As part of its focus on student wellness for the upcoming school year, the Lloydminster Public School Division (LPSD) has teamed up with renowned resilience expert Dr. Michael Ungar.
Ungar, who co-directs the Resilience Research Centre at Dalhousie University in Halifax and is both a family therapist and a social work professor, will speak at the Vic Juba Community Theatre On Aug. 27 at 7:30 p.m. in an event free to the public and organized by the LPSD.
“Resilience is this process, it’s not so much an end place that you arrive at,” said Ungar. “It’s that ability to overcome, that is helped along by the supports that we have.”
Ungar says his studies are not aimed at directly affecting a student’s academic achievements, but rather focuses on school engagement.
“What I’m concerned about is that the kids go to school, feel like they belong at school and feel like school’s a safe and nurturing place for them to grow as a person,” he said.
While some students may be affected by anxiety issues, bullying or learning disabilities, Ungar says that establishing the right environment for children can help them overcome such obstacles and thrive at school.
“Even a child with a learning challenge, it doesn’t mean they can’t participate at school in ways that are meaningful,” he said. “Maybe they don’t get the top marks in math, but they can still participate in an activity through the school so they feel like they’re important at the school, even if their marks are still low.”
Throughout his presentation, Ungar will discuss how various environmental actors, like teachers, principals, coaches and parents can affect a student’s wellness.
Ungar recently published a book, titled I Still Love You: Nine Things Troubled Kids Need From Their Parents. It examines how the nine “things”- structure, consequences, parent-child connections, relationships, a powerful identity, a sense of control and belonging, rights and responsibilities and safety and support-contribute to a young person’s wellness.
Ungar says he plans to meet with different groups from the school division throughout the week, such as teachers, guidance counsellors, educational assistants and social workers, and will discuss how they can integrate some of his ideas into school programs over time.
“When we decided to name wellness as one of our priorities, it was a perfect fit to have Dr. Ungar come to speak about resiliency,” said LPSD director of education Todd Robinson. “At LPSD, we promote personal excellence for all of our students and this is yet another example of us working to do just that.”
While he’ll remain at Dalhousie University, Ungar plans to retain periodic contact with the LPSD throughout the year.
Additional information about Ungar’s studies, including his book, is available online at www.michaelungar.com.