This year our school has embarked on the Kidsmatter program. Kidsmatter is a mental health and well-being framework for primary schools. It is sponsored by Beyond Blue, Principals Institute of Australia, Australian Psychological Society, Early Childhood Australia and the Federal Government, Dept of Health and Ageing. This program has been proven to make a difference to children’s lives. I am fortunate to be a part of our schools’ Kidsmatter Action Team. As a member of the action team I attend training on how to deliver the components to staff, present PD to our staff, work with the other members of the action team to analyse data related to staff and students well-being and promote the framework within our school and community.
Today, I had the opportunity to attend the Kidsmatter State Conference at Westlakes. The focus of this conference was well-being and mental health. It started with an opening address from Natasha Stott-Despoja who gave an overview of the Kidsmatter project and her support of the Beyond Blue program.
Andrew Fuller presented a session about the Learning Brain and how teachers can use research from neuroscience to increase learning outcomes. Andrew’s session was entertaining and informative. He shared a lot of information about the brain and how parts of our brains work and take in information. He shared and modeled ways that we can enhance our students learning by knowing how the brain works. Some examples that he shared included:
- Use gestures – human beings remember gestures so something as simple as getting kids to point to the main part of something will help them to remember it better
- Scents – lemon, rosemary and basil all assist with concentration and memory
- Good verbal feedback is important to everyone.
- Teach kids how to take good notes. Notes help kids to organise their thinking and their learning.
- Use silence to reflect on learning. He shared an idea called “take a minute” where you give kids one minute of silence to reflect or think about what they have learnt.
- Relationships are the key – kids need to belong and need to be told that they belong. Relationships matter to everyone, kids and adults alike.
Professor David Giles, Dean of the school of education at Flinders University then spoke more about relationships and his research into relational leadership. He asked:
When is education not relational?
When is learning not relational?
When is pedagogy not relational?
When is leadership not relational?
Everything that we do at schools is relational. The nature of our schools’ and jobs is relational.
We can not get out of or away from relationships, positive or negative.
In our classrooms we create a mood and as classroom teachers we are the ‘guardians’ of the mood. The mood of a classroom will be felt, it is the culture, climate, tone and ethos. “Creating the right mood, atmosphere, vibe is not something that happens by chance”, (D. Giles). We need to model and embody careful relationships, we need to talk the talk and walk the walk of relationships and we need to be attuned to the subtleties of the relationships.
Three schools, Cobdogla Primary School, Marymount College and Keith Area School, presented a showcase of the things they are doing with Kidsmatter. Some of the things that I would like to take back to our school included a great Kidsmatter bulletin board in the staffroom, welcome packs for new families, having well-being days for students and having a class parent high tea at the start of the year to get to know the families in my class better. It was great to see what other schools are doing around the Kidsmatter framework and was reassuring to see that at Port Elliot we are on the right track.
The final speaker of the day was Dr Helen Street. Her talk was titled ‘A is for average’ and reinforced talks I had heard this year from by Dylan Williams and Dan Pink.
She spoke about extrinsic rewards such as stickers and certificates compared with intrinsic rewards such as greater understanding and feeling proud of ourselves.
Research shows that extrinsic rewards tend to demotivate people but intrinsic rewards (gaining understanding, feeling proud) have been proven to motivate people.
Extrinsic rewards focus on the outcome rather than the process to get there and are dependent on someone else making a judgement. They reduce a sense of ownership over what we do. They create a sense of compliance and control and encourage people to love rewards. For example, the child who is offered an ice cream for cleaning up their room is not cleaning up their room because they want a clean room but because they want the ice cream.
Intrinsic motivation leads to better life satisfaction, a sense of ownership, positive social relationships, a love of learning, persistence and better performance and outcomes.
However, we can not make people motivated but we can create environments that encourage a sense of ownership and motivation. To do this we need environments that create positive relationships, are safe and encourage safe risk taking, allow collaboration, encourages autonomy engages students and celebrates learning.
Overall, the conference reinforced the work that we are doing at Port Elliot and the things that we are doing to support our students. It also reinforced the importance of relationships in everything that we do.
Finally, this quote from Andrew Fuller sums up the feeling of well-being and Kidsmatter:
“You can’t talk well-being you have to be well-being”