SenseAbility Webinar 2
Welcome everybody to Beyond Blue's second SenseAbility webinar. It is about 3 o'clock in Central Standard Time, 12:30 in the West, 3:30 in the East, and would you believe it about 2 o'clock in the afternoon... Strength-based resilience program, and in the course of that webinar, Michael Carr-Gregg covered why SenseAbility was developed, why challenging unhelpful thinking is important and that was the part that particularly connected with people. He introduced us to the SenseAbility A-B-C-D model and the essential skills to learn and practise. The recording of the last SenseAbility webinar is available at www.beyondblue.org.au. I would certainly encourage you to connect with that resource and view that. It was a very popular webinar. I'm Mark Sparvell from Principals Australia Institute and I'll be gently guiding the conversation this afternoon. Could we just get our special guests, Lindsey Cowper and Colin Sibley to flick on their video and their talk, and we'll just have a quick good afternoon to them. So good afternoon to you Lindsey and Colin.
Good afternoon to you.
Good afternoon Mark. How are you?
Good, I'm excellent, thank you and Colin, I've got a little message here for both of you from a Cathy Venning who sends her best regards and informs me that she's currently in Victor Harbor in beautiful regional South Australia, the premier holiday destination for many people in South Australia and beyond. So Cathy is in Victor Harbor at the moment and sends her regards to you both.
Let's uncover a couple of quick tools before we move on to the full introduction. So just to make sure that your viewing experience is as positive as possible, we're going to be making use of a few simple tools. Could I just ask that everybody who's popped in to the event, just take a couple of moments just to drop a message in the text chat box that's in the bottom left hand corner of your screen so while I'm talking so we don't consume excess time, could you please drop a welcome? You might let us know where you're from, or even what your role is, or what it was that you had for Christmas lunch, if you had a Christmas staff party like we did here at PAI today, just into the text chat box will be fantastic. The other quick tool that we'll just to make sure we're clear about is the hands up tool so could we just quickly pop up that virtual hands? Terrific! Excellent, no worries, I will get those taken down. Thanks, Shannon. Terrific!
So the webinar this afternoon... This webinar is going to highlight Victor Harbor High School's experience in implementing the SenseAbility Program across the school. Their reasons why they chose SenseAbility and importantly, how they did it and the difference that SenseAbility is making to their students and their staff. Colin Sibley is the coordinator of student services. He also coordinates Doctor On Campus Program and Lindsey Cowper is the senior leader of well-being. So that will be, if you, the like talents of this afternoon although it's meant to be quite conversational, we're not going to interrogate them too deeply. We have Brendan Hallinan joining us too from Beyond Blue and welcome to Brendan. Participants are welcome to engage with any of our speakers or Brendan or one another via the text chat box at any time, so please feel free to ask questions, to pose your thoughts, or to seek advice or resources and people that are viewing this recording after the event, welcome to you also.
Lindsey, let's get started with you first of all and what I'd like you to do is just to present us with a bit of a sense of the context of Victor Harbor High School where both yourself and Colin work. Lindsey?
Just a moment. Sorry about that. I will get the hang of this in a moment. Thank you for that, Mark. Victor Harbor High School, approximately 700 students in the school. Mark's already described the area. We're very lucky that we live in that area. It's a beautiful part of the country. So approximately 700 students. We're very much in modern culture. I think at the moment, we've probably got approximately 40 indigenous students, probably a handful of students from a non-English speaking background, and then we've still got the whole range of socioeconomic families. We've got some very disadvantaged families, then at the other end of the scale, we've actually got some quite wealthy families. So, we've sort of got the whole range across the school. We also have... Sorry. I'll just get there in a second... We've also got some quite disengaged young people and we've also got some quite itinerant families. I think the itinerant families are a result of it just being such a lovely area that families will move in for a while, stay for a while, and then actually move on. So we find that we are continually doing enrolments right the way through the year and we also continually have young people exiting as well. So that's pretty much the context of where we live.
The other thing that I think that's worth saying about Victor Harbor is that we sit somewhere between city and country. Whilst Victor Harbor technically these days is termed a city, there are a lot of rural and country aspects about our young people, so that therefore when we look at well-being, a number of the aspects of well-being that are true of country and regional people are true of Victor Harbor kids.
Thanks for that, Lindsey, and that was certainly the compliment that I'd have noted to myself that settings like Victor Harbor have both the opportunities and the challenges that come with metropolitan and regional rural. You sit within that cusp where you're close enough, but also you are far enough, which can be advantageous but can also be a challenge. So thank you Lindsey for that.
Now, we know from research that sound social and emotional skills are critical to allow everyone, youth importantly, to navigate the stresses of daily life. So Colin, what I'm interested to hear from you is what were the drivers or the reasons for Victor Harbor High School engaging with SenseAbility. You've alluded to some of them, but could you just expand that a little bit?
