My guess is you’ve heard enough about COVID-19 and the alerts that seem to be part and parcel of our new normal these days. However, one aspect I want to address is the term ‘social distancing’. As we know, in this new context it generally means implementing strategies such as avoiding handshakes and person to person contact, etc.. But the fact is, many of our students experience social distancing of another kind, one that is ongoing, obvious and/or hidden. This is one of the key areas the College has sought to intentionally address by implementing a survey about student to student, and teacher/student relationship. While we scored well in the teacher/student relationship aspects, we noticed that the student to student deep connection was lacking. The results indicated a strong and striking correlation between the relational health and the wellbeing of our students. Students who have healthy relationships with their peers, are far more likely to be thriving as individuals. Research consistently demonstrates a strong link between relationships and wellbeing which “is best predicted by the breadth and depth of one’s social connections” (Helliwell and Putnam, 2004).
As a consequence of the surveys and subsequent planning and restructuring, we have put in place an exciting new initiative called CONNECT which has been conceived for Secondary School by our Stage Leaders and College Chaplain. For one hour, twice a week (Wednesdays and Fridays) Secondary School students are immersed in an intentionally designed integrated Pastoral Care, Christian Studies and Relational wellbeing project.
The goal of CONNECT is to grow a more caring community, which is a foundational aspect of the College’s Strategic Plan, and which arises from sections of our Mission statement. We desire our students to “… belong to a caring community that celebrates their individual gifts and abilities, where they develop into secure, resilient lifelong learners who are encouraged to follow Jesus and are prepared to shape culture by serving their community and beyond.”
CONNECT has a long-term scope and plan with sessions deliberately focused on a range of areas to nurture our students including:
1. Developing a stronger culture of care:
~ Emphasising relational teaching and strengthening peer to peer relationships
~ Developing a safe, supportive learning community
~ Strengthening pastoral care initiatives
~ Supporting student-led groups
2. Developing secure, resilient lifelong learners encouraged to follow Jesus:
~ Increasing the pastoral responsibility of Stage Leaders who lead teams of Connect teachers
~ Enhancing wellbeing initiatives and pastoral care opportunities
~ Intentionally integrating faith formation to include Chapel, Connect group discussion and Q&A’s, missions, community involvement, and so on.
3. Celebrating the uniqueness of each student and respecting diversity:
~ Acknowledging student differences, contribution, progress and achievement
~ In respectful and authentic ways, understanding Aboriginal and other cultures in the College
4. Preparing students to shape culture by serving their community and beyond:
~ Increasing opportunities to serve in the College
~ Increasing the scope and frequency of mission/service trips
~ Strengthening connections with church and community groups
Will you pray with me for the ongoing success of CONNECT as we look forward together to see this new initiative develop and deepen meaningful relationships as we create opportunities for our students to “grow up into Christ”.