Schools of the future in New Zealand are going to become more open plan and learning more self-directed and interdisciplinary. Kids embrace this pretty quickly, but for their parents and teachers, there's often some big adjusting. Being open to teaching and learning in this uncharted territory requires an ability to tolerate uncertainty, navigate relationships in new ways and perhaps above all, be committed to learning to understand and take responsibility for yourself. I have been leader of student services at Hobsonville Point Secondary since the school opened in 2014. Like most secondary schools, we have counsellors and a nurse and we offer health and counselling services to the students and staff. I am also increasingly involved with developing learning initiatives in the school that emphasise the importance of emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.
There are three things I'm going to go on and on about in these posts:
1 - You can only learn optimally if you are emotionally, mentally, and physically well.
2 - Humans need quality relationships to be well.
3 - The more we understand the workings of the brain, the better we are equipped to be well and to learn.
These principles are close to my heart. Its no accident in a way that I ended up working as a mental health practitioner in an educational setting. My own adolescence was fraught. I came from a very academic, immigrant family and experienced a huge clash between the values of my parents and the culture in which I was growing up in NZ. At one point I ran away from home but worked part time at a geriatric hospital so I could stay at school and remember hitchhiking to school for one of my School Certificate exams. I was picked up by a huge Mac truck and the driver, luckily for 16 year old me, deposited me right outside the school gates! ( I passed School C by the way, but I sure didn't pass in terms of stress management and general mental and emotional wellness). There is lots more... i.e. 10 + years of university education in which academic achievement always came at a big emotional cost. I'm sure I'll be moved to tell some more of this story.
But for now, suffice to say that all of this has motivated me deeply to help other people learn and develop in whole and healthy ways. Working at this cutting edge educational institution has and is providing some very interesting challenges and opportunities. I hope that my blogging will be interesting to educators interested in exploring the links between wellbeing and learning in schools of the future. I called this blog "inside out" because the brain develops from the inside to the outside. It also develops from the bottom to the top and from the back to the front. This is a good way to understand the relationship between basic wellbeing and academic achievement. To think well, a whole lot of basic brain functions have to be working well. These include good sensory processing, good memory systems, the ability to pay attention, manage stress and be attuned to others.