Mark, I think that we obviously live in a changing world and that the world that young people are in today is very much different from the world of 10 or 20 years ago, so therefore the challenges are really huge and hugely different to what they were a little time back. And I think one of things we realised, that today, is that there's a real need for young people to use a healthy well-being structure in their lives as part of their functionality, whether that functionality is in their lives in relation to their peers, in relation to their families, but that well-being structure is certainly a critical element as far as their success at school, their inter-personal relationships, the way in which they succeed in classes academically, and ultimately it determines what their outcomes will be through education. So we see in a sense that it's really important for us to do some significant things around about making sure that the resilience of young people is as well catered for as we can have it. Because we know that that resilience is going to be a really strong determinant about the way in which young people are going to function at school, their lives through school, and certainly, their capacities beyond it.
Thanks, Colin. I wanted just to explore that just a little bit more. You talked about the challenges now are different and I would imagine that I'm going to make an assumption you've been at Victor High School for some time. I'm curious to know, the sense of resilience, is it that the external pressures on students are more complex now or is it that the students themselves are, for some reason, lacking the necessary skills to make them resilient to these pressures? I guess it's a chicken-or-egg question. But based on your time at that school, how are the challenges on youth different now and how are youth themselves different? Would you mind giving us your thoughts on that?
Mark, it cuts both ways. Certainly it does cut both ways because certainly the time and the location for students has changed the way which the pressures of life have changed. If we look for example at the number of young people, and Mark, I have to confess here, that I'm able to go back to because I originally went to Victor Harbor, and here's the national confession for you: I originally went to Victor Harbor many years ago as a student.
And so, if I compare my year 12 cohort when I was there in the late 1960s to today, and that's a fair slice through time, if I think about my year 12 class, almost every one of those students, friends of mine at that time, came from what we used to know as the traditional family and now that's a less common factor, and probably we're looking at something like half of the young people who come to our school live in various arrangements of families; some work really well, some work less well, and some are functional and some are less than functional and that puts a range of pressures back on young people.
If we aim to that, though, the world itself has changed and we think about how the world of challenge for what people see and hear and respond to as part of their lives. I think Dr. Michael Carr-Gregg talked about schools being now places where de facto pro-rating needs to occur. And now you've got to think now, if we take my thing from earlier and we go back to a young boy 'cause I was going to the picture theatre in the early days, I would've seen nothing that would shock and horror these people... Well, people in those days, certainly not for us. But if we go forward to today and we think about the sorts of things that young people are exposed to, the sort of things that they see routinely, the sort of things that they hear, and the sort of images that encroach into their lives, it's no wonder there's a challenge, and then if you layer over the top of that the challenges of texting, of Facebook, the need to be online 24x7, the need to stay connected, etcetera, etcetera, it adds layers of challenge; personal, electronics, media, all sorts of challenges, which add to the complexity of life and I think those things have really contributed to the need for schools to be aware of the need to help young people around their resilience and that's why we have committed to the concept of embarking on SenseAbility of the resilience-based programme that we think is going to really help our young people.
Thanks for that, Colin. Of course I knew about your lengthy history at Victor Harbor High School, so that was an intentionally positioned question. And I think what you were saying, we would certainly all recognise that there is a cumulative effect of external pressures; social media, mainstream media, if you like the velocity, the volume and the variability of changing information that is impacting upon our youth. We're gonna explore implementation a little bit more from Victor Harbor High School in just a second.
From what we've heard so far, we're getting the sense that, there's been a number of drivers for Victor Harbor High School to engage with the SenseAbility program, and I would imagine they would involve the establishing of better relationships with peers, with parents and with teachers, potentially better academic performances as a result of greater engagement, and possibly the reduction in significant mental health issues for our learners in the future. So this sense, if you like that, we're borrowing these students from their future adult selves. But let's just step now and have a look at the implementation story at Victor Harbor High School so we can really understand what Lindsey and Colin, your take away messages will be, to other schools that will be viewing this recording, or attending live, who are thinking about engaging but aren't quite sure how to go about that. So Lindsey, let's go to you first of all. As a senior leader, I wonder if you could talk us through the importance of strategic planning, in terms of embarking upon a change program like SenseAbility.
Yes, absolutely. If I can just sort of give you a little bit of history, probably, eight, nine years ago, there was a decision to make well-being one of the priorities in the school, apart from learning plan priority. So that drive all those years ago was complemented with the Learner Wellbeing Framework that was introduced approximately at that time. Now the basis of the Learner Wellbeing Framework is that there can be no learning without well-being, it is actually well-being for learning. Because that sort of acknowledges the fact that young people aren't going to learn anything unless they are actually in the right frame of mind. So that was very much on the part of learning plan, eight-nine years ago. So we did an enormous amount of work around what did well-being look like.
A lot of staff struggled with it initially, I have to say some of those concepts, they did struggle and it was quite a difficult period of time getting people on board. At the same time we actually made a decision to introduce mentoring at the school, and mentoring was going to be a period of time during the day, every day, where there was explicit teaching of well-being programs. So we introduced specific programs at that time with that focus. So people were expected to deliver programs around resilience which included things like organisation, persistence, etcetera, all of those things that are so clearly set out in SenseAbility. So that was the expectation and that was actually eight to 12 that we actually did that. We tried very hard to sort of have continual training and and development, so that people weren't just delivering a program, they actually had a solid understanding of why they were delivering that program and that many of those skills could actually be explicitly taught.
