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Flourishing: Shaping our approach to student wellbeing

Kristy Kendall
Oct 7, 2021 10:53:14 AM

A new era of growth, character and resilience emerges.

The time that we are living in poses challenges for us all. One question borne out of this time is, how will it shape us? This is particularly pertinent when looking at the experience of young people. During adolescence our brains create more new neural connections, and have more capacity for change and adaptation, than at almost any other stage in our life.

We recognise that for young people to use this potential and to achieve their best academically, they must be provided with opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills to optimise their personal growth. Our Flourishing wellbeing tracker allows students to set and monitor informed health and wellbeing goals, with the guidance of specialist staff who help them work towards these goals and give them the framework to explore that which is meaningful to them and their world.

As a school, the Flourishing Wellbeing tracker has also enabled us to better understand the extent to which different elements are affecting our student’s wellbeing and how each student is using various protective factors over this time. Every six months we actively map our senior student’s self-reported wellbeing data across the six key pillars. This data explores the individual student’s sense of purpose, quality of sleep, nutrition, exercise, connectedness to others, and much more.flourishing wellbeing graphNot only does this data give us an accurate and live reflection of each student’s wellbeing, it allows us to track trends and changes over time. So what have we learnt about the impact of the last 18 months on our students?

Strengths are strengths

When looking at an individual’s data, those characteristics that are identified as their strengths carry them through good and bad times. COVID-19 has adjusted the heights of some of their positive emotions, the strength of their relationships, or perceived feelings of accomplishment, however, the pattern of their strengths remains the same. This gives great credit to theories that revolve around investing in your strengths and not always needing to ‘fix’ those areas of weakness. 

When things get tough, our students use what they know they are good at to get them through. Those who are strong in feelings of accomplishment make lists and get a little buzz from ticking things off. Those who are strong in relationships reach out to friends and study together. Each individual plays to their strengths to see them through these challenges.

Emotional rollercoasters

When looking at data comparing 2020 to 2021 we can see a shift in the emotional resilience of our students. While there has been a decrease in their positive emotions over the last 12 months, this is to be expected. However, it is interesting to talk to students to explore that further. Many students say they are just as happy or content in general but they are missing that surge of excitement, or the highs of great anticipation. They feel it is that very top level of joy that has been missing.

Interestingly, we have seen a notable improvement in our Year 8-10 students’ ability to cope with negative emotions. For each of these year levels it is one of their biggest areas of improvement over the last 12 months. They still experience negative emotions but are better equipped to cope with them and have the ability to work through them more effectively. Maybe this will be a lasting and defining quality in the students who have lived through this time.

Accomplishment is key

One of the biggest strengths featured in the Flourishing survey is our student’s sense of accomplishment. Our online learning program has enabled them to feel like they are still progressing despite the world slowing around them. They can see they are still moving towards a goal and this is helping their motivation, which we know is a struggle for all of us at this time.

We know accomplishment is one of the key drivers in self-pride and self-efficacy. If you are in control of what you do and can see progress, there is no better evidence that you can achieve what you set your mind to in the future as well.

An important journey

One feature that it is pleasing to see, and that has not changed over the past two years, is the all-important journey of discovery in our senior students. We see notably that from Year 9 to Year 10, and then from Year 10 to Year 11, our student’s sense of purpose grows. In fact, by Year 12, it is one of their top strengths.

This is what a schooling journey is about and it is the backbone of a strong Futures program. It helps students lean into what they believe will be the questions they most want to answer and the problems they most want to solve in the world.

Though it appears we have settled into life living with COVID-19, we are yet to see how this time of disruption will impact our student’s futures. It is our hope that with the right tools and strategies our students will flourish as a generation who are resilient and self-aware. A generation who draw on their strengths when confronted with challenges, and shine brighter than ever before, as they develop their personal growth skills and know how to use them.


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Toorak College Senior School Students at start line of athletics race

 

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