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UWC Thailand: 7 Weeks of Giving

12 June 2018

A message from UWC Thailand: the first UWC school to be highlighted in the "7 Weeks of Giving" Campaign

Square and Outward Bound founder Kurt Hahn believed that the best way to avoid another World War was to expose our future leaders to the commonalities that unite us as people, rather than the differences that define us as nations and cultures. Hahn also believed that school should prepare students for life, not just university, and that education should help students to develop resilience and the ability to experience failure as well as success. 

At UWC Thailand, we agree wholeheartedly. We also believe that a 21st century education is incomplete unless it also equips students to understand, monitor and manage their emotional and physical wellbeing. Although students still need to learn traditional foundational skills like reading, writing and arithmetic, they must also learn the “soft skills” of emotional intelligence, mindfulness, independence, teamwork, and leadership in order to thrive in a changing world. We believe that UWC Thailand is uniquely and ideally situated, in both location and educational goals, to employ an educational model that equips students with these skills by embedding social-emotional learning, mindfulness and physical health into our curriculum. Nestled in the foothills of Phuket’s green-capped mountains and adjacent to Thanyapura, Asia’s largest sports and wellness resort, our students are exposed to countless adults and young people modelling a healthy and mindful lifestyle every day.

Across the holistic facets of our programme, perhaps most unique is our commitment to social-emotional learning and mindfulness (SEL&M). SEL&M supports the IB curriculum by helping equip students to handle their emotions and behaviour skilfully. It guides students in how to engage in relationships with care and concern for others, and approach their work effectively and ethically. To do this, we focus on skill development in emotional literacy, self-regulation, peer relations and problem solving. Hand-in-hand with SEL is our focus on mindfulness: ‘paying attention to the present moment, on purpose, with kindness and curiosity.’

The deliberate diversity of the school, which is enriched by our National Scholars, presents both a challenge and an opportunity for cross-cultural understanding, social-emotional learning and mindfulness - concepts seemingly foreign in many cultures. UWC Thailand’s focus on mindfulness provides support, resources and staff who are adept at helping adolescents make sense of their past in order to embrace their future. Students begin to understand that they have a choice and can take space to respond rather than react to everyday stresses. They also learn that by being curious about, and attending to, our present moment experiences we learn a lot about our reactions, our patterns, and ourselves as mindfulness supports students in developing self-compassion and through this, compassion for others. 

The funds raised by UWC Thailand through the Davis-UWC IMPACT Challenge are primarily used to provide direct scholarships for national scholars; however, specific gifts and contributions towards social and emotional well-being and psychological resources will be put to excellent and immediate use - including additional staffing and training.

Teaching mindfulness requires our staff to be grounded in present moment awareness with an attitude of non-judgment, kindness and curiosity. Our staff learn this first by participating in mindfulness training under the guidance of the school’s Mindfulness Mentor and through ongoing staff sessions. 
 
In the classroom, SEL&M takes many forms, including our student ‘Time In’ sessions: 10-15 minutes of quiet time set-aside for both students and teachers to engage in secularized mindfulness or SEL practices every day. This mode of inquiry allows a person (regardless of age) to better understand themselves and their reactions to their environment. In addition, UWC Thailand students also engage in weekly community building practices to cultivate meaningful dialogue and emotional intelligence. With the practice of ‘Council’, students speak leanly and spontaneously from the heart, while listening from the heart as well. This structured process encourages deep, honest and heartfelt communication.

Student success around the world has been significantly impacted by the mental and physical challenges resulting from a global climate rife with political conflict and our ever-changing tech-enhanced lives. UWC Thailand's’ focus on mindfulness teaches students, regardless of their age or background, to give themselves the breathing room they require to take in what’s happening in and around them, see it more clearly through a positive lens, and react more intentionally. To attain our ultimate goal of raising future peacemakers, we must first teach our students to find peace within themselves.