Jan 30, 2024

Building Healthy Classrooms: Nurturing Student and Teacher Wellbeing

Student wellbeing, we know from research and experience, isn't just about test scores but is closely intertwined with student emotional, social, and mental health. Efforts like California’s Whole Child dive deeply into how to provide integrated, school-based systems of care. And classrooms, where students and teachers spend a substantial part of their lives, can provide support to overall wellbeing if designed with intention. When we understand and consider the major challenges to student wellbeing, along with the factors that contribute to student happiness and fulfillment in the K12 learning environment, we can all create classrooms that nurture wellbeing, including concern for educator wellbeing and its far-reaching impact on the quality of education.

Challenges to Student Wellbeing

There are some staggering statistics about the challenges many students face. 19% of students report being victims of bullying incidents at least a few times a month. The emotional and psychological toll from bullying can have immediate and longer lasting impact on overall health. And over half of K12 students confess to feeling extremely anxious, even when well-prepared for tests. This anxiety isn't a fleeting concern; it's linked to lower science scores and a reduced overall sense of life satisfaction. Can classroom design mitigate this?

Contributors to Student Wellbeing

Fortunately, there are many factors providing support to our students’ wellbeing. Supportive teachers are more than just educators; they shape students' lives in profound ways. Experiencing connection and support in the classroom helps students feel happier and more productive. Unfortunately, nearly 20% of students report being treated unfairly by their teachers on a regular basis. Positive peer relationships help students feel like they belong and contribute to student success, life satisfaction and improved social and emotional learning. Students who cultivate positive relationships with their peers tend to feel more comfortable at school and perform better academically. A well-structured classroom experience can foster a stronger sense of belonging and higher life satisfaction among students. Schools with poor disciplinary climates often witness higher rates of bullying, intensifying the wellbeing challenge. And finally, parents play a pivotal role in their children's lives. Sharing meals and quality time with parents has a positive impact on academic performance and overall life satisfaction. How might classrooms leverage these factors?

Campefire Combo from Fomcore

Four key dimensions that improve student wellbeing:

Psychological: Student wellbeing encompasses life satisfaction, a sense of purpose, self-awareness, and the absence of emotional problems. Nurturing all aspects is fundamental for successful, fulfilling educational journeys.

Physical: Encouraging healthy lifestyles and addressing overall health are integral to overall student wellbeing.

Cognitive: Proficiency in applying knowledge to solve problems isn't just for academic success; it contributes significantly to a student’s sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

Social: Strong relationships with family, peers, and teachers are indispensable. Positive relationships and social and emotional learning can significantly impact overall student happiness and fulfillment.

The wellbeing of teachers and principals is also critical to student success. Stress and poor mental health among educators can cast a shadow over the learning environment, affecting student relationships and outcomes. Addressing the wellbeing of all educators is essential for a more equitable and inclusive educational system. So how might classroom design impact these challenges?

Practical Classroom Design Solutions

Creating classrooms that genuinely nurture wellbeing, social and emotional learning can be simple with intentional design elements. Here are some practical suggestions that leverage contributors to student wellbeing.

Agnew Campus photo by Jason O'Rear
Rex Fortune Elementary School photo by Chip Allen
Boys & Girls Club of San Leandro photo by David Wakely

Classrooms have the potential to be transformative spaces to nurture the wellbeing of both students and teachers. Inclusion, belonging and community can be developed by design. Through a deeper understanding of the challenges, contributors, and dimensions of wellbeing, and by implementing practical design solutions, we can all provide learning environments that facilitate academic growth while empowering students and educators to flourish emotionally, socially, and mentally.

Together, let’s pave the way for a healthier, brighter, and more equitable future in education. Reach out to our Learning Environment Experts for design and furniture solutions for your classroom.

Safe and Inclusive Classroom photo by Smith System