And that married SenseAbility with MindMatters.
Maybe, do you wanna share with us both, how we came to connect with MindMatters and where that's led us. I think that's valuable for listeners.
Yeah. So I think for us, MindMatters, we had... Again going back eight-nine years ago, we had groups of staff going through doing the MindMatters training, the level one, level two training in particular. What that did, is that just reinforced that understanding of what well-being was like and what good mental health actually looked like. So MindMatters for us over the years, and we're actually a nationally accredited MindMatters school. What MindMatters has actually become for us is, it's sort of become like the wrap around program for the schools. So we don't... In many respects, we don't explicitly teach MindMatters, it's the concepts, it's the ideas and it sort of encompasses everything that we actually do as a school. And I think if we were to have a look at where we've come in eight or nine years, I think for me, and I'm fairly confident that Colin would agree with me, I think there is a really good understanding of what well-being and mental health, good mental health actually looks like in young people by our staff members. And I know in my role, I think one of the most significant changes has been that many of our teachers now have got outstanding relationships with young people to the extent where some of those young people will actually talk to their teachers about things that you wouldn't normally talk to your Maths or Science teacher about. So there is that general understanding of what their well-being is.
It takes a while, doesn't it? It's really the changing of the culture.
It's a bit like the captain of the ocean liner turns the helm and there's a quite a while before we sort of see the bow come around. And for us we did swing see the helm and we realized the need for us to do some things differently around about well-being. But then we made changes, but it took a while for those to kick in.
It did indeed.
Sorry. If I could just ask a side question then of both of you. Now knowing Victor High School, like many schools there's been a successive change of leadership across that time. You've had leadership teams come and go. You've had multiple staff come and go. You've both been reasonably constant at the school I'm gathering. Is that part of the key; having some staff who are completely committed, who are there influencing up as well influencing out through the teaching staff? Is that what you are suggesting?
Absolutely. I really believe that you actually have to have a principal who is onboard. You actually have to have a principal who has that understanding of the importance of well-being because if you don't have that, you know, you can keep going but it's a lot more difficult than actually having that understanding. And again, on the drive up to here today, Colin and I, we were just having a chat about that things and we've got a really good core. We have sub-school, you know our school, it's actually divided into sub-schools. And I have to say if I think about our current sub-school leaders, all of them are really onboard and very supportive of what we're trying to do.
I think the cultural change, and listen to this thing a little bit, Mark, not too long ago, everybody realized that it was the responsibility of all teachers to be teachers of literacy and numeracy and we accept that totally. But we also would add, Lindsey and I think, it's really key to have the message out there that we're also teachers of well-being. And the ones that fits in is exactly as Lindsey says, that through awareness of learner well-being, the understanding is that but without functionality and well-being, then learning is compromised, outcomes are compromised. And so therefore that cultural change in having teachers and leaders accept that well-being is crucial to outcomes of a school and of the students who attend is a really, really important thing for people to grasp and I couldn't help but do more than reinforcement Lindsey's underlining of the fact that the programs like SenseAbility and certainly the embracing of MindMatters is the absolute core and starting point for schools on their journey and track towards better well-being in their schools. It really is the foundation, I think, for the schools.
Great. Thanks. We're getting... I'll just summarise what I've heard so far and then I'll just bounce back to you. So, during the, you've been around eight to nine years you've talked about there being no learning without well-being and also this sense that every teacher is... If you like a teacher of well-being. I liked what I was hearing about... This isn't about delivering a program but critically this is about understanding the reasons why this is critical and core business, if you like fundamental and not ornamental. You've covered level one and level two of MindMatters training and you're nationally accredited and you refer to the MindMatters, if you like, as being a whole school framework which wraps around and incorporates and supports and augments other initiatives and projects, SenseAbility being one of those. Lindsey, just back to just wrap up the strategic planning, so your leadership team, your schools... Just talk to us about your school's strategic plan, where does this health and well-being stuff sit in relation to that?
Well, like I said before, eight or nine years ago, well-being was actually a side priority and it sat there for a very long time and really was very definitely a priority then. Most recently, it's not a priority as such but it's pretty much embedded in there now. You know, it's very much a part of what we actually do. So if you actually look at things like, whether it's attendance or learning etcetera, there is that understanding, at the basis of that there is the well-being. So like I said, I think, probably the best word to use is it's actually embedded. It had to be strategic for a long time because it wasn't there but now it's very comfortably in there and quite frankly, I can't see it moving to sometime.
I think it's right. Character would be to, don't you think that a principal some time back actually had the courage to appoint you as the assistant principal who had the overseeing of well-being for both staff and students as your key portfolio role. I think was critical to a starting point because from there, everything came. And from that point on the rest of us could fall in behind if you like, with Lindsey as our band leader, and us working through with the various... We're all on the same sunshade if you like, Mark and that has been critical to us. We've had leadership from Lindsey, but also from the top of the school, it's been invaluable to us.
