Wellbeing has been made a central focus at a Logan high school which is ensuring students have a voice in the way it is being addressed.
Mitchell Robertson, the Wellbeing Coordinator at Marsden State High School (MSHS), is a finalist in the Queensland College of Teachers Outstanding Contribution to School Community TEACHX Award for his outstanding leadership and his commitment to developing and implementing a school-wide wellbeing framework.
He has also presented at national and international conferences on the important issue.
MSHS collaborated with QUT in the ‘Wellbeing Matters’ project, which centred around a child’s right to participate and have a voice. With the help of QUT, Mr Robertson led a team of staff and facilitated a student inquiry group, whose feedback was utilised to create the wellbeing framework.
Mr Robertson is working on ways to continue to utilise feedback from students on the issues that matter to them, their wellbeing and learning, as the framework adapts to their ever-changing needs.
“Students really do understand what they want and need,” Mr Robertson said.
Having been in wellbeing roles across schools in two different states, Mr Robertson holds the view that it is harder being a teenager now than when he was one. His approach, passed on to him by a social worker he worked with in Victoria, is to be “curious not furious,” when trying to support and guide them through difficult behaviour and challenging times.
“I was doing some reading around positive psychology and wellbeing. I started to see the need, particularly in some of the schools I was working in,” he said.
Mr Robertson places an emphasis on teaching real-life skills to students as a result. These include being punctual, time management, having good manners, good communication and problem solving skills. He also believes that with the world changing, wellbeing is of more importance than ever.
“This is a really important agenda that we need to be driving with our young people in today’s society. Particularly with the impact that social media is having on teens these days, with some of them not having the adequate skills and tools necessary to navigate and use that the various platforms effectively. Youth today don’t even really know themselves well enough, who they want to be and how to be, so they have to put on these different masks for different parts of their lives: their social media masks, their school day masks, amongst others,” he said.
Through studying wellbeing Mr Robertson is teaching students they “can make better decisions around how they interact in life in different situations and the skills that they can draw on to be healthy and happy citizens in an increasingly complex society.”
Mr Robertson also believes teaching is all about relationships—that it’s important to build networks with your fellow teachers to help you solve problems and it’s important to build rapport and trust with students.
“One thing that I think is really powerful is telling your own story,” the HPE teacher said.
“I think storytelling can be so impactful in teaching. I’m not afraid to tell my own story with students as a way of connecting with them. If I’m trying to teach them about resilience, I will tell them my own stories when I’ve faced a challenge or a setback and what I needed to do to overcome that, who I went to, and what were the steps that helped me bounce back,” he said.
Years ago, at the end of his exercise science degree, with a job already lined up, Mr Robertson broke his leg in two places. He said it pushed him more quickly towards teaching, and as soon as he started, he realised he loved making an impact on students’ lives.
As a finalist, Mr Robertson received $500 for professional development.