At MCM, we would like parents to be fully aware of what we are doing to support pupils Wellbeing, why we are doing this and what can be done at home in order to bring maximum benefit to our pupils. This is one element of our commitment to incorporate aspects of positive psychology within our wider curriculum so we are thoroughly preparing our pupils for successful and purposeful futures, whatever they choose to do with their lives.
There is no shortage of relevant issues we wish to share with you so you are better informed about what we are doing to develop ‘life skills’ such as confidence, character, kindness, compassion and resilience at MCM. In doing so I hope you can better see how we are providing a foundation which will help your child to flourish and also inform you on things that can be done at home to help embed these life skills in your child.
Growing up in the modern & digital world is not easy and the pressures on young people today are manifold and complex. There are, however, tremendous opportunities available to those who are prepared for the challenges ahead: who look to learn new things, who build positive relationships, who make positive contributions to the lives of others and the environment; who lead healthy lives, who can express feelings and emotions, who celebrate their own successes and the successes of others. At MCM we recognise we are educating leaders of the future and all of the above are required if they are to lead with distinction and be happy in the process. All of this will be made easier if the messages from MCM and from home are consistent and clear in terms of establishing this foundation for future flourishing.
I hope 2019 ended well and the new decade has started on a positive note for you and your family. To enable us to work together to help your son/daughter flourish at MCM and in later life we are starting a regular weekly blog/podcast on a variety of Wellbeing based matters. We want parents to be fully aware of what we are doing to support pupils Wellbeing, why we are doing this and what can be done at home in order to bring maximum benefit to our pupils. This is one element of our commitment to incorporate aspects of positive psychology within our wider curriculum so we are thoroughly preparing our pupils for successful and purposeful futures, whatever they choose to do with their lives. We are launching the Wellbeing blog/podcast initiative knowing that we are building on an extremely strong foundation in terms of:
- The quality of the content and delivery of Wellbeing lessons at every stage in MCM. We believe this is as strong as any programme running in any school worldwide and are delighted this has been recognised with MCM being one of three schools nominated for the Council for Overseas British International Schools ‘Wellbeing in Education’ award (the ceremony is in London later this month).
- The way in which pupils are encouraged to reflect on key aspects of their wellbeing (e.g. sleep, exercise, diet, relationships) so they learn to take responsibility for looking after themselves.
- The opportunities provided outside the classroom so pupils can grow in confidence and character through leading clubs and societies, organising and contributing to Charity & Outreach events, establishing or contributing to House or Year group events or simply being good active citizens and friends to others.
- Our firmly established holistic IB learner profile which provides a framework for pupils to develop academically, creatively, socially and culturally.
- The positive relationship the College enjoys with parents, formally organised through Friends of MCM. The events arranged by Friends of MCM helps bring us together as a community for the benefit of our pupils. This is exactly what we are setting out to do through the weekly Wellbeing blog/podcast and we greatly appreciate the support from Friends of MCM.
The regular blogs and podcasts will normally include contributions from relevant staff, from pupils and from parents who have expressed an interest within the topic. There will also be requests for feedback so we can plan:
- articles to publish at particular times and adapt content to address parental requests.
- for parents to be involved in providing content for particular blogs and/or podcasts.
- relevant events organised for (and with) parents.
In many ways, this can be seen as an extension of the information provided to the parents who attended the Friends of MCM Coffee Morning in Taylor House in May. At that event staff were available for discussion on what we were doing in the following fields and why we were focusing on these issues:
- Overview of Wellbeing courses taught in Prep and Senior School
- The importance and benefits of sleep
- Health circulars and diet advice from our Health Centre
- Exercise programmes across Prep & Senior School
- Benefits of reading for pleasure and wellbeing
- How we support the emotional & mental health of our pupil body and train our pupils in looking after themselves and others
- Climbing & the College Farm as two activities that can boost self-esteem and be of significant therapeutic benefit
- How boarding can make a positive contribution to Wellbeing
- How to promote Wellbeing amongst Pre-Prep pupils
- Staying safe online
The feedback from this event (from parents and from the staff who participated) was extremely positive as it was from a similar coffee morning in Honan House in Summer Term. This, together with further discussion with Friends of MCM and additional parental comments, give us confidence that there is an appetite for weekly blogs/podcasts on Wellbeing related items.
The following potential topics for blogs/podcasts came out of a recent meeting of College staff who have either been involved in Wellbeing planning or in developing our strategic commitment to integrate the principles of positive psychology within our wider curriculum. As you will see there is no shortage of relevant issues we wish to share with you so you are better informed about what we are doing to develop ‘life skills’ such as confidence, character, kindness, compassion and resilience at MCM. In doing so I hope you can better see how we are providing a foundation which will help your child to flourish and also inform you on things that can be done at home to help embed these life skills in your child.
