I wonder how often schools focus on achievement at the expense of wellbeing?

Dr Martin Seligman is regarded as the founder of Positive Psychology, and he coined the term “flourishing” to describe someone who has optimized their levels of wellbeing. They experience positive emotions, enjoy healthy relationships and have high levels of engagement, meaning and purpose.

 The Five Ingredients Necessary for Flourishing

The five components of well-being are summarised in the acronym PERMA. By helping young people to achieve these components we can assist them to flourish

1-Positive Emotion:  the experience of positive emotions such as happiness, satisfaction and joy and other good feelings and ways in which we can access those feelings

2-Engagement: Also known as flow or “being in the zone.”  It is the experience of being fully immersed in an activity to the point where we lose sense of the passage of time, feel energised and seem to function  better despite the extra effort.

3-Relationships: Positive relationships not only increase happiness but also buffer against stress. Skills to create, build and maintain positive relationships are essential

4-Meaning and Purpose: Doing things that have a higher purpose or altruistic rationale can  give meaning and purpose to daily life.

5-Accomplishment: There is much satisfaction to be gained from even small accomplishments. So a certain amount of goal oriented, task oriented activity allows that satisfaction to grow.

Whose job is it to look after student wellbeing at your school? Presumably there are several staff members in wellbeing roles. Perhaps you have a Head of Welfare or a pastoral system in which the primary responsibility for the wellbeing of students lies with the tutors.

However, I’ve heard many teachers suggest that, “We don’t have time to focus on welfare or student wellbeing. We’re all about results.”

I refer these people to research by Andrew J Howell that shows students who are flourishing* – as opposed to those who are moderately mentally healthy or languishing – were “less likely to adopt an entity view of ability [ie they had “Growth” mindsets], more likely to endorse mastery approach goals, report higher levels of self control and higher grades.”

In short, if schools and individual teachers were to focus on wellbeing, rates of achievement would rise.

Dan Haesler will be speaking at the Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People seminar at the Gold Coast on Friday 1 June. He is also a teacher, blogger and speaker. He writes for the Sydney Morning Herald and blogs at http://danhaesler.com/ and tweets at @danhaesler

Writer Dan Haesler. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.