a silent hug.

In my endeavor to save other Ananya’s, I have taken a step forward to share my experiences and start a foundation, ‘Ananya – A Foundation for Happiness’ that attempts to promote happiness and resilience in the lives of every individual. I want to ensure that no other parent loses their child to mental health illnesses. The foundation aims to create strong, factual awareness about mental health and help fight its stigmas through specially crafted programs for students and families. AFH also aims to normalize discussing and talking about mental health. The foundation’s mission is to reach out to the population from all age groups and introduce mental health as an essential factor contributing to an individual’s well-being.

The main objectives of the foundation are:

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  • Promote mental health as an essential factor at every stage and age of one’s life
  • Educate people about different kinds of mental illnesses and ways to identify the signs and symptoms in themselves or their loved ones
  • Spread awareness about suicide, especially among children, and prevent loss of life due to stress, depression, and anxiety
  • Create a helpline channel to assist those whose emotional state is on the verge of getting worse
  • Building custom programs and campaigns to promote the importance of self-happiness, resilience, and self-care
  • To create a solid social media campaign to promote self-care, happiness, and awareness about mental well-being.

We achieve this by collaborating with educational institutions and addressing students, parents, and teachers under separate initiatives. We join hands with NGOs and other foundations to gain a wider reach. We also offer counseling sessions by experts for students or adults in need of support. We also introduce different art forms like music, dance, and painting as therapies.

Let us come out and share our stories and thoughts with others. Your story might be someone else’s inspiration to reach out and seek help.

Let us pledge to support each other and make sure we normalize mental health.

Together, we can all do better to create a brighter, healthier future for a generation of young people facing more challenges than ever before. Let’s come together as a village to support the Ananyas around us.

Author – Sneha Rao, Founder Director, Ananya – A Foundation for Happiness 

 

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Mental Health Matters!

The status of the teacher as “Sage on the Stage” is obsolete. A teacher should create a classroom culture that promotes and prioritizes mental well-being.

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Mental well-being is central to our functioning as human beings. As renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow has rightly stated, “humans have an innate drive to grow towards fulfilling their potential in life and self-actualization.” But how is it possible without well-being and good mental health?

During the pandemic, we experienced significant mental turmoil. The cases of depression and anxiety increased drastically. According to WHO, in today’s day and age, depression is one of the leading causes of disability, and suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among those between the ages of 15 – 29 years old.

Mental health plays a critical role at every stage in our lives. Mental well-being includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Good mental health determines how we understand and handle situations that we are presented with daily. Individuals with good mental health consider stressful situations challenging and not as threat. The mental health of a person determines the way they think, feel and act in correspondence to their inner and outer worlds.

We all live in a “VUCA” world which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Every day, we face challenges of work pressure, and health issues, and are continuously striving to find the balance between family life and work life. Similar are the students, who face challenges like bullying, adjustment with peers, the pressure of scoring 100%, college admissions, competitions, and what not! It takes a toll when the demands placed on a person exceed their resources and coping abilities.

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Mental and physical well-being are related to each other. For example, an anxious student can experience increased heart rate, headaches, palpitations, excessive sweating, dizziness, and tiredness. People who experience high levels and prolonged stressed can develop diseases like coronary heart disease and hypertension.

It is a challenge to talk about anxiety and depression amongst students and teachers because of lack of awareness and acceptance. It is difficult to acknowledge that it is ok not to be ok. Stigma and labels around mental health make it difficult to have unbiased conversations between teachers, parents, and students about how one feels. Academics are given priority over mental health and students go through rigorous continuous assessment, a struggle for high standards of achievement, and neck-to-neck contests that undermine their well-being. The family and home environment also influences the mental health of the students and educators. So, what can institutions do to bridge this gap?

The well-being of students and educators lie in the practices and culture of the organization. This requires a Comprehensive School Approach to imbibe the best practices to promote the well-being of all the stakeholders. Mental Health Education should be a mandatory aspect of all schools. It is high time to realize that it is the responsibility of teachers, parents, authorities, and all the other stakeholders to ensure the well-being of the students.

