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Navigating the Pathways of Wellness: A Principal’s Perspectives on and Practices for Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, and Healthy Relationships

Calm, joy, and satisfaction are the overwhelming feelings that I experience while picking the fresh vegetables from our plentiful school garden. Touching and smelling their freshness is refreshing, mouthwatering, and inviting. In addition, walking down the hallways and watching students hop as they practice skip counting or observing teachers as they lead classroom yoga, mindfulness practices, or Community Circles is endearing to me. As I ponder the seen and unseen beauty of the inner workings of this building, I am reminded of how far we have come as a school family as a result of our efforts to be a healthy school.

I am blessed to work as the principal of this small, rural, public elementary school where I strive to plan, implement, oversee, and promote a range of programs and activities that target academic, social, emotional, educational, and wellness goals. As a health-focused person, I earnestly embrace wellness and model my beliefs through how I live, work, communicate, and play. At the onset of each new day, I thank God for another gift of a day of life and determine how to make the most of this gift that has been so generously given to me. Knowing that God has provided me this body to care for, I am driven to pursue mindfulness, healthy eating, exercise, and rest. My body is the temple of God as referenced in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own. You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

When I became the principal of my school three years ago, I recognized the need to uplift minds, bodies, and relationships through health and wellness initiatives.

When I became the principal of my school three years ago, I recognized the need to uplift minds, bodies, and relationships through health and wellness initiatives. I was, and still am, driven by the message of 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Without actually quoting this Scripture to my staff, I spearheaded some ideas with my leadership team and worked to focus on healthier ways of living. As a school team, we envisioned a school garden, additional areas for outdoor wellness activities, healthier mindsets, and schoolwide nutrition practices and programs. From these conversations emerged our school’s theme: Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, and Healthy Relationships. This theme has become woven into the tapestry of our conversations, programs, outreach, work, play, and daily practices. Proverbs 3:5–6 is a foundational Scripture that again buoys and strengthens the work I do as the school’s healthy leader: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” The path of wellness is the one I am following, and leading my students, staff, parents, and community in navigating this path together is my intention and direction.

Daily and Weekly Wellness Practices

School garden. The plentiful and robust garden is a hub of activity and just one area of health and wellness for our school. Prior to Covid-19, students helped to plant the tomatoes, basil, peppers, green beans, butternut squash, and other vegetables. After helping to harvest the fruits of their labors, students sampled the vegetables during lunchtime. They also used their garden harvests to prepare fresh salsa, pizza, and butternut squash macaroni and cheese. Overhearing students say, “This is good. I’ve never tasted this before!” was music to the ears of the health-focused staff and volunteers. One fifth grade teacher specified that despite the unpleasant smell of the composted items from our cafeteria, his students continued to dive into the overall process of composting from start to finish.

 After helping to harvest the fruits of their labors, students sampled the vegetables during lunchtime.

Morning news programs. Before Covid-19, we hosted Mindfulness Mondays, Wellness Wednesdays, Thankfulness Thursdays, and Fitness Fridays during our daily morning news program. This news program is broadcast to all students and staff, which is approximately three hundred individuals. Various staff members with expertise in mindfulness, yoga, healthy eating, exercise, and overall wellness hosted the special news segments listed below:

  • Mindfulness Monday: discussing calming and relaxation strategies.
  • Wellness Wednesday: discussing healthy foods and beverages and getting adequate sleep.
  • Thankfulness Thursday: focusing on opportunities to be grateful and promoting feelings of inner joy and contentment.
  • Fitness Friday: all students and staff wear fitness clothes and engage in a fitness activity at various times throughout the day as directed by the P.E. teacher. The special activity is announced on the PA system for all to participate in.

After Covid-19 is past and all students can return to school, the aforementioned activities will continue. In the meantime, our morning news program and social media sources spotlight our health and wellness initiatives and programs through specially designed videos.

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Tammy May is the principal of Lacey Spring Elementary School in Harrisonburg, VA. She has worked in the field of education for over twenty-six years and strives to develop positive relationships with students, staff, parents, and the community. She is currently working toward her EdD and enjoys every opportunity to be outdoors, savoring the beauty of nature.