Woodleigh’s philosophy and direction
Woodleigh’s founding Principal made the above statement when he was working to establish Woodleigh’s philosophy and direction. It was a statement that spoke both of what the school was trying to achieve and how it would best educate its students.
However, without a proper understanding of context, it is a statement that can be easily misunderstood or misconstrued.
Young children navigate this process naturally and without fear. A discussion with children in our Early Childhood Centres will see them proposing all manner of responses to a particular problem without fear and with scant concern for the outcome. They are completely open to learning and challenge and will take these on with little hesitation.
What happens to our children as they grow older and more conservative with their learning? Why do they lose the wonder of toddlers and develop a fear of failure that prohibits an openness to being challenged and overcoming difficulties? Many things happen to us on that journey; we develop self-awareness and self-consciousness as we grow, become aware of and develop a fear what others might think of us.
Another thing that happens to children on that journey is education. In its current form, education is designed to meet the needs of the masses and ensure that the maximum number of people achieve a minimum standard of education in our country. Whilst this is an admirable aim, it has had more to do with statistics and measures than the learning process that genuinely encourages thinking, creativity and curiosity. As schools, we fear not meeting our compliance requirements or national standards, as not doing so would invoke public humiliation and ridicule.
What do our students think about learning and their evolution as learners throughout their time at school? As they progress further through the system, their experience becomes more about answers and getting things right and achieving good scores than genuine learning and challenge. If we stop challenging our students and start providing them with the solutions to memorise for low-order assessment tasks, they lose the ability to be resilient thinkers.
A few years ago, I taught a Year 12 Physics class. It was a class of high achievers, aspirational learners and interested science students. Within the class was a girl who had very lofty goals regarding her tertiary education and life. Given her academic record, these were all very reasonable and achievable. She had been Dux every year during her time at the school; she sat at the front of my class, studiously wrote down everything I said, and constantly sought answers to questions she had. My usual response was to ask her questions and challenge her thinking. I often gave the class open-ended problems to solve that involved collaboration, research and small group discussion. She was achieving well and was easily the highest-ranked student in this class. At the end of Term 1, she waited back at the end of a class and asked if she could provide some feedback. Her feedback was that she hated the way I taught and why couldn’t I just tell the class what they need to know for the exam and succeed at the assessments.
At this moment, my heart broke as I realised how the school and Australia’s education system had let her down. It had conditioned her to work towards achieving grades and preparing for tests and assessments rather than inspiring her to be curious and love the challenge of learning. I continued to challenge her throughout the year and supported her through coaching and guidance rather than providing answers. It was hard for both of us, and there were tears along the way. At the end of the year, she placed in the top 3% of Physics students in Victoria and achieved an ATAR of 99+. She went on to study engineering at ADFA and, to this day, is a very successful aeronautical engineer. Two years into her degree, she returned as a guest of the school and thanked me for helping her understand the importance of challenge, struggle and thinking in the learning process.
As teachers and as a school, our role is to challenge students, to make them ‘comfortably uncomfortable with their learning, and, therefore, to develop as young citizens of the world. As teachers and mentors, our role is to support them – to coach, advise and encourage their curiosity.
At Woodleigh, we aim to be a school of questions, not answers and a school that looks for every opportunity to develop transformative learning opportunities, anywhere, anytime. As adults leading young minds, we need to be careful to hold back and try not to rescue our kids whenever they experience challenge and struggle. Our job is to mentor, coach and help them to find their way through learning and life.
The return to remote learning during this latest lockdown experience due to COVID-19 continues to create challenges to navigate, including balancing academic engagement and students' social and emotional wellbeing, staff and families. While research shows that school closures and the pandemic, more generally, has led to student distress, the possibility that these disruptions can also promote growth is being researched to understand better the resilience processes adopted by young people.
Friend of Woodleigh, Professor Lea Waters and colleagues in Positive Education argue that researching distress during COVID-19 need not come at the expense of investigating how young people can be strengthened through the pandemic. As Waters notes,
"Adolescence is a critical life stage for identity formation where teenagers strive for mastery and autonomy, individuate from their parents and gravitate toward their peer groups to have their social and emotional needs met."
With reduced social contact during the pandemic, intrapersonal skills are needed to optimise psychological, emotional and behavioural adjustment, life skills vital to fostering resilience in young people beyond the tyranny of the moment.
The WEL (Wellbeing, Engagement & Learning) program at Woodleigh adopts a Positive Education approach combined with The Resilience Project kind of lens. It develops interventions that explicitly teach students the skills to support their mental health, including gratitude, empathy, mindfulness, positive reappraisal, emotional Processing, and strengths use.
The better a student has coped during remote learning by using these explicitly taught skills, the higher their chance of growing through stress when they return to campus and in life beyond school.
It is consistent with the information we garnered from surveys conducted with students in years 7-12 when they returned to on-site learning in 2020.
Gratitude What is gratitude? It's about paying attention to the things and moments we have right now and not worrying about what we don't have. We practice gratitude by noticing the positives around us and being thankful for things, places, and people in our lives.
What does empathy mean? Empathy and kindness are closely linked. So are empathy and compassion. To be empathetic is to put ourselves in the shoes of others to feel and see what they are. We practice this by being kind towards other people.
Mindfulness How to practise mindfulness? Mindfulness activities help us to be present at the moment and often create a feeling of calm. We practice this by slowing down and concentrating on one thing at a time. This includes meditation, colouring-in and flow states.
Positive reappraisal (cognitive)
Positive reappraisal is a meaning-based, cognitive strategy that allows us to attach a positive meaning to the event in personal growth. For example, learning how to re-construct obstacles into opportunities during COVID-19 can help us attain new mindsets and skillsets.
