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K-12 students thrive when they feel known, appreciated, and supported. An experienced educator reflects on the importance of focusing on student well-being.

With COVID-19, schools and districts across the nation have made well-being, health, and safety a key priority as schools reopen to in-person classes. When students feel safe, know that their teachers care about them as a person, and care enough to nurture their own goals and aspirations, their attendance improves, and test scores increase. 

All of these variables ladder up to a prioritization of student well-being, and this prioritization doesn’t compromise student performance—it enhances it. The intersection of engagement, performance, and well-being is to know the name, face, and story of each student you serve.

More than a score

To fully understand our purpose as educators and our role within a school or school district, we must understand who our students are. There is nothing more critical or transformative than ensuring each of our students feels valued in school. 

It is all about how we choose to spend the time we have with our students. We allocate countless minutes to instruction, prepare for standardized tests, and assigning and grading worksheets, but rarely do we embed opportunities to get to know our students more than superficially. Sure, on the first day of school, we go around the classroom having students introduce themselves, but how do we find out who our students are beyond this?

Connecting learning to life

Students need to experience authentic success. Few students start school with the ultimate goal of scoring high on a standardized test. All students start school with hopes of learning, exploring their interests, and preparing for the next level, whatever that may be. 

Due to constructs that schools and districts have developed over the years, we often quickly lose sight of students’ interests amidst the haze surrounding a singular focus on student data, whether on scores, grades, or other quantifiable metrics. Even worse, we muddy the waters by helping students to lose their sense of purpose. 

During COVID-19, the social, emotional, and physical well-being of students is mission-critical. Unfortunately, it has taken a global health pandemic to bring the importance of students’ well-being to the forefront. Schools are finding they are grossly underprepared to respond to the needs they are uncovering. 

We must allocate and prioritize the time to understand students, get to know them, help them discover their goals, interests, passions, and aspirations, and start a purposeful life journey. No test score is more potent than a student with a purpose-driven life. 

Final Thoughts

Let us begin to look long-term, not on short-term gains, to determine what defines quality educational outcomes or student readiness for the next level. No one wins or is successful, ultimately, when well-being is compromised for the sake of a score. Though testing will undoubtedly remain part of the educational equation, nothing says that well-being should not also be an essential part of that equation. 

Brian Creasman

Dr. Brian Creasman’s Twitter profile says he has the best job in Kentucky! As superintendent of Fleming County Schools since 2014, he has the privilege of leading, learning and collaborating with students, staff, and the best community each day. Over his career, he has been fortunate to serve as a teacher, assistant principal, middle school principal, high school principal, and assistant superintendent. Recognized as a National Certified Superintendent by AASA, Brian's areas of interest include school and district transformation, teacher leadership, student voice, and empowering others to do BIG things for students. Brian is the 2020 Kentucky Superintendent of the Year and a nationally recognized author — having co-authored The Leader Within: Understanding and Empowering Teacher Leaders, Growing Leaders Within: A Process toward Teacher Leadership, Can Every School Succeed? Bending Constructs to Transform an American Icon, and ConnectED Leaders: Network and Amplify your Superintendency.