It was a thrill to welcome students back to school on Tuesday morning at the gates. As the girls walked towards the entry, I saw smiles, heard happy chatter and witnessed some welcome hugs with friends. It was an uplifting experience for us all.  I sensed great anticipation and felt the positive energy.

Similarly, when staff began their first day of Term 2 on Monday, there was a joyous buzz as we launched into our second day of professional learning with Professor Lea Waters from the University of Melbourne. This learning emanates from our commitment to developing our evidence-based approach to building wellbeing and flourishing in our students, staff and community.

A good state of wellbeing:

  • Helps us stay healthy
  • Builds good relationships
  • Supports our capacity to cope with stress
  • Enables us to learn successfully and
  • Ensures that we can live meaningful lives of service to others

Wellbeing is about having the skills to navigate through the difficulties of life and also engage in preventative strategies around good mental health.

These things are so important for us as a school, especially since various reports suggest there is a rise in mental health difficulties particularly in young women within Australia, alongside a rise in loneliness, often as a result of using social media.

The 2020 Mission Australia Youth Survey indicated that the three most important issues for young people today are equity and discrimination, Covid-19 and mental health. Perhaps more concerning, is the sobering statistic that more than double the proportion of females were extremely concerned about coping with stress (56% females compared with 25% males).

Developing wellbeing in our girls is also vital as we prepare her for her future. Overwhelmingly, studies have consistently shown that higher levels of wellbeing improves learning, physical health, relationships, resilience and brain functioning.

Furthermore, people with higher levels of wellbeing are less likely to catch the common cold and are more likely to bounce back faster from serious illness. These people are also likely to have stronger relationships and navigate adversity more effectively.

At the core of our wellbeing is our faith and in Psalm 144: 12, the Bible speaks of our children flourishing in their youth as they learn about God and His ways. Our wellbeing program is anchored in our Christian foundation.

By pursuing a proactive approach to developing each young woman’s wellbeing, we are building an enduring resource for each Danebank girl – dispositions that will help our girls stay healthy, build good relationships, cope with stress better and learn more successfully.

To this aim, we offer a multi-faceted approach to developing student resilience and wellbeing alongside fostering a safe and supportive learning environment. We implement an explicit wellbeing curriculum from early learning to Year 12, offer extensive and growing counselling services for our girls and have a newly-appointed wellbeing coach in the Senior School.

Danebank also adopts a restorative practice when restoring relationships and has sound child-protection policies and management of critical incidents plans in place.

Visible Wellbeing is one of the many elements in this approach, as we develop a strong sense of wellbeing in our girls.

Below is detailed information about the introductory session to visible wellbeing that our staff attended on Monday. This is the framework and common language of what we will be implementing from Pre-K to Year 12 going forward.

SEARCH Framework

In exploring how we develop wellbeing, we were introduced to the SEARCH framework, which is the culmination of 20 years of high-impact research in psychology and education conducted and published by Professor Waters. The SEARCH framework is:

  • Strengths
  • Emotional management
  • Attention and awareness
  • Relationships
  • Coping
  • Habits and Goals

Artwork by Christina Zoupantis

Making Wellbeing Visible

We then explored how making wellbeing more visible, is one of the first things we can do in developing it.

Professor Waters explained that, whilst wellbeing often sits inside a person and is not readily visible, we can look for wellbeing clues in ourselves and others through three signals. We can see, hear or feel clues about our wellbeing. This might be:

  • See: expressions, body language, actions
  • Hear: volume, word choice
  • Feel: temperature, pressure, tingling, heart fluttering

When we start to make wellbeing more visible, we learn:

  • How our emotions influence our learning
  • To see patterns in our wellbeing and
  • To become more knowledgeable about how context shapes emotions and wellbeing

This in turn can help us do either of two things:

  1. When wellbeing is low, we can recognise this in ourselves and take action to lift our wellbeing, or we can intervene early to support each other before the problems spiral downwards.
  2. When wellbeing is lifted, we can recognise and use this as the time for extended learning, growth, safe risk-taking and engagement.

We also learnt a number of new “brain breaks” or “brain boosters” to use with our girls, to lift engagement and concentration during learning. When I went home that evening, my family and I had fun practicing some of these together!

Over the coming weeks, I encourage you to explore and to look for wellbeing clues with your daughter as we endeavour to find ways to promote the development of wellbeing and to learn within a culture of optimism and hope.