Castle Hill students check-in for wellbeing
06 Dec 2022
Many parents recently participated in the school’s Wellbeing Week.
At St Bernadette’s Primary Castle Hill wellbeing is as fundamental to learning as literacy and numeracy.
The caring school community continues to build on weekly wellbeing classes implemented during the pandemic and led by teacher Sally Coppini. Recent developments include a new wellbeing opportunity for students to ‘check in’ with teachers daily. The focus on wellbeing has been so successful, some sessions have now been extended to include parents.
“The statistics for anxiety in young kids and adults has increased,” said St Bernadette’s teacher Sally Coppini who holds a Masters in Wellbeing. “Kids need to have the ability to reflect on their feelings and we need to give them the opportunity to do so.”
Each day when students walk into the classroom they put their name into one of the four containers marked angry, worried, sad and happy - matched to the colours in the Zones of Regulation (an approach used to support the development of self-regulation in children). The next step for teachers occurs during morning ‘settle down’ as they input the information into a spreadsheet and use it to quickly identify the mood of the class as a collective and also focus in on and have a conversation with those who need it. Looking to neighbouring Catholic schools including Santa Sophia Box Hill and St Luke’s Marsden Park who use an online student ‘check in’ system, Sally created this concept for St Bernadette’s.
The focus on wellbeing has been so successful, some sessions have now been extended to include parents.
Students participate in weekly wellbeing sessions led by teacher Sally Coppini.
“It gives them the opportunity to reflect on how they are feeling,” said Sally. “In some cases, a student may have said that they felt angry but through conversation and thinking about what is happening in their body, how their heart is feeling, what their breathing is like, they’re not angry at all, they're nervous…. the conversation goes from there. Even if nothing else happens it validates their feelings,” she said.
Sally said the simple process is a great conversation starter for teachers recognising that wellbeing is so important in the teacher/student relationship.
“It gives them an opportunity to say ‘I saw you put your name in happy today’ and maybe a student who doesn't normally speak up will say ‘yes I had a lovely weekend’ and so they’re building on the relationship.”
She said this information has also become an important tool for teachers noting that ‘you can’t teach a child until they are ready to engage.’
“More and more, teachers realise that children don’t have the emotional intelligence to communicate what they are feeling so the way they communicate is through behaviour. Research supports that being able to identify or name an emotion decreases their emotional reaction and can help them to feel calmer,” said Sally.
Drawing on the work of Dr Dan Siegel, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA, who coined the term ‘Name it to tame it’. This process suggests that when a child can understand or label the emotion they are feeling, it helps them to feel seen, heard and understood helping them to better process the emotion, calm down and let it go.
“It is these sorts of things that help create a safe environment for kids at school,” said Sally.
Implemented in all classes from Kindergarten to Year 6, the check-ins have been a big hit with both teachers and parents. Principal Bianca Cooke said she has received feedback from parents who say that they love that their child has an opportunity to tell their teacher how they are feeling.
“Teachers are also saying that they are getting to know the students better, there have been a lot of positives and a lot of conversations with parents from these check- ins,” Bianca said. “It has created conversations between parents and children, children and teachers and teachers and parents. It has really opened up communication through simply putting your name in a box.”
Sally does note that there is not always going to be 100 percent uptake with the process. She said there are of course instances where students laugh or don’t want to participate but she believes consistent conversation reminds students it is safe to share when they genuinely are having a big emotion.
“Like anything, it takes time,” she said.
This year, parents have also been given an opportunity to experience wellbeing sessions run once a term at the school. Sally said it gives parents time to think about their own wellbeing and emotions as well as connect what their kids have been doing at school with what they do at home.
Recently the school also held activities dedicated to ‘Wellbeing Week’ with a focus on being happy and content. Activities included students bringing toys from home that would help them to be calm and peaceful, wearing comfortable slippers in the classroom and chalk drawing. A large number of parents also participated in a wellbeing reflection on gratitude and made breathing sticks for every student at the school.
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