Recently I was approached by someone who shared that they saw one of our girls in Danebank uniform at Central Station, about to go up an escalator towards the train. The Danebank girl saw an elderly man coming towards the escalator and chose to step back to enable him go first. The person commented that she was so impressed by this simple act of kindness that she wanted to come and share it with me.

In classes over the past weeks, I have seen many acts of kindness as our girls are learning. In the Pre-K room, as girls built their towers and some shapes toppled, other girls reached out to assist. When problem solving which pieces to put into the puzzle, friends collaborated. Jovia, Olivia and Elise shared kindly. When I was in Year 3 and the girls were writing colour poetry, one shared about how the colour reminded her of her puppy Bubbles that had died. Without hesitation, friends nearby told me about her dog … that she was white, fluffy and greatly missed. There was great care and kindness being shown.

These examples reminded me of how I have been speaking with the girls about the importance of our safe, supportive and caring learning community and particularly about being kind.

We’ve discussed what this means for us as we navigate through the joys or vicissitudes of life with resilience in order to engage fully in learning within a place where there is a safe place to land.

In many ways, school is a “practice run” at life. It’s the prototype before the actual; the rehearsal before the play; the practice before the performance … and in going through the rehearsal or the “practice run”, we are nurturing and developing each girl, in every aspect of her life to develop as a learner. We want her to develop a love of learning and become a young woman who can flourish and contribute within society as a compassionate citizen.

A big part of that, is developing each girl’s sense of wellbeing. This is because wellbeing and learning are inextricably linked. Wellbeing for us, is about:

  • You feeling good within yourself
  • Functioning well (so we can learn and get on with our day better)
  • Being of service to others

At Danebank we understand that we are not always going to be happy or feeling strong. Life can be difficult or wonderful or all things in between. We recognise that things can be hard sometimes, that there is good and bad, great joys but also sorrows. The Bible talks about the seasons…

We know that good learning can involve stretch, failure and challenge. We’ve also discussed that sometimes there are things that are out of our control such as divorce or sickness, not expecting every day to be all butterflies, unicorns and rainbows.

Whether we are happy and content, or feeling sad, anxious or worried, there are ways to see, hear and feel this, within ourselves and within others. When we make our wellbeing visible in this way and notice it, we can do either of two things:

  1. Intervene to reach out, support each other and assist before the problems spiral downwards and/ or
  2. Capitalise on positive wellbeing and use this as the time for extended learning, growth, positive risk-taking and engagement when our wellbeing is high. To strike while the wellbeing iron is hot, so to speak.

Here are some of the things I’ve shared with the girls:

  • We don’t need to be best friends with everyone, but we do need to be kind
  • We don’t need to always be happy, but we do need to show compassion and support towards others
  • We don’t need to have the answers all the time, but we do need to be open to learn, respect others and hear different opinions
  • We can disagree and not be mean
  • We can offer alternative views without putting others down
  • We can believe something different without discriminating against someone else or pressuring them to believe as we do, or intimate that they can’t be accepted
  • We can learn without fear of being mocked: when someone gives a wrong answer, we can appreciate the learning happening and not groan
  • We can ask questions in class without feeling silly

And if we ever see, feel or hear that there are some who are not feeling good about themselves or functioning well, we can help offer help to support others and be kind.

One small way that we are highlighting this is through a Kind Places and Spaces initiative, led by our Acting Head of Senior School, Head of Visual Arts and supported by our Property and Maintenance team.

We have been looking at spaces for an uplifting mural and have been thinking about what we might like and how we might spread the message of kindness throughout our campus. Our Prefects chose the words to paint on our initial murals, based on the above messages this year. The P&F generously provided the funds for this initiative.

We had some difficulty with the project due to COVID-19 but are now excited to share that a local Christian artist, Nathan Johnson, has been with us this week as an Artist in Residence and created three inspirational murals in the Quad courtyard. Visual arts students have gained much from the experience also. Please view our time-lapse video here and see how the mural was created.

Nathan Johnson’s work is based on words: kind words, words to inspire, uplift and encourage. Words to live by.

After several further conversations and suggestions from students and teachers, we are hopeful to continue this initiative with the possibility of two other installations on campus to promote kindness, optimism and hope in our community.