- I miss seeing my teachers in person, but I am learning to be a more independent student
- I have learned more about taking responsibility for my self-care, asking for help when I need it & looking out for my friends
Emotional Processing (emotional)
Emotional Processing is described as the technique of actively processing and expressing one's emotions during times of stress (in contrast to avoidance). Emotional Processing is a positive factor in helping children (and adults) cope with and grow through adverse events such as grief, identity conflict and natural disasters.
It is important because emotions are indicators of how safe, stable, and secure we feel. When we attend to our emotions, we can assess how a situation affects us and then make necessary shifts to ensure our needs are met.
For example, If we can recognise that we are anxious, we can take positive steps to respond to how we feel by seeking support and "playing to our strengths".
Strengths Use (behavioural)
Strengths are defined as positive capacities and energising and authentic characteristics (Peterson and Seligman, 2004). Strengths use described the extent to which individuals put their strengths into actions and draw upon their strengths in various settings.
Research shows that using our character strengths in the current COVID-19 pandemic can enhance our immunity to stressors by building protective and pragmatic habits and actions. Adding to this, strengths use leads to an increased sense of control/self-efficacy, which may be essential to combat the "uncertainty distress" that many young people currently feel.
" In the COVID-19 pandemic, the strengths of grit and gratitude fostered resilience and positively impacted grades in students. The study found that strengths use was a significant predictor of the degree to which teenagers experienced stress-related growth (SRG). Suggesting that teaching students to identify and use their strengths will be beneficial in preparing them to grow through the current pandemic and in future times of adversity." Bono et al. (2020)
In non-pandemic times, Positive Education interventions have been shown to promote wellbeing in students. Hence, the value of wellbeing skills being taught at Woodleigh before, during and after COVID will continue to play an essential role in the preparedness and prevention for future challenges of Generation Z and will contribute to defining resilience processes that foster stress-related growth.
Wishing you all a safe & restful semester break,
Director of Counselling
Acknowledgements, further reading & resources
An amendment from the week 4 issue:
The gender spectrum includes numerous identities, including man, woman, a mixture of both, no gender, a fluid gender, or another gender. Male and female are now the terms that respond to sex, and man and woman are the terms that correspond to gender: The physical features that you were born with (your biological sex) do not necessarily define your gender. It is now understood that sex is defined as 'male' and 'female', and gender is more complex, and for many, stems outside the traditional 'man' and 'woman' binary. For a complete list of terms, see AIFS' Glossary of Common Terms.
"This term, our Year 10 French class were introduced to a French poem by Madame K to prepare ourselves for the ‘Alliance Française Poetry Competition’ in early June. Our class was very pleasantly surprised to really enjoy it. The poem is called ‘Dans mes rêves’ (‘In my dreams’) by Seemone, a French singer who performed at the 2019 Eurovision.
The competition consisted of learning, practicing and performing the poem with Madame K. The poem is about reflecting on, nurturing, and embracing one’s inner child. The class really enjoyed learning this poem together. What seemed like a long unending repetition of verses became a fluent recital of the poem. It was really rewarding to understand and articulate the poem." By Gemma C
On Tuesday, May 25 at Baxter Park, Woodleigh competed in the Division A SIS Cross Country Carnival. The day itself was cold and strong winds were prevailing, making the already tough event even more challenging. We took along a team that was a bit light in numbers but big on heart. We asked some students to run in a higher age group to help fill our required runners in these categories, and several students bravely put their hands up and stepped up for the team. All students competing on the day gave their all and showed great camaraderie supporting their friends and teammates to achieve the best results they could.
There were some outstanding individual performances on the day, including
Tilly Boadle - 5th U/13
Lily Lawson - 7th U/13
Lucy Laverty - 9th U/13
Orlando Clark - 3rd U/13
Ted Meysztowicz - 5th U/15
Harry Lawson - 7th U/15
Amelia Evenden - 1st U/16
Rory Goding - 2nd U/16
Blake Steven - 8th U/17
Lexie Guy-Toogood - 5th U/21
Benny McConnell - 4th U/21
Congratulations to all of our runners for representing us in such a positive manner. Thank you to the parents who braved the conditions to cheer on our competitors. Special mention to our team captains Lexie Guy-Toogood and Dylan Dowden (injured), who assisted in preparing each age group before their race and Mr Higgins, who spent the day out on the course encouraging and supporting our runners during each race.
Director of Sport
The Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund (CSEF) provides payments for eligible students to attend activities like:
- school camps or trips
- swimming and school-organised sport programs
- outdoor education programs
- excursions and incursions.
From 2020, the Victorian Government is investing an additional $160.9 million for the Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund over the next four years. This has been bolstered further with an additional $28.6 million announced in the 2020-21 State Budget for the 2021 school year. This funding will help ensure more than 220,000 government and non-government students from lower-income families are able to participate in camps, sports and excursions each year.
Please find more information here for financial assistance information for parents.
Application and eligibility form can be found here.
Please note the closing date is June 25 2021
Ritchies are about to complete the transition to our new Ritchies Card Loyalty program.
That means that if you have an old Community Benefit Card which has your funds going towards Woodleigh School, it will cease to operate in early July.
In order for Woodleigh to continue to benefit from this great community program, you will just need to update to the new Ritchies Card.
It's easy to join either using a phone and downloading the Ritchies Card App from the App Store or Google Play, or by visiting ritchies.com.au/loyalty using a tablet or desktop computer. You can then pick up a physical card available in-store, to link to your app or online account. Once you've set up your account, you can go ahead and nominate Woodleigh School as your organisation.
Director of Community Relations