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Academic Engagement Balanced with Students’ Well-Being

This past week, I was highly inspired at the Florida Council of Independent School’s Annual Conference.  With nearly 2,000 private educators and administrators in attendance,  there’s no doubt in my mind that each walked away with a different perspective and/or a confirmation of the wonderful work we do in our profession.  While the number of sessions was vast, there was a common thread amongst all; for the short and long-term health of students in all grades in a Pre-K-High School, a student’s level of academic engagement must be balanced with his or her overall well-being.  Keynote addresses delivered by researchers, authors, and experts from Harvard and Stanford Universities included such topics as “How Can Schools Develop Caring and Thriving Students”, “Capturing the Heart of the 21st Century Student” and “Teaching for Healthy, Engaged Students in a Fast-Paced World”.  Current research is showing the increasing levels of students’ disengagement with school with higher levels of anxiety, depression, and, sadly, suicide ideation and completion. At a national level, students are hooked on social media and the ‘like…like….like… selfie world.’  With the over-scheduling that happens during after school hours, coupled with the pressures of keeping up with hours of homework and a serious lack of sleep, it was recently determined that our country’s ‘’Robo’ students and teens (those that earn straight As but lack purpose and engagement) are ‘at risk’.

While the research is highly alarming, I am, once again, humbled to serve at The Cushman School where the research-based ideals for healthy school and life outcomes have been in place for 95 years! Our faculty, staff and administration maintain this high priority of implementation; it’s always our aim to strengthen and enliven these ideals further because we at Cushman have a much broader view of ‘success’.  According to leading experts in this field, there are five important outcomes schools must consider as we strive to decrease students’ unnecessary stress while increasing students’ engagement and well-being: 1.) Paying attention to the manner in which we schedule classes so students’ use of time is maximized to include creative thought and critical thinking, 2.) Incorporating authentic, meaningful, project-based and rigorous problem-based learning opportunities where students have a voice and choice, 3.) Incorporating alternative and authentic assessment practices, 4.) Creating a climate of care where students feel a sense of belonging, are calm, feel responsible for themselves and others….are outward thinkers and doers, and learn the importance of being ‘kind’ and thoughtful and 5.) Educating the entire community on the importance of these endeavors and outcomes.

The Cushman School continues to set itself apart from other independent schools. We are a school where love and kindness matter…always. While most are considering these factors and outcomes for the first time because research is outpouring on this topic, we have been grounded in these aims for 95 years; we will always be committed to being better for your children.

Please be on the lookout for a Parent Series session that I will be delivering on this topic. I will share all the current research that relates to your children, provide you with an understanding of how Cushman addresses each of these areas, and provide you with ideas for home implementation so our partnership is in alignment.

With Love!

Arvi Balseiro
Head of The Cushman School