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Beware The Monetization of Wellness

This week our St. Clement’s School community was fortunate to welcome Dr. Lisa Damour to our School for the entire day. Dr. Damour met with our staff at the beginning of the day, our students in the morning, and our broader community in the evening. By all accounts, it was a very successful day. Community members, regardless of their role, took a number of nuggets of wisdom away.

For me, there was a mountain of nuggets; however, one particularly resonated for me and led to the content of my St. Clement’s School Open House talk in assembly.

Dr. Damour commented about her concern with the ‘monetization of wellness,’ and that it sets us up to falsely believe that we should always be feeling great, and that we can buy all sorts of gadgets and things to ensure this. She reminded us all that we learn and grow as a result of times of discomfort and stress, and that “We’re not supposed to feel good all the time.”

I believe- so strongly- that it is culture rather than ‘things’ that enables us to grow and to safely work through ups and downs. With thanks, in part, to Dr. Damour for her comments, I sat down on Thursday to write my Open House speech, and recalled the other important reminder I had received the weekend before. Below is an excerpt from my speech:

Last Thursday to Saturday, I attended a Canadian Accredited Independent Schools’ conference. It is an annual event for school Heads and Chairs and this year’s theme was School Culture and Climate: Bringing Well-Being into Focus.

In one powerful session, Dr. Brandon Wiley, the Chief Program Officer at the Buck Institute for Education, reminded attendees that every single day, students and staff wonder- consciously or unconsciously- when they come to our schools, ‘Do you know me, do you see me, and will you grow me?’

Our mission at St. Clement’s is to develop outstanding women (women who stand out amongst their peers) who are intellectually curious, courageous and compassionate. This mission informs everything we do: our programs and our approach. I believe it is our unique culture that enables us to fulfill our mission and foster our girls’ well-being- and ensure that we know, see, and enable growth in our girls.

Our community is small. We are 460 girls and young women and staff learning and playing under one roof. We are known to provide a rigorous education and aim to do so in an environment that both nurtures and challenges our girls to find, and be, themselves.

There is nothing more important than being able to be oneself. It is a gift. When we know ourselves we are better able to make deep and lasting connections with those who know us, we feel known and valued, and thus better able to learn, grow, to take risks, to make mistakes and to be well.

Make no mistake- this is no easy task:

It takes strong relationships and role models, trust and time.

  • Our girls from Grades 1-12 play and learn under one roof sharing space with both formal and informal role models surrounding them. Leadership and life skills are taught and then put into play from Grade 1. Our youngest girls look up to their older Clementines as guides and teachers.

It takes discomfort, accountability and patience.

  • At St. Clement’s the relationship between home and school is an important one. We are raising girls together to be courageous and compassionate and this requires a balance between freedom and parameters, support and independence. It requires a common understanding of the importance of our girls need to be challenged, for them to feel discomfort as they learn and grow, and for the adults in our girls’ lives to recognize when to stand back and when to step in.

It takes a strong understanding of identity and a commitment to equity, inclusion and diversity.

  • Our St. Clement’s Diversity Statement guides us to remember that our differences are our strengths and, importantly, we value each community member’s identity and well-being. At St. Clement’s well-being is not about ‘things,’ but rather about being able to be who you are. So that we see you, know you and therefore are able to grow you.

I am grateful to Dr. Damour and Dr. Wiley for reminding us that in raising our girls, we must know and see them first, and for guiding us all to trust and know that discomfort at reasonable levels is healthy and productive. For it is not ‘things’, but approach and culture that afford growth.

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