The Long Island Ward Melville High School has recently opened a special “Wellness room” where its teachers and staff can rest, unwind, and de-stress in between their classes. The school is calling the project a “Lesson in serenity” and the project has been widely praised as a step in the right direction for better education. (1)
The project has also been dubbed the “WellVille classroom” as a play of words with the Three Village school district high school. The wellness room includes a myriad of installations that aim to help teachers rejuvenate their psyche in the middle of the workday – there’s soft lighting, lounge chairs, and relaxing music. The district’s official point out that this is the first initiative of this sort in Long Island.
The Three Village school district’s wellness social worker, Debbie Rakowsky is the one who wrote the proposal for the wellness room and designed it after it passed. She says that “I have always believed that if you have happy, healthy teachers, that trickles down to happy, healthy children — and guess who that trickles down to? Happy, healthy parents.”
Ward Melville’s students are not allowed in the wellness room so far but it’s available for all levels of the school’s staff. Whether you’re a teacher, a clerk or a security worker, the room is open for you. It’s much more than just a room with comfy chairs too – there are multiple “lunch-and-learn” workshops about things such as cooking and nutrition. There’s even confirmation of an expert on meditation that’s scheduled to visit the school.
Other items in the wellness room include an essential oil diffuser, salt lamps, a foot massager, calming water features, as well as books, puzzles, and something Rakowsky describes as a “Pottery barn meets spa”.
The moto of the room is “Live Well. Work Well” and is founded on the idea that well-rested and happy teachers are significantly better at their job than tired and stressed-out ones.
Still, the wellness room is not financed by the district itself but by various sources such as grants. It’s essentially a pilot program and the district will assess its effects at the end of the 2019-2020 school year and determine whether there’s enough justification for other wellness rooms in the future.
Meanwhile, Rakowsky points out that her idea was inspired by other wellness centers that are already popular and effective in the corporate world. It is a sound idea – if wellness centers work for businessmen and women, they ought to work for teachers as well. Rakowsky says that her goal is to get one such room in each of the 9 schools in the district.
The wellness center works for 7 hours a day – between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The initiative is lauded by other professionals in the educational world as well. Audra Cerruto, the director of graduate programs and the associate dean at the Division of Education at Molloy College supports the Ward Melville’s wellness room. According to her, teachers go through a great deal of stress every day and that often interferes with their ability to work with their students as well as possible. Audra also notes that she hasn’t heard of such initiatives in any other school district and she thinks the idea is “fantastic”.
“It is a treat to find an opportunity to de-stress at the moment, but really the core is providing strategies, ongoing training, ongoing education about the many different stressors we have as teachers,” Audra said.