THE SOCIAL SIDE OF WELLBEING – the space between us

Next Tuesday 25th February at 7pm we will be kicking off our Parent Education Series with Dr Helen Street, one of the pioneers of Positive Education in Australia. Helen is an honorary Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Western Australia. Helen has been described as a powerful advocate for the creation of positive school communities and is particularly interested the development of positive school contexts. In which young people can develop intrinsic motivation, self-determination and life-long wellbeing.

Helen believes that students will flourish when they are connected to a healthy school context.


A state of health, happiness and positive engagement [in learning] that arises from membership of an equitable, inclusive and cohesive [school] environment - Dr Helen Street, 2016

Here at Woodleigh we are invested in an evidence based, contemporary approach to Student Wellbeing that supports and is supported by, our collective efforts & resources., values and strengths. And this context matters. Whether it is in classroom, during an activity, camp or excursion, the expectation of behavioural norms all rotate around an axis of respect. It is as Helen describes, “the space between us” in these different learning environments that highlights the importance of “the social side of wellbeing”.

When news this week has been filled with disturbing stories where contextual wellbeing has failed to preserve the safety of young people in their care, I entreat you to be part of our contextual wellbeing at Woodleigh, that works together to create an environment that allows everyone, our young people, staff & families to flourish.

Flourishing” is an interplay between our best individual selves and our best environment. This means happiness and success are far more than individual pursuits, or even individual responsibilities. Rather, lasting happiness develops when we form healthy connections in a social context that supports and nurtures us to become the best we can be. Contextual Wellbeing, Dr Helen Street, 2018

Evidence of the value and importance of contextual wellbeing was clearly articulated by one of our year 12 students, Sarah Jefferies in the speech she delivered on Homestead night to the senior school community; a reflection of her experience at Woodleigh and why [in any learning experience] the social context of wellbeing matters greatly.

Thank you, Sarah, for giving permission to share this.

As I start my final year of schooling, I’ve been reflecting on my journey through Woodleigh.

5 years ago I came here as a scared and anxious year 7, I was terrified of the challenges that were ahead of me. I’m proud of the resilience I’ve developed over the years. I feel pretty confident of my ability to handle most situations.

Looking back, I realize there were many, many experiences at Woodleigh that have allowed me to grow into the person who I am today.

One of the exciting things about Woodleigh is that every year brings new challenges. These are different for every person. If you asked others in my cohort they’d each list different things or experiences that they have found difficult though their schooling. But equally, they’d also have a list of things that they take pride in. Challenges that they have overcome, or skills that they have honed over the years. What I’ve discovered, is it’s how we work to overcome adversity that shapes the people we become. For many people camps are a highlight, but personally this was an area I found really challenging as I struggled with very extreme anxiety throughout my first years at Woodleigh. While I gradually built the skills to manage these experiences as I connected to my peer group and was supported by Homestead staff. It was Outward Bound that was the test. I think, if you can do that, you can do anything.

But a real turning point was Hattah, the Year 10 outdoor education experience, it was the most challenging thing I have ever done, but also my proudest achievement. These 7 day days in the Hattah-Kulkyne desert, showed me that I was a lot stronger than I thought. Once I pushed past this mental-boundary I’ve found a great appreciation for the many camps I have experienced at Woodleigh, and so, it’s kind of ironic that I’m really sad that this March will be my last camp.

But Camps aside, Woodleigh is about education. I’ve always found myself to be an academically motivated student, and have loved being challenged within the classroom. I stand here today proud to represent girls in maths and sciences fields, and have been supported to not just learn, but flourish in the STEM world.  So much so, that I’m attempting three year 12 maths, chemistry and physics so, to balance out my inevitable heavy workload, and for my creative outlet I also do woodwork, it’s great fun. The hands on aspect of this subject allows me to break up my day while learning practical skills to use in the future. Last year I produced a garden bench that proudly sits in my backyard. The more hours I’ve spent in the workshop with Mr. Rodgers I discovered wood work is one of my many passions.

Another opportunity, to practice our passions is through activities program. I found activities has been a great way explore my passions, connect with people in other year levels, and experience a diverse range of opportunities. Particular highlights for me were painting ceramics, baking and indoor climbing. When I look back over the activities I did I realize I participated in heaps with a sporting focus.

Many of these lead me join a variety of sport teams, morning swim training and SIS swimming competitions, homestead sports carnivals, and weekly interschool sports were highlights. Some of the more unusual sports have also been heaps of fun . Somehow we even found ourselves to be the 2018 SIS intermediate girls’ indoor cricket champions.  

While I’ve been encouraged and supported to dive into new territories that stretched me personally/, I’ve also been supported to participate in programs where I give back.

For the last two years, I have spent my Tuesday afternoons at, The Brotherhood of St. Lawrence, Homework and Learning Club. Here we tutor Sudanese primary school students. I love helping them with their homework and working as a mentor.  This program isn’t about us providing a charity It’s a partnership, and I think I often get more out of the experience than my Sudanese buddies do. This opportunity has allowed me to learn more about the South Sudanese culture, develop leadership skills and learn how to collaborate with young people. The Learning Club is an amazing program I’m very grateful and proud to be a part of.

So if you’re standing here tonight  wondering how your son or your daughter is going to cope, especially if they struggle with anxiety, or if they are not so academic or not really out going…remember me. Remember my story of struggle, persistence and success.

I never believed that even half of what I’ve achieved/ would be possible back when I was in Year 7. I’m not sure what challenges will arise in my future, and while this idea used to terrify me, /I now feel confident about my capacity to overcome anything. My time at Woodleigh has taught me well.


I hope to see you all on Tuesday evening to learn more about Contextual Wellbeing with Dr Helen Street.

Yours in supporting & promoting positive wellbeing,

Director of Counselling