In an effort to support the overall wellbeing of its students, parents and faculty, Fairgreen International School has developed a robust wellbeing programme, led by Head of Counselling Jackie Greenwood with the support from Inclusion Lead Alison Scott, as well as the school’s Wellbeing Team. Fairgreen’s ‘DREAMS’ Wellbeing Programme has been the root of the school’s culture of care since its inception, offering support to students as they return to campus post-eLearning. Fairgreen’s wellbeing team will be working together with students, teachers, parents and other professionals in the Dubai community to provide a service that is both preventative and responsive to students’ needs as they arise, supporting the aims of the school’s social and emotional curriculum. The team strives to know the students’ strengths and challenges while helping them to develop their values, character and social skills. When students are struggling, the school ensures that they feel they have a supportive space with trained professionals to help guide them through.
Fairgreen is poised to continue to foster students’ wellbeing through its wellbeing programme, classroom visits, one-to-one meetings and small group work activities. Students and teachers will also now have access to the Fairgreen Wellbeing Hub, a newly defined room within the school, which can be used as a calm space for mindfulness activities, all in keeping with Covid-19 safety restrictions.
During the eLearning that took place over the last few months of the 2019-2020 school year, Fairgreen also supported students and teachers by providing weekly email resources as well as private Zoom counselling sessions when needed. The school also hosted a Virtual Wellbeing Hub that featured resources for wellbeing support.
Mrs. Greenwood shares further insight on Fairgreen's Wellbeing Programme and how the school will be supporting students as they come back to campus.
Why is Wellbeing so important at Fairgreen?
Wellbeing is a central pillar of Fairgreen school culture and practice. It has to be. Our school establishes a commitment to sustainability in all its forms, and to that end, we believe in cultivating our 3 C’s - Care for self, Care for others and Care for the planet. As a planet and a human race, we are all interconnected, and therefore we wish for our students to embrace the importance of valuing their health alongside the wellbeing of the community. As an IB school, we have great scope to help our students have meaningful learning experiences that help them understand, express and act in ways that support their health and happiness.
Please can you explain what the DREAMS Wellbeing Program is and what you hope to accomplish with students?
Our DREAMS Wellbeing Program is focused on enhancing students’ overall wellbeing. Students will have a DREAMS lesson each week that is led by a member of our Wellbeing Team in our MYP program. We have high aspirations for the evolution of this program and the impact it will make to enhance student wellbeing. For this year, given the challenges that the pandemic has created for young people, our main aim is to help students feel reconnected to their friends, teachers and learning. If our students know that our school is a safe, supportive place in which they feel they are accepted, listened to and actively cared for, we are happy.
DREAMS is a rearticulation of Martin Seligman’s PERMAH model of wellbeing and is briefly outlined as follows:
- Drive/Motivation - How we find our purpose and passions, set goals and aspire to achieving our Dreams.
- Relationships - We value the development of relationships with self, others and our environment, cultivating communication based on respect, kindness, acceptance, love and connection, developing positive social engagement skills.
- Emotion - Enabling awareness and validation of feelings through self-expression and enhancing the experience of positive emotions, such as awe and wonder, optimism, joy, gratitude and equanimity.
- Accomplishment - In our learning environment, we wish to encourage everyone to strive towards competency in a multitude of skills and accomplishment in sports, arts, music, design, and service as well as the traditional academic pathways.
- Mindfulness - Mindfulness builds self-awareness of emotions, and through increased mind and body awareness enables balance and calm. Embedded throughout our wellbeing program and community, we have adopted the JIGSAW SEL program, the Mindfulness in Schools Project .b (Stop, breathe, be) and PAWS to support this practice.
Can you share any specific measures/plans the Fairgreen Wellbeing Team is taking to welcome students back to campus, to help ease them back and keep tabs on their wellbeing given the circumstances with Covid-19?
We recognise that our students may have a raft of feelings coming back to school, and these may be amplified as a result of the ‘forced separation’ that has happened, as well as any stress, grief and loss students may have faced. To help ease the transition back, we held back-to-school orientations so that students could meet their teachers and other students in their class so that they could know where to ‘land’ on day one. All of our teachers in primary school have a teaching assistant in their classroom to provide more adult support. We are also providing our teachers with trauma-informed practice tools that will help them to respond to any children that are particularly vulnerable. Furthermore, we will be using YouHue as an ‘early alert’ system, which will help us know which children may require more support from their teacher, parent, learning support or school counsellor. Aside from this, our social and emotional curriculum which includes mindfulness and social emotional learning activities ensures that our children have daily opportunities to listen and share their worries with their peers and teachers via use of emotional thermometers, circle time, and daily mindfulness practices. Above all, reconnecting, and refocusing on establishing positive, caring relationships with the children will be our priority whilst making learning fun and engaging.
Fairgreen offers mindfulness training to all interested teachers and staff on the ".b Foundations" Teacher Mindfulness course, an 8-week program developed by the Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP), a UK-based non-profit established in 2009 to help improve the mental health and wellbeing of children. Our Head of Counseling Jackie Greenwood is the only MiSP-trained teacher in Dubai who is certified to teach this course. We also have three other teachers trained to teach MIndfulness in our school, Matt Greenwood our Primary Principal, Julie Serrao PYP Teacher and Louise Mehta EYP teacher. All of our teachers have had introductory training in Mindfulness and are encouraged to create moments in the day, which are silent, and reflective.
What is Mindfulness and why offer it?
At its most basic level, mindfulness helps train one’s attention to be more aware of what is actually happening, rather than worrying about what has happened or might happen. By being mindful, we learn to bring greater curiosity to whatever it is we experience. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of secular mindfulness, described this skill as ‘being alive and knowing it’.
- A practice of stopping and noticing
- A training in attention and awareness
- An evidence-based practice
- Endorsed by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence
Studies have shown that mindfulness training offers a multitude of benefits to participants, including:
- a reduction in stress, burnout and anxiety
- a reduction in the sense of task and time pressure
- an improved ability to manage thoughts and behaviour
- an increase in coping skills, motivation, planning and problem solving
- an increase in self-compassion and self-care
We believe our mindfulness training helps Fairgreen teachers and staff to be more caring and attentive to our students’ social and emotional needs, helping them to be at their best to learn and grow.
Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
Jigsaw is a whole school approach to teaching PSHE - Personal, Social and Health Education, which in the UAE is part of Moral Education. It covers a range of topics throughout the year, which the whole primary school focuses on at the same time. The topics are Being Me in My World; Celebrating Diversity; Dreams and Goals; Healthy Me; Relationships and Changing Me. We also teach some basic tools for helping the children to be calm and focused. There is considerable research evidence that Social Emotional Learning (SEL) improve students' social development and mental health but also can strengthen their academic achievement.
PYP and MYP Assemblies
Our weekly PYP assemblies are a good way to foster positive character development while developing the culture of the school. Some of our assemblies are used to introduce new units from the Jigsaw program. Examples of such units include: Being Me in My World; Celebrating Diversity; and Dreams and Goals. Other assemblies draw on something topical, for example, the start of the new calendar year aligned to new beginnings and opportunities to start afresh. This topic gives students the opportunity to think about setting New Year's resolutions. Assemblies are often participatory where students will partake in a group activity that helps them to visualize or act out the learning goal. Assemblies are also an opportunity to celebrate accomplishments, so that the community of learners can recognise others efforts. This year, due to Covid restrictions, we will host these assemblies as virtual events.