Thanks, and I just made a note there and I think, I'm not sort of trivialising it but those, I call them symbolic, but those gestures and those activities that a courageous leader makes to make a statement about a priority by pointing, by redirecting resources, by insisting upon an agenda, does make a difference, as does also I think the recognition that Victor High School has picked up along the way. It's an accredited school with MindMatters. Its programs like Doctors on Campus are recognized and spoken about broadly. Victor Harbor High School sit within the MindMatters team, because they've essentially developed the kinds of capabilities and skills and knowledge by being a teacher at your site. So recognition also gives projects momentum of their own, which allows them to be carried through challenging time. Thanks to people that might have dropped in just now into the webinar or the recording, this is the SenseAbility webinar number two talking at the moment with Colin and Lindsey from Victor Harbor High School about the implementation of SenseAbility at Victor High School.
Colin, you've touched on this and we're just going to explore it a little bit further, staff buy-in... Staff buy-in is fundamental and what I'm interested to find out a little bit is how are staff bought on board, how is professional learning around what SenseAbility is delivered in a medium-sized regional high school? How do you coordinate that?
Well, it's certainly through good planning and the appreciation that's based on that overall understanding about school-based outcomes for well-being. But one of the things that we've really emphasised is that when we started and picked up with SenseAbility, for example, that's our focus for today, and we realized that what we needed to do was to look at an area of the school from which we were going to work. And so we worked within the year 10 and 11's classroom situation and the mentor/teachers who were responsible for those young people, and we focused in on those teachers and their leaders in the initial setup and delivery of SenseAbility and what of course then, through Lindsey's work we facilitated the opportunity for young... For particulars to pick up on the outstanding SenseAbility training, which is available online and to pick and run with that.
And that of course led us to the obvious conclusion that this is something that we think is gonna be really important for all teachers to come into the schools, to realise that not only is their knowledge and understanding of their class management and about the academic side of school life and literacy and numeracy, but to understand how young people actually function through their well-being. And it's through the training of SenseAbility that they'll see a lot of things about the way in which the young people are in their classes, why they are different from day-to-day, how they're function emotionally and how that emotional function not only connects to their learning and then the benefit has been marked.
A number of our teachers have seen things in themselves, they think "Oh my God, I've just realized that when this particular young person in my class is like this, I need to revisit that, because now I've learnt that this is actually result of this. Maybe they are catastrophizing, maybe they're in a downward spiral." And through the learning that's available through the SenseAbility training online, which is simply outstanding, both enable to upskill themselves, and I think terrific has been the notion that relatively new teachers to our school have picked up and run with it, but then dare I say, more mature your teachers have been around a little while have picked up entirely new skills, and it's revitalised their academic life, their connections with kids, the relationship that we've connected with earlier, and said how important that was, and I think it's we put the bubbles back in the lemonade of teaching for them.
I haven't heard that one before, put the bubbles back into the lemonade of teaching, that's good. I'm gonna write that one down and reuse it. Thanks Colin, and I think this notion then of targeting, if you like hot-housing, SenseAbility with a focus group, in this case, year 10s to elevens to explore the implementation there. And then what you're suggesting is that there's almost been a bit of a bleed-out effect. In fact, I would imagine, once that little hot house caught on fire, probably the challenge was to actually control what's been... What I heard from you just then was this really critical message about when we teach, we actually teach ourselves.
And what you're discovering is that there's a shift, if you like, in the teachers, maybe becoming slightly more objective and less reactive when it comes to encounters with youth, now that they've got some tools and some knowledge which gives them some insights into antecedents and triggers and potential cause-and-effect models, so we might come back to them when we talk a little bit further about the staff side. So, thanks for that input too and certainly Lindsey and Colin, as I'm directing questions to either one of you, by all means the other person can chip in and we'll allow time at the end to make sure we fully juice you both for all of your goodness that we can then share out to others.
Lindsey, I wanna have a chat to you because one of the things we know in the land of schools is, we value what we report and I want to hear from you about the sense of... In regards to SenseAbility, how have you been going about getting the message out both out to students, maybe out to the community that's appropriate whether it's through reporting or communications and getting the message to your internal audiences, your counsels, potentially your parents, your staff. So, could you just chat to us a little bit about communication and reporting SenseAbility, Lindsey.
And so, if I could just go just directly prior to SenseAbility. Obviously eight, nine years ago, again when we introduced the notion of mentoring at the school and had other mentoring programs in place at that time. One of the decisions that we did make is that we would actually report around mentoring so students would actually get their end of term report, English, Math, Science, etcetera, etcetera. But they also got, they also got a mentoring report where teachers would actually write about how young people had participated during mentoring and actually write about some of the skills that they had actually learned during that time. We also have tried very hard to use some of the language associated with these programs, resilience and consistency, so that kind of language. We've actually very strongly encouraged staff to use that language in their reporting as well. So, Sarah has been very persistent in her... The working-ness etcetera. And I'd be lying if I said that was sort of used across the school because you've got a whole range of staff with different levels of awareness, but some have done it very well and some obviously with areas for improvement.
