Wellness and Success: The Importance of Being Well to Do Well
By Kristi Kraychy
Graduation days are always a mix of emotions for educators. As we reflect on the past few years with all of our students who have been part of our school community, I am reminded of the incredible journey we’ve been on together. We’ve seen firsthand the impact that emotional and physical well-being has on a student’s ability to learn and thrive.
I remember some students who struggled to even walk from their parents’ car to the school doors in their first weeks with us. Some refused to get on the bus for Forest School, and some would go into a state of panic when we mentioned the word “test”. A few even struggled to engage socially at the start, as their past experiences told them that trying to make friends would only lead to hurt. But because our number one priority was to create a safe and supportive environment for our students, we were able to help students of all ages manage their anxiety, develop tools to communicate effectively with others, and build their confidence.
It has been three years since those first few weeks, and I am proud to say that those same students have led our hiking adventures, laughed through shenanigans at overnight camp, and walked hand in hand with Kindergarten students across the graduation stage. And according to the unofficial results, all of our students successfully passed and even achieved excellence on their final Provincial Achievement Exams. Being outside and in a nurturing, non traditional learning environment, does not mean academic growth and ability is neglected.
Indeed, research shows that creating a safe and supportive environment for students is crucial for their overall well-being and success. According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, students who feel safe and supported by the adults at school are less likely to experience anxiety and depression, are more likely to engage with academic learning, and more inclined to have positive relationships later in life.
But it’s not just emotional well-being that’s important for academic success. Physical health plays a big role too! A study by the American College Health Association found that students who engage in regular physical activity have higher GPAs and are more likely to graduate on time. That’s because movement and exercise improves cognitive function, memory, and attention span.
Wellness is a key factor in academic success, and it’s not something that can be taught in just a special health lesson once per week. It must be woven into every aspect of the day, from the way every staff member speaks with the children in their care, to making consent a school-wide expectation at all times, to the adults modeling what it looks like to show emotions and solve problems in healthy ways. By prioritizing the physical and emotional well-being of students and staff, schools can create an environment that fosters learning and achievement.
- American College Health Association. (2018). American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Undergraduate student reference group executive summary spring 2018. American College Health Association.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). The association between school-based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Mental health and academic success in college. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.