Mark has a BA in Sociology and Labour Studies from York University, a PGCE from Sunderland University, and an MEd in Curriculum Studies and Teacher Development from the University of Toronto. He has garnered 15 years of teaching and administrative experience in China, South Korea and Thailand.
In his last stint before moving to OWIS Suntec, he was the Head of Primary and Early Years at an international school in Bangkok.
Mark believes that the way forward in education is to ensure that the learning approach is student-centred, engaging and experiential, including the use of technology. He likes to create a learning environment where all students can flourish and, thereby, attain their full potential.
Student well-being in primary school has a strong role to play in children’s academic success and socio-emotional development. At One World International School, we have worked hard to create an environment that promotes the well-being of each of our students - and we will be carrying that effort forward at the OWIS Suntec campus.
What is Well-Being?
There are many ways to define well-being. For this article, we define “well-being” as referenced in the widely-accepted World Health Organisation definition of mental health: "Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
Well-being can be divided into several categories, including emotional, physical and social well-being and so on. Emotional well-being is the ability to manage one's emotions and feel happiness. Physical well-being is the ability to take care of oneself with a good diet and healthy habits. Finally, social well-being is the ability to develop a social network that is meaningful and rewarding.
Well-being is often linked to emotional literacy or the ability to read the emotions of others as well as ourselves. For children specifically, it is said that emotional literacy sparks the positive behaviour and relationships that nurture well-being.
While adolescents and teenagers have to deal with the stress of academic pressure, peer relationships and any change of circumstances in their homes, younger children also have emotional reactions to positive and negative changes. For instance, the transition from Early Childhood to Primary or Primary to Secondary grades or the changing of schools during relocation could cause some anxiety in children.
Student well-being during the pandemic has been a major point of concern for parents and educators. Since 2020, students have endured frequent school closures, social distancing in classrooms and sports, disruptions to their regular schedule, inability to participate in certain classes (like band practice, chorus, etc.) and travel restrictions that have prevented them from visiting family members, friends and loved ones.
Children can suffer a variety of problems due to the stress they've experienced in the last year. Some may have trouble sleeping, others may develop clingy behaviour, irritability or may become withdrawn.
At home, parents can check in with their children and encourage them to talk about their day and difficulties. Further, a balanced diet and healthy habits such as exercise and a good night’s rest have a role to play in the overall well-being of children.
Well-being at school is so important that, according to the Council of Europe, over 70% of parents say they would choose to send their students to a school with below-average test results, as long as their child would be happy at that school. Presumably, many parents recognise that their children would be better off and more capable of functioning in school if they were happy there. In addition, children who are well-adjusted in school often grow into well-adjusted adults, with more confidence and a greater sense of happiness.
Students are with their teachers five days a week, so it's no surprise that schools play an essential role in the well-being of their students:
Overall, student well-being enhances intrinsic motivation, decreases disciplinary problems, increases academic achievement, improves school satisfaction and leads to flourishing individuals, communities, and nations (Buecker et al., 2018).
Students who are emotionally healthy are better able to flourish in the classroom, are less likely to experience mental or emotional distress in times of adversity, and are more likely to seek help for themselves when they need it.
OWIS Suntec will place student well-being at the core of everything it does. Timetabled mindfulness sessions in the peaceful outdoor sky garden will be used to support our Early Childhood and Primary students. One study, published in a white paper by a team that included Martin West of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, showed that sixth-graders who participated in an eight-week mindfulness session were less stressed than their classmates who hadn’t. Practising mindfulness helped hone their ability to focus in the moment, expanded students' capacity to learn and regulated their emotions.
At OWIS Suntec, we are also taking a whole school approach to create a safe and inclusive learning culture and environment. We build confidence and a positive self-image through engaging activities and opportunities for child-directed learning. We check in regularly with our primary students. We also supply them with creative outlets for their anxieties through music and art programmes. We connect regularly with parents to help ensure they and their children are managing well.
Through collaborative learning, we promote emotional literacy to help our young learners form positive connections with others and understand their point of view. We also use some popular techniques such as active listening and giving a vocabulary for emotions.
Students at OWIS Suntec will have structure and routine because it is essential for students to feel like their lives are predictable and safe. Children will be given regular opportunities to express their feelings, ask questions and get honest answers about the current stressors they are experiencing. All teachers at OWIS Suntec will model healthy behaviour for students as well.
Student well-being will be front and centre in the priorities of teachers at OWIS Suntec. To find out more about how your child can benefit from a positive, supportive learning environment, be a part of the virtual open house.