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Development of Collective Well-Being

Developing Collective Well-Being

What is the nature of our collective well-being? We assert that individual and collective well-being (Roy et. al., 2018) is developed in our boys’ school through foundational relationships with teachers built with ongoing caring gestures towards the individual and the whole.

Knowing all that we do about human development, and the unique trajectories of boys, educators are responsible for addressing the multifaceted composition of a healthy community. Sterling Hall prioritizes relational management as a pathway to achieving an enduring understanding of well-being for every boy in our school.

Imagine any of the following scenarios - all of which are likely to happen on any given day at Sterling Hall:

  • A boy is called to the sidelines by his coach during an athletic practice to review expectations following an overly physical play.
  • A boy conferences quietly with his teacher in class after a disappointing result on a math assessment.
  • A boy on an assigned movement break from a lesson is speaking with a resource teacher to process a disruptive moment in class.

If real learning is to come from the resolution of these, or the myriad of other difficult moments that naturally crop up during a school day, then the successful outcome of each of these scenarios requires the same fundamental starting point: a teacher with strong relational management skills.

We are social beings who learn about the world, and about how to be in the world, in community with one another. It is up to educators to address the multifaceted composition of a healthy community where that learning can happen. In our school, we work to achieve this end through mindful and intentional relational management between students and their teachers. When teaching from a relational stance, educators acknowledge that before teaching physics or French or trombone, we teach children; learning can only transpire when it is built on a strong and trusting connection between the learner and his teacher.

We know a great deal about the precarious social and emotional developmental needs of boys. Societal expectations for boys are internalized and solidified by the age of 10 and can have long-reaching negative health impacts for life (Blum et. al. 2017, Farrell & Gray 2018, Reichart 2019). Therefore, the work that educators do with boys before the age of 10 is essential. The Sterling Hall School’s Health & Community Program occurs daily for all boys and employs community circles, and the teaching of social emotional skills, and physical health knowledge in order to develop boys’ understanding of their well-being. 

Foundationally, the faculty at Sterling Hall develops social and emotional literacies of how to be in the world by teaching from a relational stance. This effort requires educators to hold three basic dispositions: First, teachers are highly observant of their students’ individual and collective well-being. Second, teachers proactively and responsively reach out to their students with relational gestures. Third, teachers create time and space in and out of the classroom to respond to students when relational needs arise.

Relational gestures are at the heart of our interactions with our students. Beyond knowing the boy in the classroom, we strive to know the whole child. Who are the members of his family? What are his strengths? Where and how does he spend his time outside of school? It is knowing these details about a boy’s life that enables us to share laughter and gratitude when something wonderful has happened and to transcend the difficult moments with our humanity. When we notice that our boys are dysregulated or otherwise not themselves, we create openings for a walk around campus or find an empty classroom to share lunch and conduct a restorative conversation. 

Our relational gestures as teachers extend from the individual on a continuum to encompass our entire class. Homeroom teachers conduct regular class circles that teach the value of vulnerability and create safe spaces where boys can express fear, anger and sadness alongside pride, affection and joy. It is common at our school to see classes outdoors collaborating in a community development game, sharing a reflective moment beneath a tree, or playing together with their younger buddies. Relational management is an ongoing process that requires continuous and robust reinforcement. 

We are social beings who do better in community. The Sterling Hall School nourishes the individual and collective well-being of our boys by rooting that well-being in intentionally managed caring relationships with trusted adults. This is our commitment to raising healthy boys and healthy men.

Article by Drew Gulyas, Director of Faculty Development and Innovation, Experiential Learning Program Coordinator

Blum, R., Mmari, K., & Moreau, C., (2017). It Begins at 10: How Gender Expectations Shape Early Adolescence Around the World. Journal of Adolescent Health 61 (4)
Farrell, W., & Gray, J., (2018). The Boy Crisis: Why our boys are struggling and what we can do about it. BenBella Books, Inc. 
Reichart, M., (2019). How to Raise a Boy: The Power of Connection to Build Good Men. Penguin Random House LLC
Roy, B., Riley, C., Sears, L., & Rula, E., (2018). Collective Well-Being to Improve Population Health Outcomes: An Actionable Conceptual Model and Review of the Literature. American Journal of Health Promotion 32(8)