The View From My Study – 20th October
Thinking back to my own schooldays, I cannot recall the term ‘wellbeing’ floating around the airwaves much so I could be forgiven for thinking it is a relatively recent addition to the dictionary. But no! To my great surprise it first appears in writing in 1561. In fact, evidence suggests the Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle might have used it in their discussions around the promotion of eudemonia – the idea of being happy and meeting one’s full potential.
Although the word wellbeing was used in some Victorian texts, it would not have been bandied around Victorian schools much where strictness, discipline and an adherence to the rules were the order of the day. Waiting for permission to speak and using only one’s right hand to scribe were commonplace and there was no concern for the individual. Every offence from playing games on Sunday to using bad words and cheating was strictly punished, often physically.
For our Victorian Day, we weren’t quite as strict and I think the children enjoyed going back in time; everyone certainly looked amazing and brilliant to see so much effort from all quarters (see photos below). A particularly humorous element came when I led a PE drill. Lined up with the shortest at the front, we tackled stretches and balances together, me acting more as sergeant major than Joe Wicks. In many ways, this was the Victorians’ best effort at wellbeing and, to be fair, this was the time when sport and physical recreation gained increasing prominence as a way to improve one’s character.
Wellbeing now has a fuller meaning than just physical exercise. The state of being happy, healthy and comfortable is as much mental as it is physical and it is so important that educators prioritise this in their schools. Mr Bartley, Head of Wellbeing, gave an excellent talk in chapel this week, reminding the pupils of how the school seeks to help them. He referenced the curriculum, the development of mind and body, the emphasis on service to others and the need to look after our environment all as ways in which our wellbeing is harmonised and maintained. His key point though was about the importance of friendship.
Relationships are critical for promoting wellbeing and protecting our mental health and resilience. It is no surprise therefore that friendship issues are the greatest source of unhappiness among the children and the area where we need to work hardest. Children are under more pressure and scrutiny than ever before and they need help in forming and building relationships, how to handle worries and how to empathise. This is why we have introduced the ‘Working with Boys’ and ‘Girls on Board’ programmes to help bring more security to relationships.
The Victorian ‘stiff upper lips’ may have gone, thank goodness, but we should learn from the great Victorian minds which were creative and innovative. Only, instead of applying this innovation to machinery and technology, we need to apply it to our minds and bodies, in order to ensure we all are comfortable, healthy and happy.
It has been an incredibly busy last few weeks and many are in need of a half-term break. Thank you to everyone who has made this first half such a success. I wish you all a good rest – see you in November.
Have a good half-term everyone!
Gareth Jones, Head