The ongoing work of various organizations such as Jack.org have had an impact on society’s shifting perspective of mental health. There is more understanding around the importance of mental health; as well, while there is still more work to do, the stigma associated with mental health conditions is becoming less prevalent. Within our own SCS community, our student-led Wellness Committee and other student and staff ambassadors have worked hard to educate us all about mental health issues, share tools that help contribute to positive mental health, and reduce the stigma. This is very important for all of us, and particularly for youth who are navigating many things – family, community, school, their place in the world – and need environments in which they can be supported to do so.
At St. Clement’s, we have identified a strategic imperative of reimagining what it means to learn. This shift requires our students to know themselves and believe in their capacity to handle challenges and discomfort which, in turn, demands that we work to guide and support our Clementines as they acquire and use a figurative toolbox of strategies to maintain their well-being. SCS defines well-being as the balance between the challenges students face, and the resources they have to deal with those challenges.
We all learn and grow as a result of life experiences. I was reminded of the disconnect and frustration that adults can sometimes feel when they can see a path or an answer that children seem blind to when I was listening to an episode of a favourite podcast by Brené Brown entitled Unlocking Us. As Brown reminded me, “perspective is a function of experience.”
Our Clementines must be supported thoughtfully as they navigate the paths they are on. We cannot be the drivers or the path-clearers for them, as this won’t enable the necessary discomfort and challenge that strengthens their own capacity. What we can do, however, is act as their guides with helpful tips and strategies, ensuring that they know that we believe in them regardless of proverbial bumps, detours, and fender benders.
Imperative in this work is ensuring that the environment in which our students are learning is one where they feel known and, most importantly, valued. We must continually reflect on our processes, policies, and practices to ensure that every Clementine feels that they can access support without stigma. In addition, our entire community must be invested in a commitment to this equity.
As a school, we are committed to ensuring that we have the resources and information available to help our students learn and build their own toolboxes. While our LINCWell approach is central to this work, it also requires that our entire community understands and supports our belief in challenging our students to learn how to learn.
We have been fortunate over many years to have the support of our Parents’ Association in hosting our LINCWell Speaker Series. This has allowed the School to present a wide variety of speakers, who have helped to guide our students, staff, parents, and broader community – always in support of our strategic vision.
One speaker who has come to SCS several times, and who will be returning this month to meet with our Upper School students is Dr. Lisa Damour. Lisa is a thoughtful, honest, and wise expert on any number of topics affecting youth today. I encourage readers to explore her work and, in particular, her latest podcast entitled How Do I Boost Mental Health in 2022?
As we continue to navigate a particularly challenging time, SCS’s approach to learning, growth, and well-being will, I believe, help our students to develop tools and strategies for navigating through difficulties. While the path ahead is not straightforward, we are guiding and nurturing strong navigators.