Being Well: Wellbeing at Glenaeon

11 February 2021

Our key focus this year is articulating and promoting our Wellbeing and Pastoral Care program. Glenaeon’s founding vision was unique for its era: education in itself should be health promoting with student wellbeing at the centre. At the time in mainstream education, wellbeing and emotional health were seen as collateral damage in the war on academic achievement, like civilian casualties in a war. Since then mainstream education has made a 180 degree shift in its concerns, and student wellbeing is now rightly front and centre for all schools.

Our Wellbeing program has always been an implicit and essential part of what we do. Glenaeon’s vision, based on Steiner education, was that all learning should contribute to whole and balanced human beings. Our wellbeing focus was embedded in all that we did and in this we were ahead of the curve. For example, we were criticised 20 years ago for being “too positive” towards our students. Today many schools have Positive Education (TM) programs, and compete to be more positive than most. Our positive program continues to be implicit and embedded in all classrooms.

Our Wellbeing program aims at promoting health in all that we do. The word health comes from the old German word “hale”, which means whole, a link we hear in the old saying that someone is “hale and hearty”. The word health implies wholeness, and balance. So Glenaeon’s picture of the well human being, whether that is a growing child or a mature adult, is one of health and balance in all the elements that make us human.

What is unique to our Wellbeing program is our clear picture of the growing child, and a clear articulation of the specific personal qualities and elements we are educating. Our curriculum comprises five foundational programs Academic, Aesthetic, Altruistic, Artisan and Active wilderness. Each program addresses one aspect of the whole human being. Together they educate the whole.

Let’s look at what each educational program contributes to a young person’s wellbeing:

Academic: Healthy Thinking: our academic program educates our thinking, and we know only too well what a part thoughts play in our wellbeing. They can be positive, uplifting, growth-oriented, or they can negative, destructive, fixed. We think all the time, and the continual trend of our thinking plays so profoundly into our wellbeing. The evidence is even there on how positive thoughts even affect our immune systems. Our Main Lesson method aspires to build thinking that is deep learning, a thinking that sees every “Big Idea” main lesson topic set within a context, a story that is unfolding and whole, rather than a collection of random facts.

Aesthetic: Healthy Feeling: our feelings define our responses to life, our inner world. They are more than “emotions” (such as anger, fear, lust). They are the subtle dream-like inner experiences by which we navigate our path through life. Our Aesthetic program of the creative and performing arts aims to build a rich feeling life through music, visual arts, speech, drama and poetry: the arts give our inarticulate inner life a language of expression, a subtly differentiated body of feelings.

Altruistic: Healthy Relationships: Our classes are not just collections of separate learners. Each classroom is a community, and we understand that we learn best in relationship. Our teachers work to deliver high quality learning embedded in high quality relationships. On each step of the Glenaeon journey, every student is accompanied by a teacher providing pastoral care, starting with the small but warm classes of Kindergarten. One class teacher for the primary years is a lesson in relationship over six years. Mentors and Guardians in high school are the representatives of the school watching out for each student in our care. And not just pastoral care: students are learning how to manage their relationships with others. In our Service program, students learn to “live for others” in supporting vulnerable groups in our society, from the elderly to aboriginal children.

Artisan: Healthy Willpower: our energy in life is determined by that intangible thing called “will”, a key factor in success in life. Every successful person, in whatever field, is characterized by a strong and focused will. Plenty of people have talent, not so many have the willpower to turn talent into successful enterprise. Our Artisan Program of serious traditional and modern crafts (textiles, wood, metal, stone, plastics, glass) is more than learning skills to make useful and beautiful objects: the practice of the skills builds something deeper, the power to get things done!

Active Wilderness: Healthy Movement: The evidence is now incontrovertible on how important healthy movement is for wellbeing and health generally: regular movement even delays the onset of dementia. Wholeness is when brain and body work as one, in a well and healthy human being. Activity begins in Kindergarten and infuses not just every classroom, but as many learning experiences as possible. Movement First is an old Steiner education mantra, expressing the understanding that in a healthy person brain and body work together, and learning that is moved first, is learning that leads to more effective understanding later. Morning Circle, Sport and our Outdoor Education program all build specific aspects of healthy minds in healthy bodies.

Such is our positive proactive curriculum for promoting wellbeing and health at Glenaeon. But life is not perfect.

  • What happens when we need to step in when things go wrong?
  • What support do we have available to respond to difficulties?

Every difficulty can be a learning experience for a young person, and our aim is to provide support that promotes personal growth and development.

Student Wellbeing Coordinator:

This year we have appointed Emily Fam as our inaugural Student Wellbeing Coordinator, working across the school. Emily is a very experienced mental health social worker who will be available to provide support to students who are referred to her by teachers, or in the high school through self-referral. We look forward to Emily’s contribution in upholding our wellbeing and pastoral care program.

Andrew Hill
Head of School