Student agency is definitely a buzz word in education at the moment and is connected to important educational issues such as student engagement and student achievement. In a school setting, student agency can be defined as the level of autonomy and power a student experiences; power to direct and take responsibility for aspects of learning and school life. Student agency can be exercised when students take the lead and direct learning. There is no greater example of this than student-led learning. Following the success of the student-led wellbeing session on International Women’s Day, the second student-led session on Mental Health took place last week. Senior students from each Pastoral Care group were inducted by Ms Kelly Hoinville-Catania (Student Empowerment Leader) about the content of the lesson and some advice around how to run the lesson to maximise the learning. The aims of the lesson were as follows:
- To raise awareness and understanding of mental health issues.
- To empower students to support themselves and others when in need.
- To launch The Push Up Challenge Campaign at Whitefriars.
The students began the lesson with a trivia quiz focussed on mental health facts, followed by an exploration of the term stigma. Two mental health conditions were also unpacked – anxiety and depression. The term mental health was compared to physical fitness which requires strengthening over time. Armed with this understanding, the next phase of the lesson focussed on how to improve one’s mental health. This culminated in the launch of the Push-Up Challenge whereby students and staff will attempt to do 3,144 push ups in the month of June. The number 3,144 is the number of Australians who died by suicide in 2021. Physical exercise is one way to strengthen our mental health, and this is the context which was presented to the students for this challenge.
This fantastic initiative doesn’t just happen. A huge thanks to Ms Kelly Hoinville-Catania and Mrs Katherine Smith (Learning Leader – Health and Physical Education) for their stewardship of this initiative and also to the senior students who had the courage to teach their Pastoral Group about this very important issue.
Mr Mick Lafferty
Deputy Principal – Students