Student leadership and well-being

28 November 2017

I’m all for student agency. Valuing student voice and decision making is key to creating a school that has placed well-being core to its culture.

Our Middle School leadership team recently had the opportunity to reflect on some generative questions around well-being at St Andrew’s, and asked students to ponder the following;

What do you see are the most exciting possibilities for improving student well-being at St Andrew’s College?

If you could develop or transform student well-being in any way you wished, what three things would you do?

A key theme that emerged from the students’ reflections was the appreciation of awards that focused on celebrating strength of character. For the students, a vital aspect of well-being was recognising diversity. Celebrating character was seen as important, as unlike academic and sporting awards, it focuses on the process, not the outcome.

Student leaders

Year 13 students celebrating the announcement of Lucy Gordon’s Developing Positive Relationships (DPR) award.

Students and staff value the awards we currently have in place related to character (you can always tell by the boisterous applause). We all love and celebrate the ‘good sort award’, developing positive relationships (DPR) award, and the trophy for making the largest academic improvement in the year group.

Thomas Pope-Kerr, a Year 11 leader, decided to run with this idea, and with zest and determination, he acted. Thomas’s vision was to give all Middle School students the opportunity to reflect on the character traits they most admired in another student. He decided that, this time, teachers would not do the nominations, as there is something valuable about students having the opportunity to spot strengths in their peers.

Thomas Pope-Kerr, student leader (right) with character award recipients Joe McIntosh (social intelligence) and Victoria Lee (perseverance and integrity).

Strowan Character Awards

The Student Character awards were carefully structured. All students were emailed a character feedback sheet with a selection of 11 different character strengths they could spot in others. We focused on and articulated character strengths like perseverance, creativity, social intelligence, kindness, humour, bravery, honesty, integrity, love of learning, teamwork and leadership.

Over 300 students submitted their reflections. And, aww, they were a joy to read.

Interestingly, the character strengths most spotted were (in order); kindness, humour, teamwork, integrity and perseverance.

Here is a tiny snippet (Year 9 and 10) for you to enjoy;

  • He is always kind to everybody and up for trying new things. He doesn’t steal the spotlight and lets other people shine above him.

  • She is extremely creative and is always coming up with creative new ideas.

  • He’s a down to earth, compassionate, kind and respectful person. He is really sincere and genuine, quirky and a great person to know and be around.

  • He works well in group tasks, he is willing to step up and take leadership. He is very co-operative and enjoys learning. He is kind and influences others to be nice to one another.

  • Honestly, the highlight of my high school years so far. When I first met him in Year 9 even though he was the new one to the school he made me feel welcome. Since then we have proceeded to become best friends and make great memories that I will treasure forever. Probably my favourite thing about him is his amazing energy and humour. He can lighten up any situation and make you feel on top of the world. Thank you.

  • Really humble and won’t tell a lot of people about her personal achievements.

  • He’s funny, intelligent and hard-working in class. He cares about other people not just himself, and helps people when they need help.

  • He is always up for a challenge and if he fails he tries again and again and again until he succeeds.

With the support of each year group dean, character awards were celebrated and shared with the year group.

Thomas’s initiative is an excellent example of student agency and leadership. At St Andrew’s, we value, encourage and support students who work as part of a team to bring about changes that align with our shared values. One thing I have learned, is that leadership is not about a position or role. It’s about intentionally engaging with others in a collaborative and relational process. And taking action. Thomas’s project is an excellent example of this.

I’m excited to see what other initiatives our students can drive and lead related to well-being. In the end, we want our Collegians to contribute to the (economic, social, environmental and political) well-being of society, so this is a great starting place.

You can read more about St Andrew’s process for collecting student voice here.

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