Keeping a virtual focus on wellbeing

  • Wellbeing

Keeping a virtual focus on wellbeing

Written by Frances Frazer, The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL)
03 May 2021
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Keeping a virtual focus on wellbeing

Nurturing wellbeing is a fundamental component in supporting the social and emotional health of every member of our school community – students, parents, faculty, and staff. Across each division, our community is supported by a school-wide approach to wellbeing that includes a team of school counsellors, educational psychologists, medical professionals, and learning support specialists. In addition to classroom lessons and grade-level advisory programs, our extensive counselling program also includes topical workshops for students and parents, one-to-one and small group counselling, transition support and university admission, careers, and beyond-school guidance.

Wellbeing is a vital component of our program in a regular school year, and even more important when a pandemic creates global havoc. In early 2020, with COVID-19 taking hold and a nationwide lockdown in progress, the challenge was clear – our school community was dealing with an unprecedented level of physical, mental, emotional, and social stress. The sense of loss, loneliness, and grief of not being able to connect with friends and peers was palpable, not just amongst students, but also for parents, faculty, and staff. Recognizing the potential for loss of community connection and impact on wellbeing, an online channel was developed to provide an additional way to support students and the broader community by sharing positive learning stories, creative performances, imaginative challenges, virtual (with school friends), and in-person (with family) moments experienced by our community, as well as outreach initiatives by and for our community members.

The channel took the shape of a virtual newsroom, eliciting, receiving, processing, and broadcasting hundreds of learning stories, performances, community and outreach initiatives, all of which were 100% community-generated. Content categories were developed to target specific areas of wellbeing, for example, As-If-We-Were-In-School was created to establish some degree of normalcy for students, and saw our Grade 5 student leaders create their own morning announcement videos.

Participation has been school-wide, High School students recognized the need to support the wellbeing of younger students and took the initiative to organize virtual after school activities for them. Both groups benefited, with older students feeling positive about sharing their knowledge and passions. The campaign also brought the community together through art, music, and sport with Friday Fun Photos, TikTok Tootsie Slide challenges, Getty Art creations, and Earth Week projects.

Music has been a particularly important connector; Virtual Virtuosos was launched to share the joy of music and bring happiness to the ISKL community during the lockdown. The concept started as a High School Music Department initiative and grew to feature musical talent from the entire community, from our youngest learners to staff members and alumni. Our High School choir’s participation in the virtual choir experience Call to Unite was livestreamed globally, as part of a worldwide call to action to lift spirits and connect people in the face of the global epidemic. This enabled choir members such as Rebecca C. to share messages of solidarity and hope with the world: “Wherever you are in the world right now. If you are at home or away from it, I hope that this singing piece sends its message to you. The feeling of being surrounded by loved ones, of belonging somewhere, and of being home. In these times where many of us feel adrift from regularities of our daily lives, let these voices reach out to remind you that music unites us all and, in its way, is our universal home.”

Video link : ISKL High School virtual choir took part in a 24-hour live stream global broadcast

“The Call to Unite,” celebrating a worldwide shared call to action to lift spirits and connect people in the face of a global epidemic.

The initiative has used technology to embrace all aspects of social and emotional wellbeing including a virtual playground for our youngest learners to help build connections. During the lockdown virtual playdates were arranged between English speaking and English as An Additional Language (EAL) students to enable EAL students to practice their English conversational skills. Service Learning flourished with students finding innovative ways to support the disadvantaged via food and clothing drives. Faculty, staff, and parents were involved too, hosting activities ranging from cooking demonstrations and floral arrangements through to yoga classes. Alumni from around the world contributed, sharing positive stories and role-modelling adaptability to students. The school’s weekly e-newsletter was taken over and used to host content, and a school magazine called The PAW developed to showcase community initiatives.

Even though our community interactions remain limited to online channels, our wellbeing initiatives have continued to use technology to adapt to the demands of the evolving situation. Regular monthly optional online conversations and information sessions with our Head of School and principals have been hugely appreciated by our parents and have been instrumental in fostering wellbeing and strengthening the school-parent partnership. Our Wellbeing Committee launched our school’s first Community Wellbeing Calendar featuring free activities and selected workshops for parents, students, staff, and faculty members. The weekly activity program offered two or three activity options per day, including fitness workouts, cooking classes, chess tournaments, eSports competitions, guitar lessons, and meditation sessions. Our Counsellors continue to support our community through an extended outreach program including weekly tips and targeted workshops for students and parents providing guidance on a wide range of topical issues including helping online learners stay motivated, tips for learning at home, and overcoming COVID-19 fatigue. Regular wellbeing surveys have been rolled out school-wide to monitor the social and emotional pulse.

As we reflect on the past year, there could be no better way to celebrate the importance of wellbeing than receiving the 2021 International School Award for the ‘Wellbeing Initiative’. At the time of writing, due to Government restrictions, our school is currently permitted to only partially open our campus for Early Childhood and Grade 11-12 students, with Grade 1-10 students learning online. Regardless of the learning mode or location – these important initiatives continue to nurture and support the wellbeing of our entire community.

About ISKL

Established in 1965, The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) has become known as a centre of excellence in the world of international education. ISKL is a co-educational, private, not-for-profit school responsible for the learning journey of 1,700 students aged 3-18 years representing more than 65 nationalities at its campus in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

ISKL offers a robust international curriculum which combines leading North American educational frameworks with global best practice. The curriculum recognizes that students are on a lifelong learning journey and is driven by ISKL’s mission to challenge each student to “Be All You Are” and develop the attitudes, skills, knowledge, and understanding to become a highly successful, spirited, socially responsible global citizen.

ISKL is accredited internationally through the Council of International Schools (CIS), and in the United States through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). There is a strong focus on service and sustainability across its divisions and is a member of the Eco-Schools organization and the Green Schools Alliance.

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