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Wellbeing and Belonging: Why every school should prioritise them.


The Māori people of New Zealand think about health and wellbeing through the concept of ‘te whare tapa whā’ – the four cornerstones of Māori health. This concept recognises that there are four equal dimensions of wellbeing and if one dimension is damaged, a person may feel unbalanced and unwell. The four dimensions are Taha tinana (physical health), Taha wairua (spiritual health), Taha whānau (family health) and Taha hinengaro (mental health).


These four aspects work together to form a model of wellbeing and living a healthy lifestyle. At NZSJ, we believe that happy children are more confident learners. Consequently, we strive to be a place in which our tamariki (children) of all ages feel safe, supported and happy. As stated in the New Zealand Education Review Office report, “our children’s wellbeing is central to their success as confident lifelong learners… In schools, it’s about young people playing an active role in their own learning and in developing healthy lifestyles.” We believe that balance is key. We aim to provide a balanced curriculum that nurtures the intellectual, physical, social and emotional aspects of our students’ lives. Like a gymnast on a beam, balance will keep us steady. Balance will support our wellbeing and help us to find harmony. American writer, poet and theologian, Thomas Merton, once said that “happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”


Another important aspect that schools should prioritise is belonging. In order for children to enjoy learning and be motivated to learn, it is important for them to feel a sense of belonging and relatedness within the school community and build a connection with other individuals and the environment around them. Members of the school, especially the teachers, should know the learners well and communicate with them frequently on a personal level. Fostering positive relationships and providing opportunities for children to communicate, interact, collaborate and work with others is essential.


In an international school environment, it is important that we respect and celebrate diversity wherever we can. This will help children who are new to the country feel that they belong and have a place within a community of people from different backgrounds. Everyone should be respected. Everyone should be valued. It doesn't matter what age you are, we can all learn from each other and exchange ideas and our experiences in a positive way that allows us to understand and connect with others.


"I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself." - Maya Angelou



By Tim Maitland




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“5 Māori Philosophies for Raising Children with Strong Values in a Globalized World” - please fill out your email here and we’ll get it to you.



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