The Nuances of True Wellbeing

Head of Junior School Peta Howley shares her observations around true wellbeing and what role parents can play in fostering this in their children’s lives.

‘Wellbeing is a complex and multifaceted concept that is difficult to capture in a simple definition. With terms like ‘flourishing’ and ‘positivity’ popularised in dominant wellbeing discourse, a common misconception is that wellbeing is synonymous with the absence of challenge or negative emotions. True wellbeing, however, involves a more nuanced understanding of human experiences.

Whilst a perfect and all-encompassing definition eludes us, the research is very clear that wellbeing is a dynamic and ever-changing experience that involves the full range of emotions that are a normal part of life. Wellbeing is not about eliminating negative emotions entirely but rather developing the skills and resources to navigate and manage them effectively.

Making mistakes and venturing beyond comfort zones
Ascham School’s Strategic Plan Towards 2030 highlights ‘Wellbeing For All’ as one of its key Strategic Commitments. Emphasising the importance of an intentional and integrated approach to wellbeing that permeates all aspects of School life, this overarching commitment is dependent on a shared understanding of how we conceptualise and experience wellbeing at Ascham.

For our students, it is vital that we cultivate a collective understanding that wellbeing and learning are inextricably linked. This understanding recognises that learning can, at times, be challenging and uncomfortable. Whilst engaging in new experiences, making mistakes, pushing boundaries and venturing beyond comfort zones may evoke temporary discomfort or uncertainty, these experiences can contribute significantly to personal development and overall wellbeing.

Why academic buoyancy is vital
With the Vi et Animo Wellbeing Framework as our foundation, we are committed to continuing to develop a contemporary, comprehensive and cohesive Wellbeing Program P–12. Currently a key focus is on how we can foster academic buoyancy through our Wellbeing Program. Academic buoyancy encompasses a range of skills, attitudes and behaviours that enable students to bounce back from the normal challenges and setbacks that are part of academic life. It is of vital importance, as it not only contributes to academic success but also promotes a positive mindset, self-efficacy, intrinsic motivation and a heightened sense of control over academic experiences.

Earlier this year Associate Professor in Educational Psychology at UNSW, Rebecca Collie, spoke to staff about academic buoyancy. Drawing upon a growing body of research, she identified relatedness, competence and autonomy support as key practices that foster academic buoyancy. Highlighting the importance of personalised and meaningful interactions between teachers and students, the provision of a supportive framework for learning, and opportunities that empower students to take ownership of their educational journey, it was clear that these supportive practices are well aligned to a Dalton education.

What role can parents play?
Parents and carers can play a significant role in promoting academic buoyancy in their children, helping them develop the skills, mindset and resilience needed to thrive academically and navigate challenges with confidence. Key strategies include:

• valuing effort and improvement over final grades or outcomes
• helping to set realistic goals that are challenging but attainable
• celebrating achievements, no matter how small
• viewing mistakes as learning opportunities
• normalising challenges and setbacks as part of the learning process
• modelling resilience and perseverance
• fostering a balanced approach to academics, co-curricular activities, social interactions and downtime.

When we recognise and embrace the connection between wellbeing and learning, we create a supportive environment that fosters not only academic excellence but also a more authentic, resilient, and balanced sense of personal and collective wellbeing. In doing so, we can truly help our girls to thrive today and into the future.’

26 May 2023

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