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Teachers of Tomorrow
Advancing school wellness through teacher preparedness.
School professionals are required to respond to contemporary classroom needs, though are often ill-prepared to deal with the complexity of students’ mental well-being concerns.
Issues such as intergenerational trauma is present in students’ lives, whether from refugee camps, extreme poverty, family addictions or Indian Residential Schools. We see students arrive on Monday not having eaten since lunch was served at school on Friday. We see students coming to school with traumas of family violence. And still the students come, finding the courage to walk through the school doors each day. This scenario is played out, in varying degrees of severity, in schools across our nation.
The skills and human capacity required for teachers to support each of these students are tremendous. Teacher attrition is a common issue, because modern teachers simply don’t know what they’re getting into or how to handle it.
The magnitude of these complexities demands a coordinated, systemic response. The Teachers of Tomorrow initiative proposes an upstream approach to addressing student well-being through the issue of teacher preparedness, situating it both as a proximal factor with immediate student impact, and as a critical lever of systemic change utilizing a Comprehensive School Health (CSH) approach.
Recognizing the potential for downstream student impacts and for rippling across educational contexts, Ever Active Schools began actively partnering with the Werklund School of Education (WSE) in 2011 to accelerate closure of the critical gap between how teachers are prepared to address wellness and what they are expected to do in practice.
These collaborative efforts have both informed, and been informed by, the culture of wellness in the Faculty at WSE and in school communities across Alberta. The results of this work has been a prototype for a system of wellness education, modelled on the CSH approach and involving the development of key partnerships, addressing the social and physical environments of the faculty, implementing healthy school policies and requiring mandatory coursework in wellness education.
This work has since evolved to include work with 3 other project sites in an intensive way (the University of Alberta (U of A), University of Lethbridge (U of L) and Concordia University of Edmonton (CUE)), and a total of 9 other corresponding sites that are involved in a network of universities sharing their journeys.
Currently, we are working with a total of 4 primary project sites across Alberta (UofA, UofL, CUE and WSE). Each site has formed a team of health/wellness champions and has worked to assess their current states of wellness within their Faculties. Each of the sites is now in the phase of creating and implementing an action plan. Support for the primary project sites will continue through to Fall 2020.
Nearly 1,000 students from the Werklund School of Education have completed the mandatory course in Comprehensive School Health and Wellness as of February 2019. The next cohort will begin the course in January of 2020. At the University of Lethbridge a half day wellness conference was offered for all of their professional second-semester students, which overviewed CSH and gave them an opportunity to experience two sessions of their choice related to the CSH priority areas (Active Living, Healthy Eating and Positive Mental Well-being). In the coming months, both CUE and UofA will be implementing wellness focused activities at their respective institutions.
Corresponding national sites are involved through the National Forum on Wellness in Post Secondary Education, which was hosted for the first time in November 2018 at Concordia University of Edmonton. The 2019 National Forum is being co-hosted by Ever Active Schools, the Werklund School of Education and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC on October 17th and 18th, 2019. The National Forum provides a unique opportunity for each university to showcase the work being done and learn from one another.