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CES in the News! "A school that promotes well-being"

CES in the News! "A school that promotes well-being"
Alberta students are learning about compassion—and resilience—with WE Well-being
National Post
18 Oct 2019
https://nationalpost.com/sponsored/life-sponsored/a-school-that-promotes-well-being


WE Well-being launched to empower youth and families to promote their own well-being and the well-being of their community.

BY BRENDA SPIERING

Tobey Daniels, Grade 5 teacher at Crossfield Elementary, with her therapy dogs.

When you walk down the halls of Crossfield Elementary you can’t help but notice something different, hanging on the walls and in the attitude of students and teachers.
Positive relationships are promoted with signs such as: “We are caring, sharing and learning together.” A big bulletin board at the front of the school that students have decorated with pink flamingos pronounces: “We stand for kindness.” And kids who are having a bad day are encouraged to spend time with one of five different therapy dogs that regularly visit the classrooms.
Tobey Daniels, a Grade 5 teacher at the school, located 43 kilometres north of Calgary in Crossfield, is an owner of two of the therapy dogs. She is a strong believer in the importance of building compassion, empathy and mindfulness into the school curriculum. This is why she was so excited to have the opportunity, along with over 250 educators across Canada and the U.S., to participate during the 2018/2019 school year in WE Well-being, the pilot program of a new well-being initiative being offered by WE.With over 20 years teaching experience, Daniels says the need for integrating resources to support students’ mental well-being has never been greater. “An increasing number of kids today are coming to school with fullon anxiety,” says Daniels. “Everything in their lives seems to be going so quickly. They’re having to grow up faster than they’re supposed to.”

Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) says of the one in five people who experience mental health or addiction issues, 70 per cent will have their onset during childhood or adolescence. Yet the demand for child and youth mental health support far exceeds the ability of current clinical, community-based and school district response systems.

This gap is the reason WE saw a need to provide educators with support. Active in approximately 18,000 K-12 schools across North America and Europe, WE has been empowering students to promote positive change in the world through experiential service-learning programs for almost 25 years. Now, partnering with leading experts in the field of mental health and social and emotional learning, it has launched WE Well-being to empower youth and families to promote their own well-being and the well-being of their community.
The program’s resources are available for free to all educators and include curriculum and in-class workshops on topics such as mindfulness, resilience, altruism and empathy, along with professional development for educators and takehome materials for families.
It was made possible through the generous support of Edmonton-based founding partner, The Erika Legacy Foundation. Created in honour of Erika Elkington, a young woman who died by suicide one month before her 30th birthday, the foundation is dedicated to promoting mental health and providing support for suicide prevention programs. “Erika was always there to help others,” says her father, Bill Elkington. “We can’t change what happened, but we can help make sure it doesn’t happen to others.”
Daniels says her personal crusade is to bring more kindness into the world. “We don’t use the term bullying at Crossfield. Instead, we discuss strategies for what you can do if you get into a ‘friendship fire’ or have to deal with people who are mean on purpose,” says Daniels. She says the WE Well-being program can help promote empathy for others, something she is also working to extend into the community. “By having kids reach out and show gratitude to, say, the local grocery store, they may think twice about spray painting (vandalizing) the building when they’re a teenager.”
“It’s also important for kids to learn how to cope when things don’t always go their way,” says Daniels. “By learning how to be resilient, they’ll be better prepared down the road, for example, if they go for a job interview and don’t get the job. The event will be less traumatic for them.”

She says what’s so great about the WE Well-being program is that, “it’s related to stuff that we do and talk about on a daily basis—community, empathy, compassion and being grateful—so it isn’t hard to weave it into the regular school curriculum.”
“As human beings, we’re going to make mistakes,” says Daniels. “So, what do you do if you’re stressed out? What do you do if you’re anxious or your motor is running too fast? How do you bring it down? How can you calm yourself ? How do you come up with your own strategies that can help you? How do you get through it?”

Daniels, and other educators who participated in the WE Well-being pilot program, reported increased empathy, self-awareness, leadership and improved self-image and confidence were the top areas of growth they saw in their students. The majority also said they’ve used the strategies they learned to manage their own stress and/or promote their own well-being.
For Daniels, the benefits are obvious. “If WE Well-being can help our kids become more compassionate and kinder and resilient and altruistic, everything else in their lives is going to be easier.”

To learn more about WE Well-being and how to sign up for educational resources and lesson plans, visit We.org/wellbeing.

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