Well-being is multi-faceted. It can be divided into various domains like emotional, social, psychological, physical, and environment. Emotional well-being means being able to manage one’s emotions effectively. Social well-being is related to the ability to develop meaningful communication and healthy relationships with others. Psychological well-being includes being happy, resilient, and able to achieve goals without letting obstacles have an adverse effect on your progress. The ability to keep your body healthy and fit by engaging in healthy eating habits and exercise encompasses the physical aspect. Well-being is also promoted by creating a safe environment that is happy, conducive, and collaborative.

Some of the best practices that schools can do for students and educators should include:

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  • Building awareness to recognize signs and symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression.
  • Formulating Annual Mental Health Training Programs for educators and students.
  • Individual and group counseling sessions by the counselor and experts.
  • Organizing mindfulness workshops for stress and anxiety management.
  • Life Skills based Curriculum to equip the students to handle adversity.
  • Teaching the 21st-century skills and their importance.
  • Breaking the taboos by creating Mental Health Awareness.
  • Creating a comfortable environment to share feelings while maintaining confidentiality.
  • Fostering a culture of trust and value in the school.
  • Organizing mental health talks by people who have struggled and opening their stories to inspire.
  • Seeking necessary support from psychologists and mental health experts.
  • Encouraging students/teachers to ask for help in a confidential setting.
  • Promoting the culture of collaborative work in the schools as collaboration diffuses anxiety.

The status of the teacher as “Sage on the Stage” is obsolete. The role of the teacher now is not only limited to teaching. S/he acts as a mentor to impart and imbibe values and skills in the students to make them future-ready. A teacher should create a classroom culture that promotes and prioritizes mental well-being.

First, the teacher needs to make their students feel that they are valued as an individual. It is important to build trust and belief in students. The teachers must contribute to building high self-esteem in students.

Secondly, creating an environment of appreciation and acceptance in the classroom. Teachers should aim to express unconditional positive regard towards the students without being judgmental. Parental acceptance of issues is also important.

Next, being empathetic identifies the areas where the students experience anxiety and need support. For example, helping the students during the examination to reduce anxiety and stress.

Inculcating Student-Led Experiential Learning projects in the curriculum helps the students to learn and explore at a pace suited to their capabilities. This will not only foster the learning process but also promote curiosity and excitement amongst the learners. Hence, students will not consider studying as a source of stress.

The teachers should encourage students to participate in mental health conversations in the classroom. We need to encourage the students to open up and share their feelings and create a healthy, judgment-free environment for healthy communication. We need to break the myths and sensitize people around the that “I am not the only one”.

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Installing empathy boxes around the school campus where the students can write about their problems on paper, put it in the box, and approach the school counselor without having to undergo the pressure of stigma attached to getting “mental help”.

Role models play an imperative role in the life of students. Discussions on the life of people who have overcome hardships and struggles with mental health should be promoted. The aim of the discussions should be to equip the students with skills and develop resilience.

Depending on the student’s age group different activities can be planned on a weekly basis to help the students to vent out their feelings in the form of play, art, drama, and music.

Students look forward to listening to stories and personal experiences. The teachers can share some of their personal experiences to help the students build a connection and create a conducive environment for the students to learn from real-life experiences.

At the end of the day, we must realize that Mental health issues do not develop overnight. The signs and symptoms develop over the course of time. We need to be sensitive enough to observe and understand the signs of mental distress. One should seek help and support others to help battle the stigma surrounding mental health so that we can promote an environment of acceptance, affection, and empathy towards others.

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“Not all battles are visible, and neither are the victories.” ― Brittany Burgunder

Author – Tanvi Sharma, PGT Psychology, Mayo College, Ajmer.

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Pay attention to Mental Health

There is a deep link between our mental and physical health.

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“Mental health” is not a destination but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you’re going. – Noam Shpancer.

There is a deep link between our mental and physical health. Each day, how we feel about the outside world is affected by how we feel inside. In other words, an emotionally stable human being impacts the environment positively and makes it productive. On the other hand, a stressed mind spreads negativity and acute disturbance. One of the many reasons why I am absolutely in favour of maintaining a fine balance between mental and physical health at school is that it directly impacts the future citizens of the world.

