“We are preparing children for a future that we cannot see". This statement, told to me during my teacher training, has always stuck with me. The Reception children I teach now will reach adulthood in the 2040s. Who can say what the world will be?
When I first entered the classroom, it was apparent to me that what my students really needed was a set of skills that would help them adapt and thrive in an unknown future. I entered the profession with a deep sense of responsibility to this future generation. They would need to be flexible, they would need to safeguard the wellbeing of themselves and those around them and above all, they would need to be empowered to feel able to instigate significant change.
3 weeks before I started my first teaching position in Melbourne, Australia, the state was struck with the devastating bushfires and was later coined ‘Black Summer’. 8 weeks later, the pandemic began. 3 months after that, George Floyd was publicly murdered, exposing the grasp of institutional racism upon our societies. As I grappled with how to teach my students the core subjects online, I felt preoccupied with what I was doing to help them navigate these life-changing global events that were saturating our newsfeeds and reshaping our world.
Enter School 360. Here, we lead with a whole school approach that ensures we are providing students with the emotional and psychological tools they need to navigate the real-world issues that shape our society. Children are prepared for an unpredictable future in a myriad of ways, all of which are embedded into the school’s curriculum (Head, Heart, Hand), our values, and, quite simply, ‘the way we do’. This unique culture was evident from the minute I set foot in the door. From my first CPD, where we participated in an anti-racism and social justice workshop, to the weekly pastoral meetings where we discuss, in depth, the challenges faced by our students. All this helps me navigate the complexities of shaping tiny humans and everything going on for them inside and outside of school.
Further to this, at School 360, student wellbeing is no tick box exercise. Mindfulness is another great example of how our approach is authentically carved into our day-to-day. Wellbeing, the values curriculum, inclusion; these are all given the same importance as the core subjects. We are encouraged to take time covering these components, but also, significant time and effort is taken to weave the values into our daily routines. Equally, the school works hard to properly equip staff to lead the charge on an effective and genuine wellbeing approach. Before I began in September, I completed an 8-week mindfulness course so that I would be ready to guide my Reception children through their daily practice. I remember vividly the first time I observed one of my students close her eyes, place a hand on stomach and chest, and slowly breathe as a way to ground herself, unprompted. The memory gives me tingles. We are doing something really good here.
As a teacher at School 360 I feel confident that I am doing the very best for my students. My best intentions alone are not enough to prepare them for the future, as they say: ‘it takes a village’. However, with the school, its values, its culture and its community behind me, I am empowered and developed to be the teacher I want to be, that I need to be, if we are to ensure our students survive and thrive whatever is to come.
Claudia Bellwood, Reception teacher at School 360