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Blog Oct 28, 2021

Getting to Know Students on a Deeper Level with the Well-Being Index

After 17 years of teaching, 3rd grade teacher Lindsay Kiernan is getting to know her students like never before. “Having that sense of belonging and attachment are the building blocks to healthy developmental relationships, they’re what every child needs to be successful in the classroom,” she said. “This has become my number one priority.”

Ms. Kiernan teaches at P.S. 340 in the Bronx, a school that partnered with Turnaround for Children to pilot our Well-Being Index, a tool we launched last year. The tool is designed to help educators collect holistic information about how students are feeling and functioning systematically and quickly. New this year, the Well-Being Index is available as an online version, which includes an automated dashboard to facilitate use.

The Well-Being Index supports understanding of student well-being broadly and proactively — with indicators that span across psychological, social, physical, and emotional domains. It can help to identify student needs that are not always visible and surface strengths that can be maximized. Using the tool prompted Ms. Kiernan to think differently about how she approached building relationships with her students and the value of taking a strengths-based approach. “I just wanted to know my students as humans,” she said. “We know them as academic students, but do we know them through other lenses?”

Getting to Know Students on a Deeper Level

Ms. Kiernan has always known that students aren’t able to learn their best when they aren’t feeling their best. But understanding how students were showing up to school wasn’t always easy. Ms. Kiernan found the Well-Being Index provided insights into her students’ experiences that might influence their engagement at school. She used the self-assessment in her class once a week to check in with students and also looked at trends over time. The data informed conversations with students and prompted new ways of thinking about creating an inclusive classroom that personalized experiences for students.

“Looking at student data through the use of the Well-Being Index helped me to see sides of students that I might not have seen or been made aware of without the data.”

— Ms. Kiernan, 3rd grade teacher, P.S. 340

“Looking at student data through the use of the Well-Being Index helped me to see sides of students that I might not have seen or been made aware of without the data,” she said.

Ms. Kiernan remembers one student who was consistently marking the lowest option on most indicators on the Well-Being Index. “I made sure I talked to him often and let him know that he could talk to me about anything he wanted,” she said. “I wanted to let him know that people do care about him. I slowly saw a change in him from that and from those conversations.”

The improvement didn’t just occur in the student’s attitude, it also occurred in his engagement in learning, as Ms. Kiernan had new insights on what motivated him. Ms. Kiernan always had students do independent research on an animal of their choice. After the same student shared a love of cars during one of their check in conversations, Ms. Kiernan offered more choices in topics for the research project, including cars. The project then took on more meaning for the student, and he went above and beyond, writing an entire book about cars.

Designing all of our learning settings in ways that prioritize positive relationships could not be more important than it is today — for reducing stress in both children and adults, for addressing trauma, and especially for re-engaging young people and bolstering their belief in themselves and their futures.

The Well-Being Index assists educators in seeing students’ unique strengths and needs and aids teachers to understand their students in a deep, meaningful way. “This is a tool that I feel will have a huge impact on the way we teach in the future,” said Ms. Kiernan. “It is quick and simple yet provides such powerful insight into our students on a different level.”

Get Free Access to the Well-Being Index Now!

Sign up for a free Toolbox account to access both the elementary and secondary versions of the Well-Being Index, the scoring sheets and the educator’s guide from Turnaround. We are excited to hear about how you use the Well-Being Index in your classrooms!