It’s Not About the Practice… or is it?

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“Breakthroughs come when people learn how to take the time to stop and examine their assumptions.” – Peter Senge

Mali_Blog AuthorEarlier this year we shared a list of ‘everyday practices’ that are currently being prototyped (see here). The concept of an everyday practice came from two places: the research around ‘kernels of practice’, as shared by Dennis Embry and colleagues, and a survey. In the spring of 2015, WellAhead asked over 1,400 people two questions: “What does your school do to support students’ social and emotional wellbeing” and “what do YOU do to support students’ social and emotional wellbeing.” Everyday practices are one way to frame and understand the responses to that second question: the many things that we do day to day to support our children and youth.
There’s a few things we’re hearing about the concept of ‘everyday practices’ as connected to the broader system of work happening in schools:

Building on what is already happening

Taking a moment to reflect on and examine our own practice is one way to value, respect, and appreciate the potential each of us have to make a difference in the lives of our children and youth. The everyday practices being prototyped in BC this year are merely examples of the dozens, hundreds of ‘everyday practices’ that that our teachers, parents, EAs, administrators, nurses, students, aboriginal support workers, bus drivers, CUPE workers, after-school providers enact across BC.

Building core competencies

Everyday practices are one way to enact and live the ‘core competencies’ as defined in BC’s redesigned curriculum. As cross-cutting themes, embedded throughout a teachers’ practice, it is only fitting that teachers’ response to those practices be also small and embedded throughout curriculum.

Learning from programs and initiatives

Everyday practices can be seen as a micro-step toward continued engagement and focus on social and emotional wellbeing. A small ‘everyday practice’ is in many ways a ‘kernel’ of practice; many excellent practices, initiatives, research, programming, and training include multiple kernels of practice to holistically make a difference.

Beginning with evidence

Each of the ‘everyday practices’ identified for prototyping has a strong basis in existing evidence and research. Practices that are evidence-informed begin to identify ‘what difference makes a difference’.

As we shared in a previous post, in the WellAhead pilot districts we’ve gone through a process last fall of ‘co-design’ – developing a sense of context, ideas for everyday practices, and then selecting ideas to be prototyped. As we ‘prototype’ specific everyday practices this spring, we are making use of the concept to ask different kinds of questions, questions that relate to a broader context:

  • How can we use an iterative process to refine & improve ideas, to get to the ‘key elements’ of an idea? How does that idea develop and shift over time?
  • How does taking on this practice shift ways of being for an adult or teacher?
  • How do innovative ideas, even ideas as simple as ‘everyday practices’, spread between classrooms, between schools and within a district? How do ideas spread between teachers, parents, students, and principals?
  • How can a practice be enacted throughout the system: in classrooms, at district meetings, in PAC meetings, in after-school care? What kind of school structures, environment, and policy structures allow teachers to prioritise social and emotional wellbeing?
  • How can the concept of everyday practices be applied at a structural or policy level?
  • We’re hearing from some that everyday practices have been a useful framing: a way to identify a ‘micro-step’ toward integrating social and emotional wellbeing in the school setting, and a way to learn more about how ideas are shared between schools and people.

What do you see as the role of ‘everyday practices’ in prioritizing social and emotional wellbeing? What other places might we start a conversation in order to create significant change? What kinds of systemic, policy, or structural shifts might we focus on to support a culture that values wellbeing?
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