Last week I was asked to present at this month’s P&F meeting as a member of the school’s Executive team. I felt privileged to share my passion around student wellbeing and talk about the social emotional learning staff have been engaging in throughout Semester 1.
Student wellbeing and mental health is a vital aspect to our students’ education here at Girls Grammar. The balance between social-emotional wellbeing and academic achievement is valued highly by all staff and is an area we all place a great importance on in nurturing all our girls.
During my presentation to the parent body I spoke about the ‘why’ behind Girls Grammar’s focus on student wellbeing and how it underpins our Pastoral Care program. Research conducted by Beyond Blue has shown that half of all the mental health conditions we experience at some point in our lives will have started by age 14, and over 75% of mental health problems occur before the age of 25. The recommended action to address these figures is to focus on prevention and this is where the work we are doing at Girls Grammar comes in.
Social-emotional learning forms the basis for many of the learning experiences students engage in during their Pastoral Care lessons. It also builds the foundations for daily interactions between students and peers, students and staff and how they transfer their learning outside our school community. As leading psychologist Jennifer B. Rhodes articulates, “social-emotional learning refers to how students regulate their emotions, communicate with others, use compassion and empathy to understand the needs of other people, build relationships and make good decisions.”
The concepts informing social-emotional learning aren’t new. They have been written about since the days of the Plato the Greek Philosopher, however the phrase itself didn’t come into usage until the early 1990s. It was then that the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) was founded to bring together educators, psychologists, child well-being advocates and researchers to expand the term ‘social-emotional learning’. CASEL continues to be leaders in this field and have identified five competencies that comprise the concept of social-emotional learning. These include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships skills and responsible decision-making. These five core concepts are all reflected within our Pastoral Care Program and within daily learning experiences to nurture and strengthen our girls’ social-emotional wellbeing.
Within my presentation to the P&F I spoke about the resounding research supporting the many positive impacts over time in children who’s social emotional learning is nurtured. These include significant academic improvement, strengthened sense of connectedness, improved social interactions, greater self-management of stress and responsible life choices. It was humbling to hear and see the positivity and support of the parents present last Thursday evening. By strengthening parent engagement, we are fostering a whole-school community approach to supporting the wellbeing of our girls while also improving their educational outcomes. I look forward to sharing more of the work we are doing in this space throughout Semester 2 including our engagement with external specialists around the topics of generalised anxiety, regulation and co-regulation.
Deputy Principal - Students