While we are talking about the importance of mental health, there is an urgent need for all of us to know what affects our mental health so that we can either elevate or deteriorate. To our best knowledge, family is the most crucial factor for determining our inner health. It proves to be our strength in tough times and keeps us grounded. To understand this better, the family acts as the backbone of society. Henceforth, a question arises. We, in India, give supreme importance to families. Hence, our value system should have led people in the best direction. Ironically, we witness an entirely different mindset when we have to prioritize a woman’s well-being. It is astonishing to know the research-based statistics. As per recent surveys, women who work in schools find that their jobs are taken casually by their own families! This sounds unbelievable, but still, it is the truth.

Even in the 21st century, discrimination happens on the basis of earnings and gender to a large extent. A teacher’s job is looked as something that simply keeps them occupied for a few hours. When we talk about the armed forces of the country, our hearts swell with pride for the fact that the nation is protected and in the right hands. Capable soldiers guard the country’s welfare! To our amazement, people who build the future of our country are considered to be simply killing their time on the pretext of a job! In short, our social fabric dissuades them from dreaming big.

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In this negative scenario, women are burdened with numerous other chores at home with the bare minimum support from their families. As a result, they bring similar energy to work! Furthermore, the aura transcends to the surroundings and leads to an unhappy, toxic workplace. I thoroughly believe in imparting holistic education to our students. Our mission is to create responsible citizens for the rapidly transforming world. We firmly believe in giving due importance and a family environment to each staff member.

A couple of initiatives have been taken to spread positivity and care for the mental well-being of all people on campus. Though the drive is not just limited to these, as it’s an ongoing journey.

To begin with, an ancient Indian technique called Anna-Pana has been adopted by all faculties, students, and class four workers. This method of meditation focuses on making a connection with our breath. We all know the air we breathe is the source and channel of our life-giving energy. Therefore, by connecting with our breath, we are able to connect to our deep-rooted emotions and overcome the baggage that we all carry from home. This way, every day becomes a new beginning for them. Similar positive vibrations are received by the students, which in turn creates a happy learning space for them to cherish.

Another technique that has been adopted and implemented is a mindfulness bell system for the whole school. So, after a set duration, when the bell rings, students and teachers are encouraged to drop everything and just be silent. In the moment of this silence, they again connect with their breath, let go of the past, and come out rejuvenated. This also helps overcome anxiety and other pressing issues associated with the everyday grind of their life.

Moving on, the school has established a mindfulness Sangh that provides a joyous and unbiased place for all to shed their inhibitions. The faculty members often gather together and lend a patient, listening ear to others. Each member is free to share their innermost feelings, good or bad. In this place, no one judges anyone. We simply lift one another up with empathy, compassion, and kindness.

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As an educational institute, our purpose is not just to prepare students to qualify for entrance exams and get good grades. We believe in creating life-long learners who can think and act creatively. A lot of initiatives are being taken to fulfill emotional and intra-personal needs. Mindfulness and meditation sessions are a part of ongoing community-building programs that make us stand apart and set an example for others to follow.

It is rightly said, “Stay connected to your roots while you leap for the sky. Everything else will fall into place. ”

Author – Siddharth Rajgarhia, Director, Delhi Public School Nashik, Varanasi, Nagpur

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Knowledge

A Step Towards Mental Well-Being

Just as we do a check-up for our physical ailments, we need to check on our mental well-being too.

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“Self-care is how you take your power back.” ~ Lalah Delia. I firmly believe in this statement. Society in general has put a taint on mental health and a restrain on even speaking or discussing it. It’s high time we clear that taint and provide a clear platform for all to express their views on it. We as humans should be aware of our own feelings and as educators help our students, teachers, and team members to be aware of their feelings as well. This will help them to find their own negative triggers and prevent things from getting worst.

Looking ahead at the 21st century we have made a lot of changes in our perspectives on a lot of things around us. The education system also has been evolving and so are other systems around us. We are promoting independence, research, and analytical-based studies for professional growth then why not research one’s feelings? Why not analyze our own feelings?

We speak about the world being a safe place for the next generation…. We need to give them a platform to express their anxiety, fear, depression, and burnout… then they will feel safe from within. They will have the courage to face the external challenges that confront them daily be it personally or professionally.

We all go through different moods in a day. Sometimes we are jolly and full of fun, and we are happy for no reason, we just feel good but sometimes it’s just the opposite. We feel gloomy, sad, and sensitive about minor things. At times it’s easy to express sometimes we mask it.

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It is normal for all of us to feel this way, the question is – do we go back to feeling normal quickly? If we don’t then it’s time to analyse ourselves. Is my mental well-being in danger? These moods contribute majorly to our mental well-being. It needs to be in check.

Just as we do a check-up for our physical ailments, we need to check on our mental well-being too. I came across a very interesting blog on mental well-being and a checklist for our mental health check-up. I am sharing it below:

You may want to have a mental health check-in if:

  • You don’t want to start your day or leave your house
  • You argue with people around you
  • You find only negatives in a situation
  • You don’t like to do things you usually do

You may try things that you have read or heard to help you out, you may also take professional help if need be. This can be done on an individual front.

Educators today have a huge role to play when it comes to the mental well-being of students and teachers. We need to give them that comfort zone where they can feel that their mental well-being is taken care of. We need to help build a happy culture that gives our teachers and students the confidence and courage to face their challenges positively.

We must learn to track our emotions or moods. It’s very important to know the graph of our moods. This helps us to analyze ourselves better. We need to teach our students to take personal responsibility in terms of their mental health. This needs to be done at a younger age.

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Once they know to track their emotions, they become self-aware. This awareness will help them to do stress management.

As a school, we need to provide lessons on how to adopt a healthy lifestyle. This has to be a whole school approach involving teachers and parents too. Students and teachers should be able to make healthy lifestyle choices and understand the effect of their choices on their health and well-being.

We as educators should be able to provide students with information and deepen their understanding of the choices they make. We must provide students with the intellectual skills required to reflect critically on these choices and on the influences that society brings on them, including through peer pressure, advertising, social media, and family and cultural values.

There is a direct link between well-being and academic achievement and vice versa, i.e. well-being is a crucial prerequisite for achievement and achievement is essential for well-being. We need to help them to balance it correctly. Physical activity is associated with improved learning and the ability to concentrate. Strong, supportive relationships in school and at home, provide students with the emotional resources to step out of their intellectual ‘comfort zone and explore new ideas and ways of thinking, which is fundamental to educational achievement.

As a school, I feel we can take a few practical steps for the well-being of teachers and students:

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  • Each member should feel valued and known and that they have a purpose in school
  • We should create a welcoming environment that will help them to feel safe and supported
  • Promote and use teaching methods that contribute to a positive classroom environment
  • Provide opportunities for them to express their feelings
  • Provide healthy food options in the cafeteria
  • Work with the parent community closely for the well-being of students

We do not have control over external factors or things that happen outside the school environment. The promotion of mental well-being may at times conflict with other school priorities however we all need to be consciously aware of our own mental well-being and of others at the same time, only then we will be able to clean the taint.

Let’s come together and address the well-being of our teachers and students openly. There is a lot to do, let’s take the first step, together.

Author – Shilpa Hiwale, Head Mistress, C P Goenka International School, Thane

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Addressing Mental Health

It is apparent that mental health is a pivotal component of health and yet its importance has too often been forgotten.

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“Life doesn’t make any sense without interdependence. We need each other, and the sooner we learn that the better for us all.”

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we feel, think and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, and relations with others and make choices. It is the state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential and can cope with the normal stresses of life, productively and fruitfully.

It is apparent that mental health is a pivotal component of health and yet its importance has too often been forgotten.

Stigma and discrimination are among the grimmest threats to mental health. Growing social and economic inequalities, protracted conflicts, violence, and public health emergencies affect whole populations, challenging progress toward improved well-being. Mental health is a key determinant of social and economic development, an integral part of general health and well-being, and that access to care is a basic human right. It aims to help all countries to accelerate longstanding efforts to implement equitable mental health policies, laws, programs, and services. We must deepen the value and commitment we give to mental health as individuals, communities, and governments and match that value with more commitment, engagement, and investment by all stakeholders, across all sectors. We must strengthen mental health care so that the full spectrum of mental health needs is met through a community-based network of accessible, affordable, and quality services and supports.

