I am revisiting my blog post Instructional Coach for Wellness with this offering.
I was updating the standards section of my portfolio the other day when I remembered something interesting about the ISTE coaching standards. The standards are for K-12 instructional technology coaches. They have been updated over the years to the point that they really are quite flexible, applicable and true to the role, in my opinion. I am no longer a tech coach but my takeaway is that the ISTE standards really do fit nicely in my role as a wellness coach in K-12 schools.
A Captain Obvious moment yes, as the standards are all about coaching but as I don’t know of any organization coming up with school wellness coaching standards, it seems like a good starting place for wellness coaches working with admin to design their job descriptions. I did a search for wellness coaching standards to find companies that provide courses to gain certification but their focus seemed to mainly be on life coaching/counseling for clients. I did not find any organization with information for wellness coaching in schools.
I can say from speaking with an international school recruiter that schools are in fact hiring wellness coaches.
As I unpack what being an instructional coach for wellness might entail, I see a big portion of it being connected to my vision of the school wellness program being integrated into the regular curriculum and school culture. I’ve written about this a great deal here in this blog and through my Wellness@ES site. I see the main focus for wellness coaches to be similar to that of tech coaches with the job being to coach the teachers to bring the wellness principles into their regular classroom instruction. This can involve co-teaching at times but the main instruction is from the classroom or advisory teacher. The role also involves designing professional learning opportunities for the teachers.
A portion of this coaching involves lesson design finding opportunities to highlight learning opportunities pulling from the wellness program. For me, this would of course involve the character strengths and the PERMAH pillars of Positive Psychology. I previously shared the integration similarity between TPACK and my WPACK (Wellness-Pedagogy-Content Knowledge) approach that I bring to the collaboration table.
My bias and vision might not fit with what schools are really doing as I suspect many are buying a SEL – wellness curriculum that the wellness coaches then teach in each division. This in my mind looks like the old style elementary guidance counselor rolling into classrooms periodically to teach the prescribed lessons from the purchased curriculum. In the middle and high schools, the wellness curriculum might be delivered through advisory by the advisory teachers or possibly it is taught by the health/PE teachers during their classes. I just don’t know what the standard approach is especially in international schools.
My bottom line is that I am curious to learn how school leaders are finding ways to enhance the wellness of their students and hopefully also their staff members. With international schools, I see this effort being extended out to the greater community including parents. If international schools are hiring wellness coaches, what do their job descriptions look like and what standards are in place to guide them in fulfilling their job description? And of course, how are they measuring how successful their efforts are?
As I didn’t follow up in my original post to list the ISTE coaching standards and how they can fit for a wellness coach, I am going to do so here.
4.1 Change Agent – The ISTE focus is on improving instruction definitely means bringing about change in teaching and in the culture of the classroom. I see the wellness coach also being a change agent but to a lesser degree if one’s school follows the old model of the guidance counselor being “in charge” of wellness/SEL by providing the instruction and possibly not collaborating with elementary teachers and MS/HS advisory teachers. The WPACK model I mentioned previously has the wellness coach co-designing aspects of unit plans to integrate the character strengths and PERMAH via PRIME Integration Strategies into the units of study and culture of the classrooms. This approach definitely leads to change with classroom teachers being leaders in the wellness implementation efforts.
4.2 Connected Learner – ISTE tech coaches network through PLCs and PLNs to stay on top of innovations in pedagogy and technology. I definitely see wellness coaches doing the same though the world of wellness coaching is relatively new compared to efforts to bring technology innovations into our schools. I wonder what networks of K-12 schools sharing information on Positive Psychology are out there. I am reaching out to Character Lab now to see if someone will speak to me about their network of schools, if they have one.