But we've used the language, we've specifically reported around mentoring. We did have a period of time where we were grading mentoring. I have to say, in all honesty, that didn't sit particularly comfortably with some of us, around giving a grade around how confident you are etcetera. But we felt we need to do it initially just to send out a very strong message that this was important and we did value it to the extent where it was going to be assessed, for want of a better word. So we had done that, but we're sort in discussion with some school leaders at the moment where we can move away from that. But we do want it to be seen as being important enough that there is some level of assessment around it. So, and Mark has said, sort of used the language. There really hasn't been very much consultation with parents, but Mark has said, they received those reports so they know that we're doing it. And in all of our publications, we talk about the importance of mentoring etcetera, so it is very upfront and visible for parents, and I think one that you were saying, Mark, about what the school is known for. I think we really are known for our focus on well-being and we are known for our focus on mentoring as well.
There's another thing Mark too that we would like to share with you, and that is that based on what Lindsey's been just talking to you about the whole school approach, and that is that we have a view that whilst we've started with year 10s and 11s and done that focus for the year, our goal leaning forward is to have that mentoring up skilling lead down into the middle school so all of that year eight and year nine teacher mentors are also equally skilled in the area of SenseAbility, have done the training. And I think if we're looking at the idea of teachers being successful over the longer period and being the sort of successful teachers, they're going to really need to know how young people are wired.
They're going to really be able to sort of respond to the needs of, quite frankly, difficult young people, who from time to time strike real difficulties in their lives and can be challenging to deal with, and understand that it's not the responsibility always of the teacher to take that emotionally on board, but to have schools and tools to know how to relate to the young person, to knowing how to bring them out of the space that they might have been, and bring them into a better place where they can re-engage with their learning, they can re-engage with their life. And that's why I think we want to, as our next step, take the training of SenseAbility and have that go down to all of our teachers and certainly new teachers coming into the schools so that we can all be on the same sunshade.
Thanks for that, Colin. Colin, can I just, and Lindsey, I just want to double check because I'm a little bit slow on the uptake sometimes. And so at the moment SenseAbility is being delivered through what would be a home group time that is now re-branded as a mentoring time and it's being explicitly delivered by staff, but possibly some skilled up student? Could you just clarify for the listeners and myself how it is being delivered?
Yeah, if I could start my response to that with a recommendation, two recommendations. I think you need to have a foundation of focusing on well-being across the school anyway. If you don't have that, then it's sort of really going to be really hard work. I think the second recommendation that I would have is that you have in within your daily structure, you actually have structured into your timetable a specific time that we call it mentoring, other schools, you can call it pastoral care or home group or whatever. But we've actually deliberately called it mentoring and it's the same time across the week, plus a 50-minute lesson on Tuesdays that is about mentoring. So that means that at that time in the timetable, every day, and in this case, the 50-minute lesson, it's there and it's actually in the structure and the mentoring teacher is actually delivering that program at that time.
And I think if you don't have that very, very, very well-meaning teachers, you've got this competing pressures on you, that what you actually have to achieve and you can't, and sometimes mentoring, you can have the best intentions to deliver those programs but it just gets pushed to a side. So we've sort of done it this way so that is the focus at that time. And it's actually worked very well.
Thanks Lindsey, and that really clears that up in my mind, and I guess that's what I thought that I was hearing, and I take your point that it needs to both have that whole school approach plus also what you're saying is, there needs to be some clear intent in terms of allocation of time and deliverables. So, in a sense there's some accountability there, that there is this time, it's so valuable this project or this program, that we're allocating this time for it. So, the combination of those, obviously working together are having an impact. I was going to ask Lindsey and then a follow-up question for Colin after that. And, you might've touched on a little bit of it already. Schools are complicated places with multiples of well-intentioned initiatives, they all sound great. And, I was gonna ask you, Lindsey, particularly, what have been, over the period of time you've been engaged with SenseAbility, what have been the challenges you think others are going to encounter? Scheduling is clearly one of them, but what have been those challenges and, what have been your responses to them?
That is a very good question. And we have had challenges. One of the biggest challenges has been, and I suspect it's probably more high schools than primary schools. In high schools we still have teachers who see themselves as the teachers of subjects. They see themselves as being a Math teacher or a science teacher, in particular, sometimes they are not picking on those subjects, but that is actually the reality. So, getting those people to actually get on board. And I've often said that it's a little bit like saying to me, and my training originally is RE, historically I'm an English teacher. It's a little bit like someone out and saying to me, "Okay, Lindsey, you're gonna teach physics, lesson two every Tuesday." That would send me into a frenzy, quite frankly. I would find that incredibly challenging and I would have to spend an awful lot of time getting myself ready for that lesson. So, I think, one of the challenges and the best way to overcome it is to, you've just gotta really support those people. You've gotta support our staff, and not just go "Here you go, here is you program, off you go." You've gotta understand where they're coming from, and you've gotta support them continually, so again...
