Rethinking student wellbeing at BBIS

Whilst students today are presented with a vast array of opportunities, the fast-pace of life and pressures of social media are contributing to an increase in mental health issues. Find out how an innovative approach to student wellbeing at one school is beginning to pay dividends.

As the excitement builds when planning for your new job overseas, concerns about the effects on accompanying children often begin to build too: How will they be affected by the new environment, the new school? Will this parental promotion have a negative effect on their career? How much suffering do they need to go through to be happy?We at Berlin Brandenburg International School (BBIS) are convinced that success is a result of happiness – it is not the other way round. BBIS secondary principal Michaela Jung is leading a new approach to our educational programmes, which puts wellbeing at the core and Dr. Elke Paul, Positive Education Consultant, is appointed to implement her E.N.G.A.G.E. curriculum.Most schools around the world teach maths, science and native language. But how many school curricula include concepts such as: how to deal with change or how to develop resilience? How many have lessons about how to build healthy relationships? We are starting to change this for our students.
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We are living in a time of rapid change; one where a multitude of distractions are competing for our attention. Our students have the opportunity to apply to universities all over the world: many being accepted at top universities (recently MIT, Princeton, Stanford, Oxford). At the same time, research shows that the rate of mental health issues like depression at schools and universities – and in society as a whole – has increased dramatically. Universities that accept the most motivated and academically strong students are now employing large teams of psychologists to support students. This is one of the reasons why BBIS is introducing Positive Education into the regular curriculum.We are not starting from scratch; we are building on what we are already doing. In the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme, all students follow Personal Social and Health Education (PSHE) as part of their regular curriculum.

What is Positive Education?

Positive Education is the application of Positive Psychology (developed by American psychologist Martin Seligman) as part of the school culture and curriculum.Positive Education develops skills focussed on:
  • Building resilience
  • Dealing with change
  • Fostering better relationships
  • Experiencing positive emotions
  • Developing character strengths
  • Engaging with the community
  • Setting and reaching personal goals
  • Finding meaning and purpose

Why Positive Education?

Positive Education teaches students how to develop their inner strengths, how to be at their best for themselves and others, how to learn from setbacks and how to live a good life.We think that we can and need to teach these skills more explicitly, in a time where we are faced with technological developments at a breath-taking speed and increasing distractions that that have an impact on our physical and mental well-being.

What happens at BBIS to start the journey?

The first topics students work on include Collaboration, Building Positive Relationships and Finding your Character Strengths. These build the foundations for expanding the students’ range of skills and attitudes to live a positive life.

What data is this based on?

We are using a voluntary, anonymous questionnaire to survey all staff and students in secondary school in order to get a snapshot of their wellbeing and where they need more support. The results will then inform further development of the curriculum.One of the goals of Positive Psychology – Finding meaning and purpose – may sound a bit spiritual or, for some, even esoteric. However, in a society which is so often focussed on correcting or avoiding mistakes and where self-optimisation (which follows trendy influencers) has become a problem for the young generation, good schools are charged with addressing this question as one of the most noble tasks – real happiness and real success will follow suit.BBIS is a 700 student international English-Language IB Day and Boarding School in Berlin, Germany, offering Early Education through Grade 12. Find out more about BBIS here