In This Together
I recently read an interesting article published by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley titled “How to live a more courageous life”. The article outlined a number of areas which were key to this, and creating community was paramount. Research shows that feeling connected to a community is one of the most important protective factors against mental illness and important in building resilience. It is also a key factor in improving academic performance too! This is one of the reasons why schools encourage students to participate in everything from camp to extra-curricular activities. House events, such as the Swimming Carnival or House Drama are also such fabulous opportunities for a sense of belonging to be formed and solidified. So, when I sat down to think about what I would contribute to "In this together", I kept coming back to the Prefects’ theme for 2019, "connection".
I remember sitting with the new group of Prefects last year and listening to what they wanted for the students of SCEGGS. They expressed a desire to see stronger relationships within and across year groups, to hear the buzz of chatter across the playground at lunch times rather than girls looking at their phones, and increased participation in House and Co-curricular activities; in other words they wanted everyone to feel like they were part of a community. It was so heartening to hear these young women express how much they wanted to encourage these connections, and how important SCEGGS was in their lives.
It got me considering the importance of having strong connections between families and the School. I believe that a strength of SCEGGS is the sense of community that exists, not just in the student body, but the community as a whole - students, staff, parents, and Alumni. I have seen moments where families are in real crisis and have marvelled at the way that staff and students at SCEGGS offer support with such care and openness. In the coming weeks we have a musical soiree where a number of Old Girls will be performing, and at the end of last term SPAN hosted another fabulous event that was attended by parents and students, past and present. How wonderful to be part of a community that is enriched by the strong, supportive connections that have been fostered.
Therefore, it saddens me to see stories in the media about "bully parents" or "concierge parenting", because it suggests that the relationship between home and school is one that, in today’s society, may not be valued as highly as it was. What a shame it would be to see this relationship disintegrate or become one of tension, when both school and home want the young people for whom they care to be flourishing emotionally, succeeding academically, and feeling supported socially. This is not to say that each and every day will be a positive one, or that there will not be moments where your daughter feels disappointed by a grade or let down by a friend. However, how we work together to assist your daughter to navigate these moments greatly impacts on their ability to develop the necessary skills to become a resilient young woman.
I particularly liked the idea raised in the Greater Good article that, “As humans, we make meaning out of our experiences by telling stories to ourselves about how the world operates. But here’s the important part: Those stories might not be objectively true. They are more like your personal lens on life, colouring your experiences just as if you were wearing sunglasses.” Not only is this a good reminder for us as adults, but it is also important to teach to young people. There is no doubt that it is difficult to face a school day when your friendships are changing, or you have received a disappointing mark, but it also isn’t the end of the world. Instead, we want to help young people learn the skills to reframe negative narratives that they might tell themselves when they feel overwhelmed, lonely or anxious. Another important factor to consider is the correlation between strong social support, optimistic thinking and a significant reduction in stress. This in turn reduces stress in the home too - something I am sure that many parents would heartily welcome as your daughter faces the different challenges that growing up brings.
This is where having a strong connection between the School and families can be so helpful, as if the message young people are hearing is consistent and empowering, what a difference this can make. Fear, feeling rejected or like a failure are natural and normal feelings, and a very important part of learning, but they do not have to control the way that young people respond to the events in their lives. Instead, as the title of this section of Behind the Green Gate suggests, we are in this together, and together can continue to engender a culture of courageous thoughts and actions here at SCEGGS.
Swoboda, K., “How to live a more courageous life”, Greater Good Magazine: Science Based Insights for a Meaningful Life, UC Berkley, October 10, 2018.
Director of Pastoral Care