In recent years we have seen a surge in the importance of emotional well-being in society, especially in schools. Through research, we continue to expand our knowledge of the developmental phases of adolescence and how to better support our students as they encounter complex pressures in their lives. As middle schoolers, students typically seek to be the manager of their own academic and social growth. “As they are striving to be independent thinkers and achievers, H.C.Crittenden must find a balance to honor each student’s autonomy while providing the support and ‘safety net’ to ensure their emotional wellness,” explains Ms. Kim Lapple, H.C.Crittenden Principal.
Keeping that in mind, HCC has integrated relevant and thoughtful new initiatives to assist in the overall wellness of students. These initiatives utilize the team approach that drives the work in middle school and they also capitalize on the strong sense of community.
This work began during the 2017-18 school year through a survey conducted in partnership with Stanford University’s Challenge Success program. “Challenge Success was a critical impetus for our work with wellness,” said Ms. Lapple. “The data provided to us served as a launching point for our work and a lens into our students’ perspectives about their lives.” The H.C.Crittenden Wellness Steering Committee, comprised of school stakeholders, analyzed and processed the data to identify areas to support student wellness in their learning community.
Since then, the work has grown tremendously and many programs have been put into effect based on the new learning.
An immediate result was the implementation of team emotional wellness goals. Each grade level and discipline team developed a goal that would focus on student wellness. The special education team supports the goal of helping students build an awareness of their current and future educational programs through a better understanding of “self.” “Team Wellness goals are one of our secret supports in helping our students,” said Ms. Lapple. “Teachers don’t necessarily formally announce how they are collaborating to ensure students’ wellness, but it is happening every day. It’s part of our daily conversations as professionals.”
Another purposeful change at HCC was to incorporate a wellness theme. The school used a conference day to implement ‘student choice’ activities. “Students could select workshops which had a focus on wellness,” said H.C.Crittenden Assistant Principal, Angelo Ancona. “The workshops allowed students to explore their talents with faculty and guests.” They were designed to let students be uninhibited in a non-competitive environment and included groups such as, Ambidextrous Art in which students drew with both hands at the same time, creating symmetrical designs, Inside the Music, Inside Yourself, in which students channeled their emotions into art, and Yoga which challenged students to try different poses and games that promote physical fitness, strength, flexibility, and balance.
This past January, H.C. Crittenden continued the important work of encouraging kindness in its community. This was the seventh year of #Kindness, created and inspired by the Guidance Department. “#Kindness is a week-long celebration that challenges the HCC student body to grow together based on respect and kindness towards one another,” said Heather Graham, H.C. Crittenden GuidanceCounselor. “The dedicated full week began with a keynote speaker, Mr. John Halligan who lost his son to suicide in 2013. His presentation, "Ryan's Story" covered how to deal with bullying, cyberbullying and teen depression. He spoke about how to reach out for help when needed and the significance of being kind to others.” Another kindness related event included "Be the I in KIND" photo board, where students could take a positive picture to post on social media.
Finally, a new initiative for this school year is a student-based year-long project called Project Me, where self-reflection is paramount. Project Me has strong connections to Challenge Success and wellness. “It was driven by the idea that we want our students to value self-growth over grades earned,” said Ms. Lapple. “Student choice is important in determining their personal goals to support active learning.”
This year-long reflection will lead to a presentation and celebration at the end of their journey. As a result, students will be more present in their own learning, make their own decisions and then reflect upon those decisions.
By definition, wellness is an active process of striving towards a healthy and fulfilling life. Based on the collaborative efforts between Challenge Success and HCC, steps are continuously being taken to help students feel comfortable and confident in and out of the classroom while promoting and maintaining wellness.