You happened to have juggled that the other day. Could we share this, Lindsey, with the good folks online?
Yeah, Colin and I, again on the way up here, we were talking about this one particular teacher, who we were talking about delivering aspects of the Share program, which is the sexuality program that we run and I had a note in my pigeon hole that said simply "I'm not doing this." And that's all it said, from a particular staff member, who I really like, actually get on very well with him. So, I chose to ignore it for a couple of days and he came up to me one day and he said, "You're ignoring me." I said, "No, no, no, I'm not ignoring you. Okay, I've got your note, it's alright, and I'll be working with you". And you could just see visibly, he just went, "Okay." That's all he needed to hear. He just needed to hear that he wasn't alone, but I'll be working with him.
I went into his classroom, and because I was there, he actually ended up participating and making some really valuable contributions to it. So, left to his own devices, his defences would have gone up, he would have gone, "No I can't do that." But that critical-ness around actually supporting staff, and he's back on site. And he did a great job, so, I think you just have to be aware of that, be aware of what your staff's strengths are, be aware also of what their vulnerabilities are, I have to say, because it's not easy teaching these subjects. Some of the topics in here, but just to be aware of that and to actually give them the support that they need.
The other thing that helps with SenseAbility, well there are two things, obviously. One is that we've referred to before, that's the quality of the online training, which is really first rate. And that enables most teachers to overcome that central blocker of "Why should we be doing this? How do I teach X or Y or Z?" But the second thing, the reality is Mark that in a school, if you come up to the front and say, "I gotta do it for you, I've got this new program that we're going to outline", etcetera, you find and look into your audience, there'll be a sea of crossed arms, etcetera, the cynical sort of folk will sort of set their sails and whatever. And I think that one of the things of about SenseAbility is once you've got the hints around the program, the resilience side of the program, and the relationships and you connect that to the training, it only then, has to have any one of the staff members.
And it doesn't take long to say, "Look, here we are. Let's look at, for example the section in the kid column, on humour, alright? And let's look at that." And then, the beauty of it is, is that it really is a no-brainer for any teacher to go through that section, know their kids, pull out the bits that are gonna be immediately able to be used, use the resources that are there at their fingertips, and just simply run with it without any more time constraints or difficulties for them in running the program. It is really that good. And that is why in my view, SenseAbility is something that should be a core area of training for all incoming teachers, and really ought to be available, and should be promoted in schools across the country.
It's as Dr. Michael Carr-Gregg says, the stats in relations to mental health for young people really suggests that we need to get serious about well-being, cause that's the foundation of positive mental health for our young people and that's where SenseAbility fits in. It's a no-brainer in the classroom, it's got outstanding training that is attached to it and it really should be there and very, very suitable and very user friendly for anyone who wants to pick it up whether it be a teacher or a school.
I will say this, I'll put it out there. I just think that sometimes with a lot of mentoring programs there are often gender issues. You get a group of girls together and they are actually very, very good talking about their feelings, you know, all of those kind of things. And for a lot of boys that's actually very, very, very challenging. So the example I gave you of the teacher before and his subject area, he does teach mainly boys. So again, one of my recommendations would be to just have that flexibility around your expectations about how teachers deliver the SenseAbility Program. So one teacher, again, who, because of her subject choice, she teaches mainly girls. She can just fly with this stuff, spend 50 minutes and wish she had more time because the girls are chatting away. Again, for that teacher, to reassure him say things to him like, "If you can get those boys to engage would you for 10 minutes, you've done a fantastic job". Just to have that flexibility so that staff know that what this program looks like for them and their cohort might actually be very different from how it looks to someone else and their cohort as well.
And Lindsey, we've had some really excellent results too, in the way in which the use of programs, certainly the SenseAbility Program for 10 and 11 mentors, I'm thinking of one of their senior mentors who wasn't at all that comfortable in terms of discussing some of the, if you'd like some of the life challenges aspects that are part of that Wellbeing Resilience Program. But now that I've gone through that learning together, and now that the relationships have been growing from the use of SenseAbility, the end product has been outstanding. And we had one of our senior teachers come into the staffroom just the other day and say to me, "Look, I'm just... I'm always moved to tears". The sort of response from the young people at the end of the year and the thanks that they've given to the teacher. So the sort journey that they've shared together through the year 11 year and they're going into the year 12 was something that he won't forget and that the kids won't forget. And it really was terrific and that came out of the sort of relationships which are nurtured and grown in SenseAbility.
That's a bit of awkward moment. Sorry if I left my microphone open there was having a little bit of panic that I had no sound coming through. Lindsey, what I really liked at the start of when you were talking there was how you modelled your approach to staff who were reluctant or resistant was exactly the kind of behaviours that you would be hoping that they would be demonstrating for the students in their care in dealing with issues where their learners are reluctant or resistant. So that came through loud and clear to me. I liked the fact that you noted that staff feel vulnerable around dealing with content that's challenging, and that there needs to be, if you like, this delicious balance between a bit of pressure and support in equal amounts to allow people to be comfortable enough to progress. And Colin, you picked up on the fact that the resources themselves are geared up at a range of sort of levels of comfortability and usability, which allow anybody to pick up and run with one. Could I get a MYD tick, Mark Yates it is, of course it is. Mark, if you're there, and your microphone is working, and your connection is okay, I think we'd be interested to hear for a couple of minutes just about how you're linking the SenseAbility webinar... Sorry the SenseAbility resources through an Edmodo Group for Access. So Mark, are you there? That's of a polite moment away.
