13 August 2018

Lasting Impressions

I don't suppose that many people have seen it, but in the footpath on the southern side of Shenton Road just near the car park at the top of the school, there is the imprint of a gum leaf set in the concrete. I walk past it often and each time I do, I wonder whether that mark is there as the result of a conscious decision by someone who placed the leaf in the concrete when it was still wet, or whether it is there simply because the wind shifted that random leaf into that position.

I mention this because, each time I see it, that impression of a leaf reminds me of the importance of putting things in place early if we want them to last. Impressions like this one needed to be made as the pavement was forming. It reminds me of the footprints of dinosaurs walking through mud, footprints that have dried and lasted millions of years.

So it is with young people; if we can put things in place during their formative years, these will last. Of course, we want as many of these habits and attitudes to be positive, although not all of them are. Sometimes, these things may happen by accident, but the good habits are often a result of the environment we work hard to form around them.

At the end of last term, we began working with Mindfulness Meditation Australia. This is a group founded and based in WA which has as its aim, "To improve the happiness and wellbeing of all Australians". We have been working with them to enhance the wellbeing of our staff by allowing them to explore mindfulness as a concept and a practice. The longer-term view is that this will hopefully be something staff choose to incorporate into their own lives for their wellbeing, and which they recognise as being beneficial for students. The sessions have provided an excellent entry point, exploring the science behind mindfulness as well as some simple practices. Some staff in Junior and Middle Schools have already begun to incorporate some of these practices into their daily classroom routines. We continue to explore avenues for expanding mindfulness and this will hopefully include parent sessions in the not-too-distant future.

Mindfulness is the ability to pay attention and to respond in the most appropriate way in any given moment. It is a shift from automatic, reactive thought to conscious, directed thought. Improving our capacity to pay attention (or focus) is crucial in terms of our efficiency, capacity to learn, remember and to discriminate. It enables us to respond wisely, rather than reacting blindly, to circumstances. Mindfulness assists us in recognising unhelpful thoughts. It enables us to detach these unhelpful thoughts from unhelpful emotions, which often lead to unhelpful actions. Clearly, this is something from which all of us would benefit, and if we can show young people the advantages of this approach early, we hope that this will provide them with skills which can sustain them throughout their lives. You may like to watch this short video on the subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6T02g5hnT4 .

Meditation is a technique that relaxes the body quickly and calms the mind. It involves learning to calm quickly and consciously, as well as learning to pay attention and so keep your mind on track. Relaxation and attention work together; they are closely connected. Focusing on the body relaxes it, and the act of focusing assists with managing thoughts and helps to calm the mind. We are continuing to work with Helen Heppingstone to incorporate meditation at different levels of the school and at different times of the year. We ran sessions in Middle School at the end of last term and we will be running sessions on Friday afternoon for Year 7s towards the end of this term. We will also be expanding the sessions offered to Year 11 and 12 students in the lead-up to their end-of-year examinations. If we can impress upon our sons and students the benefits of such habits, I believe that we can equip them just a little better for life beyond school.

Mr James Hindle
Director of Student and Staff Wellbeing