How does School Employee Wellness (SEW) fit in our current reality? Jess Lawrence, director of Cairn Guidance and former keynote speaker at the Oregon School Employee Wellness Conference, hosted a webinar to help school employees in our state connect some dots.

Many school employees are familiar with the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) Framework. This framework centers around students and has five tenets surrounding them – healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged. Outside of these tenets are ten components that contribute to that, including School Employee Wellness.

A collaborative approach to learning model illustration

Webinar attendees discussed how different WSCC components could intersect, impact and be leveraged with other components in a positive way. Ideas from participants included:

  • Health Education and SEW: Staff can model self-care and eating healthy snacks to reinforce the information shared in health education classes.
  • Family Engagement and SEW: As parents and school employees navigate the new school year together, there are opportunities to build and maintain relationships, which supports purpose and social-emotional well-being. There are new ways to engage with families and lunch pick up or drop off programs can help nurture relationships between staff and families.
  • Physical Education/Physical Activity and SEW: Even if working remotely, there are opportunities for administrators and wellness teams to encourage staff to get moving. Walking challenges can bring staff together around a common goal or inspire people with friendly competition. Zoom fitness classes can help build a sense of camaraderie around exercise and nurture feelings of connection.
  • Nutrition Services and SEW: Nutrition Services can be an excellent partner in your employee wellness efforts. They may be able to help with providing healthy snacks, hosting cooking classes or providing recipes and tips for cooking produce from a school garden.
  • Social Emotional Climate and SEW: The social emotional climate of the workplace impacts all other components. Creating opportunities for staff to connect, have fun and discuss things outside of work can boost social-emotional well-being. Administrators and meeting facilitators can model and provide time for employee self-care.

It’s especially important to remember that in these times, a holistic approach to well-being can help employees feel cared about and heard. What is energizing or restorative for some may feel like a chore for others, so it’s important to consider a variety of ways in which employee well-being can be supported.

For example, some employees may find that Zoom fitness classes help them feel connected with others and help them manage stress. Others may be struggling with sleep and caring for family members and just need self-care resources to use on their own.

Activities and Resources from Jess’ Webinar

Gratitude Activity: Jess opened the meeting with an anonymous survey of attendees, asking what is a practice that these times have given them for which they are grateful. Many mentioned spending extra time with family and a renewed enjoyment of the great outdoors.

In a compassionate way, Jess recognized the enormity of the challenges in front of school employees this year while providing an opportunity to be grateful. Practicing gratitude has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve sleep, boost resilience, decrease feelings of depression and strengthen the immune system.

Consider including a time for gratitude at the beginning or end of team meetings; giving a little structure or offering to go first can help others practice gratitude together. If you’re meeting with a larger group, consider using to set up your survey and collect anonymous, in the moment responses.

Connection Circle: A connection circle can be done with any topic. You can create one on paper, poster board, a Word document or a Zoom whiteboard.

A Connection Circle uses arrows to show influence between different elements around the circle. (See Jess’ example below.) One way arrows indicate one way influence; lines with arrows on both sides indicate that both elements influence and reinforce one another.

Connection Circle example by Jess Lawrence

How could a Connection Circle demonstrate the positive impact of your School Employee Wellness program?


Resources for Supporting School Employee Wellness:

Interconnectedness of SEW During a Crisis – webinar by Jess Lawrence

Oregon Healthy School WSCC Model Posters – Oregon Department of Education

Learning and Health: Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child – ASCD

Jess Lawrence and Cairn Guidance Twitter