Let's get back to Mark, he can maybe give us a message in the text chat-box. Colin, here's a big question for you and Lindsey can certainly chime in on the response to this one. If we're playing deal or no deal, we've come to that moment...
How do you know that SenseAbility is making a difference beyond anecdotal evidence, beyond smiling eyes and smiling children, how do you know that it's making a difference at Victor Harbor High School?
Well, you can't go back from last week to the previous week. You get those moments occasionally where someone comes with a revelation about changing in thought processes in the way in which they have changed their practice. I think, what you've got to do is go back over and just look back and press rewind and go back a couple of years, and say to yourself, "Could that teacher that we're now considering, would they have remotely been able to manage what they're now managing in relation to well-being in their classroom?"
And I think that it's over that longer period of time, that you actually see the measure of the change. It's like I said about the turning around of the liner. It takes a while, but we have seen and I think I know that Lindsey will back this up, we have seen really substantial changes in members of staff who have firstly realized the need now for the way in which their own skills as a teacher is married to their understanding of the way in which their students function in terms of their well-being, and how that really helps them better in their classes to manage what they do. We've seen those changes over a period of time, and I guess it's really hard to measure over the short period of time. But the trending magic is unmistakable and it's really trending clearly towards a greater connectivity between teachers and students in relation to openness about their well-being and through that we hope better outcomes for the whole school.
Yeah. And just on that SenseAbility, we've only really introduced this year. So, it's a little bit early to sort of say whether the program, per se is actually having an impact. But I'll have to back up what Colin was saying, if I look back historically, the focus on well-being, we really have seen some significant changes across the school, again Colin and I, having a chat on the way up here now. And if I still reflect on some of the other well-being programs that have been introduced in the school over the last stage eight or nine years. I firmly believe that the school is a calmer place, that staff are actually having a much calmer approach to some of the incidents that they have to deal with. And we don't have that major catastrophizing that can sometimes happen within schools.
And I really believe that is as a direct result of the focus on well-being, the well-being programs that we've actually run. And now something like SenseAbility coming in, perfect timing. And we were really looking... Some of the programs that we were running previously had well and truly met their use-by date and that was for the staff and the students making that comment. And now SenseAbility has just moved in and filled that gap in beautifully, so I just feel that that culture will continue, at Victor Harbor High school with SenseAbility.
I think our clients tell the story too, Mark, and I took the opportunity the other day with the year-10 group of young people and I'd really appreciate your feedback on this. I ran past them, some of the sorts of things. What had actually happened with someone had run me about something. I said, "Look, I am just waiting for a moment, I'm expecting a phone call about this." And I said, "Look, I leaving this because it's about a well-being programs that run at the school. And it's something that it's important for you all." And what happened was, and we had a discussion with them and they were 15 year 10 students and myself. And we talked about the importance of well-being, and they agreed universally that it's so important for young people these days, to be upskilled in relation to understanding their own well-being to be able to help their peers online, whether it's through texting or whether it's on Facebook.
And they really thought that the idea that the school runs a program called Doctor On Campus, whereby there's targeted intervention available for young people who really are having trouble, significant trouble with their well-being, perhaps with depression, or anxiety, that that's really catered for. Now that's reduced massively, the sort of stigmas that are so often seen in country areas around mental health. And I think that that's a step forward, and young people have a real cognisance about that. They understand the importance of it, they see that it's really a significant thing to do and they respect. I think that's a really key point, they respect those who, who are going through challenges in relation to their emotional health.
And I think that's a massive step forward, I think 15 years ago when we first considered the concept of a Doctor On Campus and psych intervention on our school campus, we thought "My goodness me! What if someone hears about what we're doing here, the kids will think this or that or the other." Now, there's a broad ranging acceptance; it has taken a while but it's been really important. And SenseAbility plays a role in that.
Good. Thanks, Colin and Lindsey for that. And I think what I'm hearing there is certainly that importance again of your upfront-ness. There is a no-blame, there is a no-shame, there is an approach which doesn't sort of suggest there is a deficit. It's a real strength based model and approach. Which I think is a another one of the reasons of the success at Victor High School and also with other schools that have adopted SenseAbility being a strength based resilient program. Mark Yates, I think you have attempted to get in contact with us. You mentioned before something about Edmodo as a way of sharing resources. Could you maybe just share that with our people viewing the recording live.
Absolutely. I guess one of the things I'll put out …
Sorry Mark. Shannon, could you just meet that, thanks. Sorry about that Mark. We had the audio breaking up so we've had to mute you there but unfortunately there's something I'd like to hear a bit more about Edmodo being a free online learning management system built by education for education, a great resource and platform to make sure important resources are available 24x7 to give students access, plus also access for closed, private conversation groups to potentially talk about the things that matter to them.
