Director of Pastoral Care
We live in a fast paced, constantly changing world that requires us to interpret and respond to varied situations and experiences daily. Our capacity to respond in a way that has a positive outcome for both ourselves and others can be influenced by key protective factors; resources that contribute to supporting resilience and maintaining wellbeing. The protective factors for students as outlined by the Association of Independent Schools of NSW are connections, supportive environments, student factors, social and emotional skills and whole-school approaches to wellbeing. This highlights that protective factors extend beyond the personal development of each individual to include the environment in which they find themselves.
It is reassuring to identify these protective factors not only within our Pastoral Care framework, but also deeply embedded in our Mission and Values, the Loreto Normanhurst Student Growth Model and the Loreto Educational philosophy. All of these remind us of the pivotal role of relationships with ourselves and others in enhancing wellbeing, and that holistic education is imperative for growing individuals and communities in our ‘person-centred’ school.
The pastoral program is intentionally planned and delivered to amplify the scope of the protective factors for wellbeing. Quality relationships are at the core of a Loreto education and the platform with which we ensure every student is known. They are the launchpad for fostering a student’s connections and sense of belonging to the community. They help celebrate each individual in a safe and inclusive environment where self-worth and dignity is promoted.
Planning a pastoral program is a delicate balance of ensuring we include the essential themes necessary to respond to specific contexts and needs as they arise, while also recognising the importance of slowing down and resisting the temptation to over-crowd the program. With this in mind, we have intentionally embedded more opportunities for gratitude and mindfulness in the program in 2021. Gratitude is about paying attention to the things and moments we have right now, and not worrying about what we don’t have. Gratitude is a choice. It asks us to set our gaze on what adds value to our lives. Consciously practising gratitude can train your brain to acknowledge it more easily and express it more readily to other people. There is an ever-growing body of research that suggests that it enhances positive emotions and optimism and in turn strengthens our relationships. The caveat here is that it is not always easy. Some days, finding gratitude will prove challenging. Thankfully, gratitude does not always mean looking for big, grand and extravagant things. In fact, it can be more meaningful when felt in things that may seem small, discrete or not necessarily obvious to someone else.
To support the presence of gratitude and mindfulness in the program, each student will receive a ‘Listening Book’ that calls them into a space of deep listening and reflection just as Mary Ward did, informed by Ignatian Spirituality. The Listening Book heightens their awareness of what they can be grateful for and brings them into a moment of mindfulness. Next week will also see the launch of the Loreto Normanhurst Gratitude Photo Project. Students will be asked to intentionally seek moments of gratitude in their lives and contribute these to the photo gallery. Dadirri (da-did-ee), an Aboriginal spiritual practice of inner deep listening and quiet, still awareness, has also been weaved through the program. You are encouraged to speak to your daughters about these experiences. Perhaps there is scope to introduce similar practices within the home?
We continue to strengthen our whole-school approach to wellbeing and understand that it is inextricably linked to academic outcomes and success. The launch of the social and emotional learning program, OakSEED, supports this concept and strengthens the essential protective factor of social and emotional development. Social and emotional learning fosters essential skills to engage in the learning process, manage complex situations and uncertainty, communicate confidently, think critically, be aware of, control and express emotions, make responsible decisions and to handle interpersonal relationships empathetically and fairly. The development of these skills provide a foundation to enhance motivation, commitment and perseverance.
Pastoral Care at Loreto Normanhurst understands the important role of a preventative, strength-based approach to wellbeing that is evidence-informed and draws upon the protective factors within our context. It is strengthened by our Mary Ward traditions and by Mary Ward’s Open Circle in its promotion of wellbeing as wholeness of body, mind and spirit.
Ms Sally Munro
Director of Pastoral Care