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September '23: Monthly Message to Boost Academic Wellbeing

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Happy start of the school year to everyone receiving this message! I’m personally two weeks into teaching for a new academic year–it’s a special one for me. Find out why by reading to the end. As both a professor of Educational Psychology and an academic life coach, I’ve been asking students to set their goals for the coming term and to consider what “success” this school year really means to them. What if their school experiences can be defined beyond the scores on their tests and the grades on their transcripts? What if they allow themselves to see Schooling for what it can be: a space for growing themselves in many ways? What if they measure that? They seem to like this. They seem hungry for it. This wider view of success has a name: Academic Well Being. It means aiming for academic performance, but also striving for the physical, mental, emotional, and social aspects of life in school. Research–and experience–tell us that academic well being is needed for students to truly thrive in their educational pursuits. Not only are they happier through the process, but they persist when things get hard (and things will get hard). What is Academic Wellbeing? Five Ingredients: 1. Academic Outcomes: Good grades, graduation, successful completion of educational programs, etc. Along with these academic achievements comes personal growth and development through learning experiences (aka “the good stuff”). We still want these, but not only these, while in school. 2. Physical Health: This is an often overlooked but essential component of academic well being. Students need proper nutrition, regular exercise, and adequate sleep contributes to better focus, energy levels, and overall well-being. Sorry, students, no all-nighters. 3. Mental and Emotional Health: Coping effectively with academic stress! This includes managing emotions and being resilient–navigating the ups and downs of academic life and rolling with setbacks. School staff, families, and friends can facilitate healthy environments for learning and practicing these coping skills. And of course when and if there are mental health challenges that individual coping can’t manage, professional aid must be readily available and be a priority over the traditional academic goals. 4. Motivation and Engagement: Students are fueled from a sense of purpose and interest in their studies. Without it, there is reduced motivation, energy, and attention. Personal purpose is an essential component to academic well being. Identifying short- and long-term Purpose is key. 5. Sense of Competence: Students need to feel capable of reaching their goals. Even small successes can boost this belief in themselves, which leads to increased action toward their goals. Developing and recognizing personal skills and strengths is so important for academic self-confidence. In order to reach this, every student needs effective use of time and study habits--lest they spin their wheels, feel helpless, and develop negative feelings about school--not one size fits all strategies, but methods that work for them, in their unique lives, with their unique brains. How can you support Academic Well Being? It’s no surprise that educational staff and faculty play important roles in fostering academic well being, but they aren’t alone in the task. Other people in students’ lives can help promote academic well being every day: at home, in sports, jobs, clubs, with peers...everywhere really. Students can also take proactive steps by seeking help when needed, building a strong support network, and committing to improving. For some students, this happens best when working with a specialized coach to develop holistically healthy strategies, coping skills, and habits. I have been lucky to play this role for high-school and college students (and a few grad students!) and enthusiastically strive to foster more academic well being among the current set of students I coach. So I hope this school year, more than ever, we can move past a definition of success that relies on oversimplified measures, such as GPA, and look at how students are growing in the 5 ingredients of Academic Well Being described above. It’s extra special for me as I have started my 20th year teaching at Macalester College (see photo for my 1st day-of-school pic, taken moments before the students arrived)! How lucky I've been: 40 semesters of teaching the psychology of learning and of working hard to promote the academic well being of my students.

happy learning, Tina P.S. If you aren't following me on Instagram or Facebook, you're missing lots of tips, tricks, and often jokes about the academic world. See you there! Instagram: @tina_kruse_coaching & Facebook: Tina Kruse Coaching

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