Principal Marc Light looks at the camera, he is wearing a grey suit and smiling. The King David School's logo is behind him, silver on a wood background.

Insights: Equipping staff to support our students

Last Friday our staff participated in our annual Student Wellbeing Conference which was made possible thanks to the Debbie Stach Memorial Fund. The conference involves targeted professional development which is focused on supporting our staff to best meet the wellbeing needs of our students.

Our school prioritises the wellbeing of our students as we believe that a student with strong social and emotional skills who is connected to their peers and their teachers, is well placed to thrive in their learning.

We have developed an evidence-based student wellbeing program that responds to the developmental needs of our students and explicitly teaches particular skills and shares vital information that are considered imperative for students of that age and stage.

Our expert wellbeing teachers are trained in the implementation of this program and we offer discrete wellbeing classes throughout the entirety of a student’s schooling.

In addition to these classes, we have a belief that every teacher is also a wellbeing teacher. This is because every class relies on opportunities to support our students’ social and emotional development and particular wellbeing challenges do not limit themselves to a particular period or lesson.

As such, we see it as vital to train all of our staff in student wellbeing and our annual conference is an opportunity to do so.

This year’s conference theme was “Help me, Help you”. This was taken from a line in the classic 1996 film, Jerry Maguire. Vice Principal Student Wellbeing, David Opat, explained that this referenced dual goals for the conference – to provide teachers with the skills to support their own wellbeing and to also focus on the particular needs of students.

The conference began with a whole staff session of Tai Chi which was used as a means of demonstrating the power of mindfulness to all of our staff. While our school incorporates opportunities for mindful practices daily – through a dedicated period for Junior School students after lunch break and for Magid Campus students in morning Kesher – it is important that we also equip our entire staff with an understanding of these benefits.

Following this, we heard a keynote from psychologist, Nicki Lefkovits, who gave a far reaching overview of many of the typical challenges that students face and the best evidence-based strategies that support them.

Staff were then able to select from an array of workshops which included topics such as understanding trauma and its impacts in the classroom; guided meditation; supporting students to develop a positive body image and healthy self esteem; anxiety in the classroom; work-life balance; and engendering altruism across the School.

The final session of the day was a fascinating panel discussion chaired by Magid Campus Student Wellbeing Coordinator, Chaine Stock. Chanie directed questions to a range of community members who experience high stress situations regularly. These included a paramedic, a theatre stage manager, an emergency paediatric specialist and a social worker who is also a mother with three very young children.

The panel offered tremendous insights into how they cope with stress in their daily lives and their tips and tricks were instructive for all of our staff.

Surveys place school teaching as among the most stressful and challenging of occupations and this was evident in the comments of the panel participants, and other conference presenters who regularly mentioned being in awe of teachers.

It was also noted that while this was commonly expressed during the COVID lockdowns, when parents were privy to the extraordinary professionalism, compassion and work ethic of school staff, that the reverence for teachers has subsequently diminished in public discourse.

I hope all readers respond positively to this gentle nudge encouraging you to let our teachers know how much you appreciate them.

The Student Wellbeing Conference is an important day in our school calendar. It allows us to focus all our staff on developing the knowledge and skills to care for themselves and for our precious students.

Shabbat Shalom,