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During the unprecedented threat of COVID 19 we faced new challenges of working from home, temporary unemployment, home-schooling of children, and lack of physical contact with other family members, friends, and colleagues, it is important that we look after our mental, as well as our physical, health. Children must be guided to buckle up themselves to adapt to the new normal.

Envisioning a world where mental health is valued, promoted, and protected, we at MPSpn, preen our efforts and adopt best practices to improve and enhance the mental health of our students

  • One to one counseling of children: Children with special needs may have an anxiety disorder, attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, hearing, visual, and other learning disabilities. The school counselor joined hands with special educators and identified such children and undertook rigorous counseling sessions to shun such disorders. The work is still on.
  • In-House Celebrations and Morning Assembly: To promote team spirit and a sense of belongingness to school, we ensure equal participation of students from all four houses viz. Abhimanyu House, Dhruva House, Eklavya House, and Prahlad House in In-house activities weekly for their all-around development.
  • With an intent to inculcate life skills, holistic health, and well-being, we organize special morning assemblies and celebrate all significant days viz Armed Forces Day, Youth Week, Mental Health Day, Parakram Diwas, NCC Day, etc in school.
  • Listen to children’s concerns: As teachers, it is essential to listen to students’ concerns and demonstrate understanding as well as empathy. Our Educators offer students the opportunity to have a one-to-one conversation with them to reconnect and discuss any concerns.
  • We run an empowered Boys and Girls’ guild to attend to their needs under the guidance of their charges.
  • Keep a watchful eye on children’s performance: Teachers get in touch with the academic progress of a child before introducing a new topic. They try to connect the concept with live examples and share experiences.
  • Engage children in constructive activities: Teachers Seek help from children and decorate the soft board of their class with colorful and welcoming messages. Praises and appreciation such as the Saturday Award, Star of the class, and best reader, can keep them going and fetch desired outcomes.
  • Watch out for any warning signs of child behavior: that interfere with their ability to explore, play and learn: Teachers are attentive to changes in children’s behaviors. If any significant change is noticed or it persists over time, preventive measures are adopted without any further delay. Teachers provide lots of support if they feel a child is struggling.
  • Model good coping behaviors for students – Educators need to be calm, honest, and caring and should demonstrate a positive attitude toward children so that they too learn to cope with the situation and learn to deal with stress.

Rekindling the efforts to protect and improve the mental health of our educators, rigorous practices were adopted:

  • Personality Development Counselling Sessions for teachers: To encourage productivity and to bring fruitful results in the overall personality of the teachers counseling sessions were conducted. Teachers were mentored by special educators. A psychological test was given to teachers to assess and evaluate their work-life balance. They suggested constructive ideas to make a striking balance in personal and professional life.
  • Meditation and Yoga Sessions for Teachers: To maintain mental equilibrium and to destress teachers’ special yoga and meditation sessions were conducted where teachers discussed different health-related issues and were given expert advice.
  • Weekly Counseling sessions: Learning healthy coping techniques and problem-solving skills weekly Counseling sessions were conducted by our counselor on Wednesday and Saturday. Here they participated in various stress-release activities and tried to regain self-control and pleasure in life.
  • Celebration of Special Days and Festivals: Lohri, Holi, Basant Panchami, Diwali all such festivals are an integral part of our culture. To rejuvenate their mind and body our educators celebrated these festivals with all zest and zeal as workout time.
  • Guru Purnima and Teachers’ Day: Honouring the steadfastness of teachers in shaping the lives of pupils mpspn celebrated Guru Purnima and Teachers’Day at mpspn with incredible zeal and gusto. A wide range of fun-filled activities was organized which reminded the teachers of their school days and made them feel nostalgic.

Mental health risks and protective factors can be found in society at different scales. The vast care gap for common mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety mean we must also find innovative ways to diversify and scale up care for these conditions. We need to clear our vision and attitude to address this issue. If addressed with a wide spectrum we would be to strengthen our mental equilibrium and empower each other.

