2 actions school leaders can take to impact student wellbeing

Consider the results of a recent survey by The Superintendents Association (AASA), which found that the two most important issues are student mental health and student apathy. In addition, a recent New York Times article stated. “Most American teenagers across demographic groups see depression and anxiety as major problems among their peers,” based on a new survey by the Pew Research Center. The survey found that 70 percent of teenagers saw mental health as a big issue.

Clearly, we can agree that there are problems for our children and that we are all struggling with how to impact them. Further, education —including superintendents, principals, and curriculum —are required to demonstrate their ability to implement the National Policy Board for Education Administration professional standards.

So why are school leaders not taking bold action to impact the dire wellbeing statistics, even when required by their own professional standards? Perhaps it is not about understanding “how” to impact, but rather it is more a matter of leadership courage. We challenge school leaders to take two actions to address student wellbeing today!

Action Number 1 – Assess the wellbeing of all children

Education leaders need a clear picture of the social-emotional wellbeing of the children in their care. What should educators look for to determine their students' wellbeing?

Emotionally and psychologically healthy children possess the following qualities or attributes, which can be measured by the Ryff Psychological Wellbeing Scale:

  • Autonomy – self-determining and independent, able to resist social pressures to think and act in certain ways, regulates behavior from within, and evaluates one's self by personal standards
  • Environmental mastery – a sense of mastery and competence in managing the environment, controls a complex array of external activities, makes effective use of surrounding opportunities, and is able to choose or create contexts suitable to personal needs and values
  • Personal growth – a feeling of continued development, sees the self as growing and expanding, is open to new experiences, has a sense of realizing his or her potential, sees improvement in self and behavior over time, and is changing in ways that reflect more self-knowledge and effectiveness
  • Positive relations with others – is able to have warm, satisfying, trusting relationships with others; is concerned about the welfare of others; is capable of strong empathy, affection, and intimacy; and understands the give and take of human relationships
  • Purpose in life – has goals and dreams in life and a sense of directedness, feels there is meaning to present and past life experiences, holds beliefs that give life purpose, and has aims and objectives for living
  • Self-acceptance – possesses a positive attitude toward the self, acknowledges and accepts multiple aspects of self, including good and bad qualities, and feels positive about previous life experiences

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