So, sorry we couldn't hear that Mark. I know that you always have a lot of good stuff to contribute in every encounter we bump into you. I'm just aware of the time, everybody, welcome if you are listening to the recording SenseAbility featuring Colin and Lindsey from Victor Harbor High School. We've just been hearing about their challenges. We've been hearing from Colin and Lindsey about how they know SenseAbility is making a difference. We are now racing the clock up to 4 o'clock in Central Standard Time which means we've only got about five minutes left. What I'm going to do is I'm going to cast back in a moment to Lindsey and Colin to essentially gather from them some final words. So if they had to distil down their key messages for other staff out there who might be in leadership positions, school principals or classroom teachers about what should they do next, what might they... Should they be thinking about or doing in their own schools to start to explore this resource? So shall we go first of all to you, Lindsey.
Okay, well, if I can just give you an example on the really fortunate position in leadership last week. We were doing our week zero planning for 2014, and I'm very happy to say that what I've actually been given on one of the days is pretty much an afternoon, where I can actually just deliver a little bit of a philosophical background about why mentoring is important and then we're going to be working it in our sub-schools, and actually planning the delivery of our mentoring programs for 2014. So that for me is just very exciting, I have to say, because it just means that we can just set the tone for the year, we can set the expectation and then we can actually have people working in groups doing their planning around mentoring. So I think just to have... Again it just goes back to the whole school approach where it is actually an understanding that that is actually what will be done for the year. So actually having that is a perfect scenario for me.
And I think probably two other things I'd like to say as well is that I have to agree with Colin. For me the e-training from SenseAbility, absolutely outstanding. I just love that capacity for depending on who you are and what your learning style is. You can actually log on. You can work with it for half an hour, go back to it. It's just perfect and you can also go into at whatever level you choose. The resources are all up there. You can tweak things. You can actually get the posters. It's all there. It's almost like a one-stop shop for teachers, they can actually dip into that at any stage they want to and get all of their resources. And like I said, it's sort of those different levels where you can get as immersed in it as you wish. So that's brilliant and to actually get staff to actually do that training as well, I think is absolutely invaluable. So I think like we keep saying, if you've got that whole school approach to well-being I would strongly recommend that that's what you do. That your staff actually understand why they are delivering this program, not "here's the program, off you go". They understand and that there is that support given, because you are going to get some staff who will just fly with it because it's their background and they're passionate about it. But you're going to get some staff who are feeling very hesitant about it, to support them in that process.
Right, and what about you Mr. Sibley? What's your bottled and distilled messages for our listeners?
Mark, I think our world changed a little, in fact a lot when Professor Pat McGorry was installed as Australian of the Year in 2010 and his challenge to the nation was a very clear one. He said the we really need to take the idea of early intervention with mental health and well-being of young people very seriously and that they, through better mental health and well-being outcomes, we were are going to get much better outcomes for the nation. And I know that whilst the political imperative for teaching and learning has been around learning and curriculum nationally and we've heard lots and lots said about that, I think that what we really need to do, and I know that Lindsey and I are one on this and that it's really so important that in that we marry the importance of well-being outcomes as being critical to that as well in equal portions.
And I think for any school, any system, the challenge over the next 10 years is to embrace that concept that well-being for young people is a critical thing as far as their outcomes. I would have to say, "I haven't seen anything better than SenseAbility as a kit that provides that one-stop-shop, that immediate access to a school in relation to well-being planning and implementation and if you do that as Lindsey said earlier in a wrap-around the process which includes MindMatters and where MindMatters is excitingly going these days linking with Beyond Blue, I think we have a future in terms of overall outcomes for young people which is truly exciting. And I think the teachers and I think the parents and I think the students are really gonna enjoy the journey.
Thanks Colin. And thank you, Lindsey. I'm just aware of the time. Certainly compelling, scalable, and doable. And as Colin would say and I quote him here, "It will put bubbles in your lemonade."
So a big SenseAbility Beyond Blue powered by Principal Australia Institute. Thank you for taking the time and making the drive today to Lindsey Cowper and Colin Sibley from the beautiful jewel in the crown of DECD, Victor Harbor High School on the gorgeous Fleurieu Peninsula. We appreciate their time and their passion this afternoon with us. I'd like to thank Shannon McGeary for all of her background orchestration work in making the webinar happen and looking after our special guest in the green room, Brendan from Beyond Blue, your feedback, constructive and positive as always, helps power us along. So everybody, a final good bye and Merry Christmas and thank you so much Lindsey. Thank you Colin for your time.
Thank you, Mark.
Thank you, Mark. It's been an absolute pleasure.
Cheers. Cheers to all.
Right. Thank you. And thank you to our participants either joining us live here today being broadcast from PAI National Headquarters in Adelaide or viewing this recording via www.beyondblue.org.au. I'm Mark Sparvell, and good afternoon, Merry Christmas to you.
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