St Bernadette’s Primary Castle Hill has put the spotlight on student wellbeing with a new program offering students weekly lessons to discuss staying mentally healthy and managing anxiety.
Teacher Sally Coppini is leading the program during weekly library lessons and providing all year groups from Kindergarten to Year 6 with a forum to discuss any anxieties they may have and promote a common language of wellbeing throughout the school.
“The concept has been always at the back of my mind with our fast paced, busy lives and with so much access to news and information, children have been showing signs for many years of increasing anxiety. COVID only highlighted that problem,” said Sally. “Wellbeing needs to be at the forefront of education, without strategies to cope with life's ups and downs, successful learning cannot occur.”
Rebranding the school library to the “Wellbeing Library” students have already created a number of resources including two videos that capture their understanding of what it means to look after their heads and their hearts.
“We have started with a program that goes through the process of getting students to understand themselves first. They are all different, with different feelings and emotions,” Sally said. “We ask the question ‘is my head and heart happy?’ and that’s actually a hard question because sometimes they don’t know why they’re not happy, so this time gives us an opportunity to talk about strategies and work it through: ‘I’m feeling this way now, what can I do about it and who can I talk to.’”
Sally, who is currently studying a Masters in Wellbeing, said the weekly classes are building towards a common language of how students can express their worries and anxieties to their teachers and families and normalise the fact that everybody goes through a range of emotions day to day.
“It’s ok to be sad, it’s ok to be angry - any feeling we get is fine. It’s about how we handle those emotions and knowing what strategies to put in place,” she said. “If they can communicate and identify that themselves, then behaviours we witness in the classroom help us as teachers to identify and manage situations better.”
Principal Bianca Cooke said the program has been a great addition to the school and parents are also responding positively.
“Sally has done an excellent job putting a whole school wellbeing lens in focus,” Bianca said. “The program incorporates English, Religious Education, Personal Development and Health to look at student wellbeing and how we can help to grow it. We have also linked it with Positive Behaviour Support for Learning (PBS4L) framework.”
“It’s a real passion of mine,” said Sally. “It’s so heartening to hear the wellbeing language being used as a regular part of the vocabulary at the school. Students today are so much more aware of taking care of their wellbeing, there is a long way to go but I’ve been impressed with their frankness and honesty and how many of them already know about the strategies that work for them.”
And what about the teachers at the school, are they taking care of their own wellbeing?
“That’s the next step!” said Sally. “We’d love to eventually do parent sessions as well.”