Thursday, 28 March 2019

The Currency of Wellbeing

Since the conception of Auckland Central’s ‘Community of School’, we’ve worked towards several initiatives with the intent of developing our community and improving outcomes for our learners. Given the progressive nature of education, the principals and leadership involved have fought to ensure our initiative focuses are not only relevant but innovative and at the fore of education. Halfway through twenty-eighteen, the principals of our twelve schools met and heard about some of the work Remuera Intermediate had been doing with the Resilience Institute, an organisation who provides high-quality training around resilience. The discussion which followed was a catalyst in forming the newest addition to our initiative’s roster; wellbeing.

Though wellbeing is as wide as it is deep and a single definition could not capture its entirety, it can be thought of as the state of being comfortable, healthy and happy; three states which influence an individuals capacity to thrive. The influence wellbeing holds directly for an individual and indirectly for an organisation, makes it a high priority for those who contribute to it which is certainly true for me. As one of the Wellbeing Agency initiative leaders, my role this year is to work alongside in-school leaders and staff members to support the various facets of staff and student wellbeing by investing in practices and ensuring that the experiences, voices, and visions of those involved are realised. In order to do this effectively, I am developing my understanding of what ‘wellbeing’ means and wished to share some thoughts around this.

As relevant as ‘understanding wellbeing’ is, it’s worth noting that most of us are aware of its importance. Why? Looking within ourselves and at those close to us, it’s easy to see that when we feel healthy and happy, this naturally influences our ability to work effectively and positively impact those around us, including our students. Wellbeing is perhaps the fastest growing, most pertinent factor to consider when improving our workplace. With this in mind, let us delve into what wellbeing is.

New Zealand’s Teaching Council conducted an interview with Professor Meihana Durie and psychologist, Jacqui Maguire, to “discuss and give advice on the importance of teachers taking care of themselves and each other, and keeping emotional intelligence in check”. Offering a Māori perspective on the matter, Durie suggests we view it through the lens of mana and mauri, a form of ‘vitality’. Placing this frame over the picture of wellbeing, Durie states that your vitality can be in a place of flourishing or languishing. This frame resonated within me. It moved from a balancing beam to a continuum and with it, offered a greater opportunity for teachers to fight for their wellbeing.

This fit within another conversation that I had recently with a doctorate student who is investigating the role of physical education in today’s society. Though we primarily discussed the physical aspect of wellness, his ideas translate into every area of wellbeing. Identifying the main difference between exercise and nutrition, he says is the accumulation or the lack thereof. Essentially, there are certain facets of both which accumulate and there are some that don’t. Wellbeing in its entirety is not a stagnant and lifeless form; it’s consistently being given to and taken from. Balancing this giving and taking could be likened to a bank account in the sense that certain activities or practices build our wellbeing, they accumulate. However, there are moments or interactions which withdraw from the same account, that impact our accumulation of health and happiness. For me, this thought surmises the role we play in contributing to our wellbeing, to ensure we’re flourishing.

Assessing your ‘wellbeing balance’ or your position on Durie’s continuum of vitality, how are things in this moment? Are you making regular deposits to your ‘wellbeing account’? Are you flourishing? Whether this reading finds you in a moment of lack or profit, I hope it has prompted you to think. Though only questions, not answers, have been given today; throughout this year, we aim to help provide a range of ‘currencies’ for you to explore and we can’t wait to enrich your life.

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