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Helping children feel good

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Helping children feel good

Pupils of 5th Queenstown High School take a break from watching, taking part in a school cross-country race. They know it’s important to take care of yourself, even during exams! (During the event in September 2021 followed the preferred SMM)

How do you get students to give up judging themselves based on their grades and boost their self-esteem? The principal and teachers of Queenstown High School talk about how a caring school culture that values ​​effort and growth can be the answer.


The 4th semester is often a busy time for students in Singapore when they are going down to read textbooks and prepare for future exams. But when Queenstown High School, students are sent outside to drive a few miles for the annual school cross-country race. Because of COVID they run alone or with several classmates.

An amazing decision given that exams are just around the corner? Not at all. In fact, the timing of the event was deliberate, says Queen High School principal MDM Rasida Bte Rahim. “We tell students to go for a run or just play outside. The message is that they need to set aside time for rest. Physical activity is important for our mental and physical well-being, and we should not neglect it – even during exams! ”

MDM Rasida was pleased to respond to the event with enthusiasm from both students and faculty.

Student 5 sec. Marcus Tech shared: “While we were doing the exercises together, we had the opportunity to talk about our problems, talk to each other and laugh together. It kept me motivated. ”

This positive response is the result of ongoing school-wide efforts to help students go beyond grades and increase self-esteem and resilience.

A culture of caring and supportive school, focused on growth

At the heart of this effort is the idea Mood for growthit is the belief that your abilities can be developed through effort, good strategies and feedback, not innate talent.

This is why teaching is not limited to Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) lessons, where students are taught to get away from problems, seek help and reflect on their work experiences to achieve the best. Teachers also try to instill this thinking in their students through daily interactions at school.

“Some of our students come to school with their own luggage,” says Mr. Rasida. “This may be due to their family circumstances or learning difficulties that lead to a lack of motivation. It is important to teach them to reconsider their thinking and focus on areas that they can control and improve. ”

What does it look like in everyday school life? Head of the Year Kan Poe Geok, who entered the school only in early 2021, explained: “I was a primary school student, but I saw it in what teachers say and do. Whether in meetings or in the lessons I’ve watched, teachers repeat the same message: “We’re here to help you grow at your own pace”.

“We hear students talking to themselves and to each other in class or in their CCA – we may not be yetbut we have a chance to do better! ”

Goal setting

Each semester students in each class of the class set goals and reflect on their success. Goals don’t have to be just academic. Students can set goals regarding their CCA, hobbies, or even personal qualities – such as speaking more confidently.

Before the exercise, teachers share what success looks like for different people. For some, this may mean sharing their personal results and not giving up. For others, success may lie in acts of service that improve the lives of others. Such an exchange encourages students to think about their own goals in life, to take a longer-term view – rather than just focusing on their next exam.

“We want to show students different meanings of success,” explains Ms. Kahn. “It’s not just academic. They can formulate their own plans, reflect on what they have learned, and most importantly, what they can do about it. ”

These reflections are working papers that teachers refer to during individual or small group testing with students. They are also passed on to the teachers of the classes that will come to office next year so that they better understand the students and their aspirations.

“In a sense, these reflections are similar to an individual portfolio and help keep track of how much a student has grown over the years,” Ms. Kahn says. “We hope that in sections 4-5 students will look back on them and be proud of their success.”

Urgent goals and reflections are useful starting points for teachers to better understand students and give relevant guidance.

Affirmations

Throughout the school, students are recognized for the nature and values ​​taught in CCE lessons. This makes the messages real to the students.

For example, Mdm Michelle Phoo, a 5th grade high school teacher, issues monthly awards to recognize students who display school values. For example, a student who did not pass the test but showed improvement would be praised for his resilience. Another student who improved in her behavior was also recognized.

“She was rarely late after that!” – laughed MDM Fu. “It’s a small gesture to motivate students, but they’re excited to know that their efforts have been seen by teachers. They also understand that they can find ways to overcome their problems, and that is important. “

Enhance resilience outside the classroom

Collaborative Learning Activities (CCAs) are another platform where students can discover their strengths and overcome challenges in a safe space. While coaches teach students the best techniques of their sport or art, their CCA faculty members make it appropriate to meet with students afterwards to facilitate and guide their learning.

As a teacher of the school’s Scout unit, MDM Fu has many times seen her students have difficulty when it comes to planning CCA sessions or larger-scale projects such as an annual camp.

“Failures happen often,” she shared, “but we give them feedback so the team can figure out their mistakes and improve. So students learn sustainability. The next time they face a problem, they will look back and think – it’s difficult, but it’s possible if we work together. “

Other school activities, such as cross-country, outdoor camps and competitions, provide additional opportunities for students with diverse interests and strengths to shine and grow in confidence.

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Schools expose students to a variety of challenges through cohort activities and CCAs so that they step out of their comfort zone and achieve little success with the help of their friends. (Photos taken before COVID)

Peer and friend support system

In addition to these efforts, the school recognizes that there may still be times when students may feel overwhelmed and need extra help. This can be triggered by many factors, including family problems, stress on an exam or even a quarrel with a friend. In order for such students to receive timely support, the school seeks the help of peers.

MDM Rasida explains the rationale: “As close as our teachers are to students, they can’t be everywhere. Their peers often notice when one of their friends seems depressed or unhealthy. ”

Like other schools, Queenstown Secondary has appointed peer support leaders (PSLs) who are trained to detect signs of disaster among their peers, listen to their concerns without condemnation and warn trusted adults if necessary.

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At Queenstown High School, students take the initiative to encourage each other!

The school took another step by introducing a system of friends in each class. Friends naturally unite in pairs, and teachers approach several responsible students to help those who find it difficult to find a friend on their own.

“We know that you can’t force a friendship, but teachers will look at the dynamics of the lessons and explain to friends what their roles are and why it’s important,” said Ms. Kahn. “More often than not, they’re willing to help.”

Mr. Muhammad Fazari Otman, a second-grade secondary school teacher, shares his experience with the friends system: “I tell students that they are my watchful eyes and encourage them to watch for signs of disaster – for example, when their friends write in social media. networks about self-harm or negative thoughts ”.

He told about a case when a student was absent for several days without medical reasons.

“At first I thought she was intentionally absent. But her classmate shared with me that the girl was facing some emotional issues after her best friend was transferred from school. With this information, we were able to organize appropriate assistance for the student, not to scold her and not to increase her suffering.

Building relationships

The mental well-being of young people in recent years is increasingly in the spotlight, and schools are increasingly talking about these issues. This is partly due to the updated CCE curriculum being disseminated this year, which includes a stronger focus on current issues such as mental health and cyber health.

However, teachers say the school environment and culture play a big role in whether students seek help if they need it.

For example, if his 2nd high school students know that everyone can experience stress at times, Mr. Fazari believes some of them are still reluctant to turn to a school counselor. Mdm Phoo, on the other hand, shares that her 5 high school students have no such bans.

“My class loves to see a counselor! We’ve shared with them that you don’t need to consult a consultant just in case of a crisis – it can also be preventative. I think some of them found that the counselor was able to help them with their anxiety, and shared it with the class. Such personal accounts of friends are convincing! ”

Teachers believe that the main difference is that 5th high school students have been working at the school for many years and over time have learned to trust teachers, school counselors and each other.

“It’s a relationship,” Ms. Rasida says. “It’s in all the little things that show that we care that we listen to you. Every little challenge they overcome helps them say, “I’m worthy and I can do it!”


Want to learn more about the mental health of young people?

Mdm Rasidah shares his views on the pressures facing young people today Strawberries? Not at all.

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