Samantha Hodges, Primary Wellbeing Coordinator at Swiss International Scientific School, (SISD) Dubai, looks after everything related to student wellbeing and pastoral – making sure students are happy, healthy and maintaining good mental health. She says she is always thinking about mindfulness, whether the students are in or out of school.
What made you want to become a teacher?
I always knew education was in me, but I tried to resist it for a while. I went traveling around the world. As I traveled, I learned so much along the way, I thought, wouldn’t it be great to go into the classroom now and pass on all this knowledge and share my passion and love for geography?
So, that’s exactly what I did, and I very much enjoyed it. We’re blessed at Swiss International School; we have a cohort of wonderful students. It really is a pleasure to go there every day.
Your motto is ‘be relevant, be meaningful and fair’, why did you pick that?
I think being authentic and genuine is the best thing you can do, especially when you’re working with children. If you are genuinely interested in the students, you get a lot from them in terms of their academics, but also in terms of relationships as well. So, psychological safety is a big thing. At the moment, we want our students to feel that they’re safe in school. And in that respect, they’ll do their very best academically as well.
When I was at school, I could tell which teachers were just not passionate, they were not that bothered about being there. Now quite clearly, what you’re passing on to your students are the things you are really passionate about, which must be a great reward for the kids.
You’ve got to be passionate about what you do in any industry. But I think it’s particularly important when you’re working with young children, you have to be able to show them that you really want to be there and you’re there for them. And of course, there’s lots of people, especially in Dubai, with amazing talent. We’ve got authors at our school; we’ve got mentors and coaches. It’s great when someone comes into the school, who’s got a talent, something that they can share to the community.
And you work with the students to encourage them to help others outside of school, too?
Yes, taking action is a massive part of our IB curriculum. It’s instilled and embedded in every unit of inquiry that we do. We do lots of community projects throughout the year. Our Ramadan drive is one of the biggest, and very much a community project. We have our parents as partners, and they’re on board with our community schemes as well. But the children are very much the driving force behind it.
What’s your advice for keeping the kids happy over the long summer holiday
The students are ready for a break. They’re tired, they’ve worked incredibly hard this year. You know, there’s long school days in Dubai, and it’s very warm at the moment. They’re definitely ready for their break. Over summer, I think it’s all about choice and variety. One great way to get buy-in from children is to let them co-construct their choices of activities. So compiling a chart of different ideas can be a great way for you to sit down with your child and look at different things they can do related to exercise, mindfulness and well-being. They can practice their life skills, or get them involved in planning the family vacation – get them doing something which is motivating. They can practice their languages, they can be creative, but I think what’s equally important is to just make sure that they have their blank space on their schedule, that they’re allowed to have their time when they’re doing nothing. And that that’s absolutely okay.
Getting outside as much as possible is obviously great for wellbeing. In the summer here, you can get out in the morning, six o’clock is not a bad time to be on the beach in the middle of July!
Can you give us examples of something that’s good for mindfulness in young children?
Colouring is great for mindfulness. You might want to get the children colouring, drawing or more creative students might want to design – and that’s all very good. And then there’s lots of mindfulness apps as well – where you can just practice breathing and stretching – something we fail to do properly a lot of the time. Just being still, as well! I think we all need to learn that sometimes we can be content with just being still and not always having to consume or do things.