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Rooted in Relationships: Episode 2.3 Jeff Duncan-Andrade


Rooted in Relationships: Episode 2.3 Jeff Duncan-Andrade

Resource Audience

Adults Youth Program Leaders Teachers School / Youth Program Staff School / Youth Organization Leaders District Leaders

Resource Type


Read Time

31-60 Minutes

Jeff Duncan-Andrade - Centering wellness

Schools and educational institutions rely on big data for information about the students they serve, but what does that data truly tell us about student wellness? More importantly, how can you use data to effectively prioritize wellness and the role educators can play in student wellness to directly influence student success? On this episode of Rooted in Relationships, we talk with Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade about the innovative way he is measuring wellness among young people.

Welcome to the Rooted in Relationships podcast, where we talk with renowned researchers and experts to explore how connections to resources, relationships and social networks provide the key conditions that all young people need to thrive. Kicking off season two of the podcast, Search Institute CEO Ben Houltberg introduces Kent Pekel, education leader and former CEO of Search Institute. Today, Kent is joined by Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade to discuss the innovative way he is measuring wellness among people. Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade is a Professor of Latino Studies and Race and Resistance Studies at San Francisco State University.

In 2009, Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade wrote an article in the Harvard Educational Review entitled Hope Required When Growing Roses in Concrete. In it, he specifies that effective teaching depends most heavily on deep and caring relationships. As the conversation kicks off, he uses this as a backdrop to explain his most up to date views on the role of relationships in teaching. The piece was a call to action for schools to take a hard look at themselves and acknowledge that the foundation of public education in the U.S. should be centered around relationships and wellness for children in these spaces. Schooling and education are not the same and he explains the different connotations for both terms. We are unfortunately not committed to education in this country, but the pandemic has offered us a chance to pivot in a new direction.

In a schooling environment, a student may feel that they are not shown care until they themselves show care in the material at hand. In an environment of education, however, the burden of care lands squarely on the shoulders of the adults. We all know that every child loves learning, but many just don’t like to be schooled. Similarly, many children are protective of their own minds and are reluctant to let anyone, especially their teachers, in.

Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade is part of the Community Responsive Education collective who began a youth wellness movement a few years back. Part of their mission is to tackle the measurement of youth wellness by developing the first youth wellness index of its kind. For so long in this space, the wrong questions have generated the wrong kind of data needed. We have to begin to measure things like wellness, rather than just academics, in order to drive instruction. The index focuses on 3 domains of wellness: inner self, interpersonal and interconnected wellness across mind, body, spirit and emotion. It’s all about creating the space and trajectory for kids to be well beginning in youth.

Then, Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade shares that the single most important thing that can be done in schools right now is to get it right with black and indigenous children. If they are well, then everybody is well. However, they are often the last groups discussed in this context. We haven’t effectively invested in giving schools the kind of leadership support they need. If wellness studies were conducted on school principals, he believes the data would be frightening. Many principals are quite unwell to get their jobs done, which isn’t sustainable. Roses in Concrete Community School has been experimenting with a different kind of leadership model all about collective leadership. While there is a role for a singular school leader, large decisions shouldn’t sit in the hands of only one person if we’re talking about wellness. An observation he has made over the years in school is that elders are consistently missing in schools. Elders possess wisdom as a result of their age, and they often advise us to slow down. Being such a youthful environment, schools need to have elder presences to remind them that it’s okay to take things slow.

As the episode wraps up, Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade identifies one thing he hopes listeners and those in the school system can keep top of mind moving forward. Schools are what we make of them, and it’s obvious now that they are not working for most children. A move towards wellness could transform this society in so many ways in just one generation. When you get it right with children over the course of their experience, it is sustainable, lasting and transformative.


0:34 - Ben Houltberg introduces himself, Kent Pekel and today’s episode.

1:22 - Kent introduces today’s guest, Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade.

1:54 - The role of relationships in teaching.

9:05 - Breaking down the idea of schooling vs. education.

18:55 - Measuring wellness among young people.

31:10 - Further explanation on the wellness index.

41:45 - Prioritizing black and indigenous students.

42:17 - The role of the school leadership in this transformation.

48:32 - What should listeners keep in mind as we move forward?

Follow Benjamin Houltberg.

Learn more about Search Institute.

Learn more about Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade.