7:55 A.M – to walk through the hallways of ISTP at this time, on any morning of the work week, you will find yourself in a (mostly) quiet hallway in which a middle school teacher is leading their students in a ten minute wellness session. What is a wellness session? Well, while it might sound a bit goofy to the uninitiated, and truthfully, this addition to the day has been an adjustment for students and faculty alike, we aim to provide students with the space and the tools to engage more fully in the present moment.
ISTP first implemented the daily wellness initiative this past fall, 2018. The idea is to provide students with a set time during the day when they can truly focus on themselves and their needs. We have found it essential for students to develop stress-management tools as soon as possible in order to better manage their daily lives both inside and outside ISTP. While taking ten minutes away from academics may seem counterintuitive, our faculty has noticed increased engagement from students after they have been given this time. In addition, incorporating mindfulness into everyday classroom activity is becoming more and more common across the United States, and we are proud to be embracing this movement too.
You may be wondering what it is that your students are actually doing during these ten minutes of wellness. A peek into any classroom on the second floor would provide many different visuals. Activities run the gamut from stress-relieving visualizations, mindful breathing, and gratitude practice, to hand-eye-coordination exercises, coloring, or even folding origami. Teachers are encouraged to gauge the mood of students in order to determine what will be most effectively de-stressing on any particular day.
Students have been learning techniques that can be implemented outside of the classroom too, such as at home when studying and preparing for exams, or before sports tournaments. A particularly nice moment for me was when 7th grader Octave M. told me that he had used a color visualization while he was in the heat of a tennis match. He said that it allowed him to center and find a bit of calm when the stakes were high.
In addition to daily in-class wellness time, there is a wellness club that meets every Thursday in room 215 with Ms. Romeyn (me!) where a smaller group of students have the freedom to lead their own wellness activities or even to spend time checking-in and discussing how their week is going. “Wellness has benefited me because it brings together my heart and my mind to form a cohesive work environment,” said Erin L., an 8th grader who regularly attends wellness club and has developed many of her own wellness practices.
The Wellness Committee surveyed students a couple months into the year to find out which activities have been most helpful to them and when they would appreciate additional wellness times (if any). To our delight, over 75% of students surveyed requested more time for wellness, not less, and suggested that it would be especially helpful to them before assessment periods. I encourage you to begin or continue discussing wellness at home with your children. My hope is that they will return to what they have explored in the classroom when stress is running high, as well as when they are simply seeking a moment of calm.