‘People who are well will always perform better in life.’
MR BRIAN POXON, Head of Social and Emotional Learning
Wesley College’s Social and Emotional Learning Program works slightly differently in each of the three sub-schools, and addresses many real and hypothetical issues students face in the 21st century. It is the aim of the College to equip students to make wise and ethically informed decisions in the rush of life in crucial areas such as relationships and moral integrity, especially when under pressure.
At Wesley, we aim to teach students to think well and be mentally aware in order to break the gap between negative thought and action, and make positive choices. We challenge students to look at the process of thought, reflection and action, equipping them for when they bump up against tough people, disappointments and challenging situations. In many practical ways therefore, the SEL program underpins the development of integrity, courage, compassion and respect, Wesley’s core values.
Students in the lower years at Wesley College are cared for by teachers who employ both expertise and the lessons from external programs that have a proven track record of helping student development. These include the Positive Behaviours program, the You Can Do It initiative in the Junior School and the Rock and Water program in the Middle School. These programs are part and parcel of every day care and help students gain confidence and resilience as they grow.
Research from leading experts in the field of mental wellbeing, such as Professor Richard Davidson and Dr Mary Immordino-Yang, points to clear evidence that mental, social and emotional health are key to people performing to their maximum capacity in other areas of life, notably in the academic arena. Although many students are able to function as high achievers in the classroom, it is often not sustainable if things aren’t in order in all areas of their lives, as evidenced by the 20% drop out rate in first-year undergraduates across Australia. The SEL program attempts to address this through its robust treatment of adolescent wellbeing.
During the Year 10 SEL program, boys are introduced to evidence-based research concerning how to maximise their mental resilience through exercises which enable them to develop greater self-awareness and self-control. As Year 11 students begin to turn toward careers and life post- Wesley, opportunity is given for them to discover and develop their character strengths through online research and problem-solving activities and a study of leadership attributes. Year 11 and 12 students are asked to think about concepts such as luck vs taking opportunities and whether or not genetic inheritance controls life’s outcomes. Practical programs concerning drug and alcohol awareness, the respectful treatment of women and service learning across Years 9 to 12 mean that the whole child remains the focus. These programs serve to give students a set of tools by which they not only just ‘cope’ with life, but develop strategies for success. The underlying motif is for students to be given opportunities to develop self-awareness, resilience and moral courage in the face of real challenges.
Key within this entire program is the relationship of the mentor, tutor or teacher with the student and this role-modelling and nurturing is aimed at enabling the student to flourish across all areas of school life. We believe that positive and constructive relationships lie at the heart of effective learning. Guest speakers who bring valued experience in their specialist areas, including cyber safety, drug and alcohol research and career guidance supplement the mentoring program, which remains at the heart of the Wesley College and Uniting Church ethos.