The importance of educating hearts as well as minds

The importance of educating hearts as well as minds

The Dalai Lama once said that “in educating the minds of our youth, we must not forget to educate their hearts”.

At Moreton Bay College, an independent, Pre-Prep to Year 12 girls’ school in the Brisbane bayside suburb of Manly, these timeless words are used as a guiding mantra from staffrooms to classrooms.

Looking around the campus and observing its kind, supportive and inclusive culture, it comes as no surprise that the College was recently recognised as a finalist for Best Student Wellbeing Program ahead of the Australian Education Awards 2020.

Each student at the College is part of a ‘house family’ and, in Secondary, belongs to a vertically structured ‘form class’ which is made up of students from Years 7 to 12. The idea behind this structure is to encourage stronger connections between girls in different year levels and to create opportunities for leadership and mentoring.

Girls at the College also have access to two councillors and two full-time Chaplains who give counselling and spiritual guidance at every year level.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, such counselling and guidance was in high demand during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michelle Mckersey, Deputy Head of Secondary - Students, said that as was the case in just about every other school, the sudden shift to remote and flexible learning was an unwelcome curveball for her students.

“The most noticeable changes to student wellbeing at our school were related to students missing the face-to-face connections with their peers and teachers,” Mckersey told The Educator.

“In response to anecdotal reports from students and parents about this, the decision was made to run with our pre-pandemic timetable to ensure that students had multiple opportunities to connect with each other and staff throughout the school day, albeit in an online format”.

This included running pastoral programs such as House, Assembly, Chapel and continuing to deliver the College’s wellbeing curriculum each week.

Mckersey said staff also made an effort to take a few minutes each lesson to connect with their students before starting learning activities – ‘connect-before-content’ became the College’s mantra during the period of remote at home learning.

Indeed, this challenging time inspired the College to double down on the philosophy of educating hearts as well as minds.

“The most important practices underpinning student wellbeing at our school are derived from our evidenced-based wellbeing framework, Hearts and Minds,” Mckersey said.

“Implementing Hearts and Minds has allowed us to map our wellbeing programs to the five actions the framework: Connect, Be Active, Keep Learning, Take Notice and Give”.

Mckersey said measuring wellbeing at the College is an important practice as it continually reviews and refine its approach to student wellbeing.

“The development of a school-university research partnership between our school and the University of Adelaide has led to the measurement of student and staff wellbeing and informed our next steps in this important area,” she said.

“One step which has evolved from our work with the University of Adelaide is the launch of a student wellbeing action team called the Hearts and Minds Committee [HMC]”.

Mckersey said thar with representatives from Years 7 to 12, the HMC provides an effective means of gathering student input and feedback on wellbeing programs and initiatives.

“This ensures that our students have a genuine voice in the future development and implementation of the College’s wellbeing strategy”.