4.3 Collaborator – This is the biggie! Just as with tech coaches, I see wellness coaches sitting at the collaboration table to find ways to naturally embed wellness learning opportunities into the regular LA, social studies, math, etc. curriculum. The possibilities are many for integration as in how about some strength spotting of characters in book studies? What was the “shadow side” of some strengths presented by some historical figures? When talking about scientific relationships and connections, how about connecting to the R in PERMAH to hook the interest of your students? 🙂
4.4 Learning Designer – Take what I just wrote for collaboration and add in the ISTE call for student agency, personalized and active learning to have your wellness coaches helping to co-design lessons that are student-centered and constructivist. The biggest draw for students to learn about wellness is that the main topic is themselves! What a connection and interest builder. 😉 Wellness from a PosPsych perspective is about learning and engaging and yes, practicing character strengths within the life domains of PERMAH. So once your program moves past the first stage of teaching the character strengths and domains, you get to move into full on experiential learning as students get to consistently practice and apply their learning in their lives. I am currently working with a non-profit in Vietnam that provides educational services to students living in orphanages. We are collaborating to design and teach curriculum that hits on this ISTE standard with students immersed in discovery learning activities. Do note that the curriculum website is very messy with some translation and few graphics. It really is a workspace and “sandbox” for my Vietnamese partners to work with.
4.5 Professional Learning Facilitator – This standard to me is a differentiator between what conventional school counselors do compared to what a big part of an instructional coaches for wellness do. This is not to say that guidance counselors do not provide professional learning opportunities. But I do wonder how many counseling graduate school programs offer full courses in instructional design and adult learning to teach counselors how to collaborate with classroom teachers to integrate the ASCA standards into the regular curriculum. This is where counseling and instructional technology intersect so well for the role of the wellness coach. I have mentioned in previous posts about the Geelong Grammar School approach to wellness program development in which the school goes through the steps of learning, living, teaching and embedding the principles of PosPsych into the culture of the school. The first three stages all involve adult learning first to learn and practice the principles to then design ways to bring them into one’s teaching. This means lots of planning for personal and professional learning. My approach again as mentioned in previous posts would be to personalize and differentiate the adult learning as much as possible. This involves the creation of a wellness resource website for adults to choose when, where and what they want to learn.
4.6 Data-Driven Decision-Maker > Yes, of course, use data to drive your initial wellness program design efforts to provide guidance for adaption of your plan throughout the implementation process. Where the technology coach is helping with academic achievement in which we have many assessment tools, we do not have many large group ways to measure the well-being of the students and adults in our communities. There are some instruments out there but this is an area where I have limited experience. And I can say that in listening to a couple leaders from Geelong Grammar School and the Institute of Positive Education a couple years ago, they didn’t have much information on assessment and general measurement either. Their Positive Education Enhanced Curriculum (PEEC) for early and primary students did not have any assessments, if my memory is correct from reading through it a year and a half ago. But perhaps they have a measurement component now. My point isn’t to point fingers but to say that they are real leaders in wellness education and they were very upfront about how difficult it is to measure well-being in children. I do get excited at the possibility of working with MS/HS students and adults to design a personal wellness inventory based on the idea of everyone having a wellness plan. This inventory could look similar to the plan with the PERMAH construct and how one rates their use of specific character strength application wit in each pillar. Working to do the same with elementary students could be challenging but the more effective we are in teaching the character strengths and the pillars, the more the students will use wellness vocabulary in their language to the point of being able to self-evaluate their well-being to some degree . The struggle with all age groups is trying to construct a pre-assessment of one’s well-being when the students don’t have a language yet to describe their well-being. I see that the folks at Character Lab offer a Student Thriving Index and Dr. Duckworth does have a grit scale.
4.7 Digital Citizen Advocate – I show my age and time in the tech field when I say that we really need to stop saying “digital” citizenship. It is just “citizenship” as our students live in the analog and digital world with fluency of movement so that they are one world. Moving on… the wellness coach’s prime directive is to help students with their personal development to build out their wellness toolkits to be able to thrive in their lives. So yes, this also means to help them become good citizens. My take on digital citizenship efforts is that much of the focus is helping students see how their actions affect others. Many character strengths and several of the PERMAH pillars come into play to help students make healthy decisions when interacting with others. I also see the need for an internal focus to help students and yes, adults, learn about how they can engage their strengths within the PERMAH pillars to positively affect their digital wellness.