Author – Reeta Bhargava, Principal, Maheshwari Public School, Jaipur

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Fostering Mental Well-Being in School

Teachers should adopt different skills to ensure their students’ learning and emotional well-being.

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Our mental health influences how we feel, think and behave in everyday life. It also affects our ability to overcome challenges, build relationships, cope with stress, and recover from life’s setbacks and hardships. Well-being is the experience of health and happiness. It includes mental and physical health, physical and emotional safety, a feeling of belonging, sense of purpose, achievement, and success. To achieve such a level of wholesome well-being for the educator community and the student community, schools require a whole-school approach, bringing together the intra-school community along with the parents.

After the global pandemic, some learners returned to school having experienced some level of stress, anxiety, isolation, and grief. Some experienced increased violence at home. Teachers should adopt different skills to ensure their students’ learning and emotional well-being. Some of these skills may include – listening to students’ concerns, checking on the learners outside the preview of the classroom, watching out for warning signs of learner’s behavior, encouraging sports and interaction between students, modeling good coping behavior- calm, honest, caring, etc. Other than these, there are a few more strategies that the teachers can put to use to improve student’s mental well-being:

  1. a) As observed, students usually use negative words and phrases in front of their peer group and not in front of teachers, so, few psychology students can be appointed to monitor and encourage the students to use positive phrases, to make sure nobody is saying anything that might emotionally affect the other student. For this, the appointed students can be given basic first-aid training in mental health.
  2. b) They can be given a workshop on non-verbal communication and how its knowledge can improve their communication (verbal-nonverbal) skills from being insensitive to sensitive ones.
  3. c) Be non-judgmental, patient, calm, and accepting. The student may be reluctant to talk about their problem because they don’t want to upset anyone or out of fear of being judged, but they need to know that by talking to someone they are doing the right thing.

The most important reason to care about the well-being of teachers is that we, as leaders, have been trusted with the world’s most valuable resource – children. Stress is common among teachers and recent studies suggested that it’s getting worse. Stress in teachers’ life is related to workload, students’ behavior and expectations or personal growth, etc. To manage their well-being, teachers and schools can take various measures:

  1. a) teachers can remind themselves why they joined this profession in the first place and make changes in their teaching strategies and classroom environment accordingly so that they get that feeling of achieving something after teaching their students well.
  2. b) schools can provide opportunities for staff and educators to reconnect, heal and feel safe and supported by understanding the importance of mental health and proving self-care time before burnout.

carve out time for self-care to maintain your mental health: for some, it is exercise, for others, it is reading, journaling, meditation, or spending time doing a hobby. Some people are not sure about what they can do to make themselves happy, for them simply the act of doing something can improve their mental health.

Why is well-being important to students? It is essential because their well-being and academic excellence are intertwined. Schools should be more than just a place where students go to learn; they should also be a place where students’ well-being is prioritized, while still delivering excellent instruction and learning activities.

Schools can actually do a lot to help not just educators but students as well by taking some steps like:

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  1. a) providing some basic mental health training: teachers can be provided with some basic mental health training without gaining a formal qualification.
  2. b) open door policy: a place where students can go and talk anytime.
  3. c) mindfulness sessions: meditation, stress-busting techniques, and creating a calming environment.
  4. d) mental health as part of the curriculum: stigma is still added to mental health and is still seen as a taboo, especially in schools. To overcome this mental health, be an integrated part of the curriculum whenever possible.

Teaching and fostering mental well-being a way to show our students and educators that we care about them and want to support them. To keep mental health in shape, a few introductions and changes to lifestyle practices may be required. These include – regular exercise, sleeping on a daily basis, prioritize rest, trying meditation, and learn coping skills for life challenges. Keeping in touch with loved ones and maintaining a positive outlook on life is another way of overcoming stress. Overall, it is and should be a collective effort, only then we can rise about the challenges and focus on the academic and co-curricular culture.

Author – Shilpa Atal, Psychology Teacher and Counsellor at The Mann School

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