Growing up in the modern & digital world is not easy and the pressures on young people today are manifold and complex. There are, however, tremendous opportunities available to those who are prepared for the challenges ahead: who look to learn new things, who build positive relationships, who make positive contributions to the lives of others and the environment; who lead healthy lives, who can express feelings and emotions, who celebrate their own successes and the successes of others. At MCM we recognise we are educating leaders of the future and all of the above are required if they are to lead with distinction and be happy in the process. All if this will be made easier if the messages from MCM and from home are consistent and clear in terms of establishing this foundation for future flourishing.
Mr Magnus Cowie | Deputy Head Pastoral
This term we will be covering a wide range of topics at a level that is age-appropriate and informed by the current issues affecting our pupils. Outline content of part of the programme that will be delivered this term is explained below and the mapping to the principles of Positive Education and ‘Strive to Flourish’.
Across the whole of Prep School during the Lent Term, we focus on ‘Relationships’ in Wellbeing sessions. In Pre Prep we look at relationships with regards to the different communities we are part of, how to be a good friend, sharing and conflict resolution. In Lower Prep (Y3 & Y4) expressing and managing feelings, friendships and dealing with loss. In Y5 and Y6 the theme of Relationships also includes recognising and understanding how we are growing and changing, including puberty; as well as personal hygiene and changing feelings. Teaching about puberty before children experience it is essential to ensure that pupils’ physical, emotional and learning needs are met and that they have the correct information about how to take care of their bodies and keep themselves safe. In Y7 & Y8 pupils will learn about healthy relationships, including friendships and intimate relationships; families; changing feelings and becoming more independent. Across the whole school, we embed the concepts of keeping ourselves safe as well as developing self-esteem and confidence.
In Hundred we are focusing on Positive Purpose, more specifically ‘Digital Literacy and Revision Skills’.
This term revisits some of the online safety topics covered in the Shell before moving on to cover more digital literacy skills to allow pupils to maximise the benefits that can be found from using technology, while ensuring they remain productive. They will also explore data protection and the idea of a digital footprint, supported by Common Sense Education Digital Citizenship resources. Prior to leaving for the Easter break pupils will dedicate time to developing their revision skills ahead of the IGCSE examinations.
In Remove the focus in on Positive Emotions with regard to ‘Mental Health and Empathy’.
This term lessons initially focus on recognising and dealing with our own emotions before moving on to consider the importance of emotional intelligence in our relationships with others and the importance of forgiveness. A debate on the relative importance of EQ (Emotional Quotient) vs IQ is a highlight of the term. Pupils complete the ‘VIA Character Strengths’ survey and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of personality profiling. Pupils also explore different mental health conditions and consider the role of empathy in forming positive relationships.
Shell are learning about Positive Engagement in relation to ‘Online Safety’ and ‘Staying Connected’.
Having touched on social media during the Michaelmas term in the context of identity, the first sequence of lessons focuses on staying safe online and the potential hazards of internet usage, supported by Common Sense Education Digital Citizenship resources. Pupils will move on to consider the theme of connections, exploring the role that the internet may play in this and how to deal with, and help others deal with, loneliness.
An important element (and common across Prep and Senior School) is the wellbeing tracker, an opportunity for pupils to consider tangible factors which contribute to their overall wellbeing. Each week, pupils from Year 5 through to U6 are asked to reflect and comment upon the seven areas below, information which is then shared with tutors and HMs. Year 3 and Year 4 are introduced to this reflective process through similar principles using a simplified tracker. This information informs conversations between beaks and pupils and also gives pupils a heightened awareness of areas which they can address to improve their overall sense of wellbeing. Pupils comment that this is the aspect of Wellbeing lessons which they themselves find most helpful.
Why has the Sani become the Health Centre?
This is a question that has been asked by a number of pupils, parents and staff. It is one that merits a detailed answer and I will endeavour to provide this below, together with some details on the operation of our Health Centre which has been provided by our Health Centre Manager, Mrs Rak Kaur.
Enabling every pupil to flourish at Marlborough College Malaysia is a considerable challenge but one we are fully committed toward. A key aspect of pupils flourishing is giving them the guidance and framework to be healthy in body and mind. Our Health Centre plays a crucial part in this. You may have noticed that we no longer use the term Sani. This ‘rebranding’ is to reflect our commitment to a proactive and preventative approach to health rather than solely reacting to illness. We are extremely grateful to our Health Centre for all they do to help our pupils (and staff) to flourish.
The Health Centre is located beside Court and is staffed by our seven fully trained nurses. The team in the Health Centre are fully involved in the life of the College and play a major role in promoting positive health for all pupils and staff, as well as treating pupils who are unwell. Primary care and routine treatments are carried out in the Health Centre, however, the nurses spend a significant amount in various locations around campus giving guidance and treatment to maintain good health.
During school days, there is a duty nurse who attends to all pupils as required around the campus, in the Prep and Pre-Prep schools and also on the field. In the first instance, pupils will be assessed and treated by a First Aider who may call the duty nurse to attend if needed. The majority of the staff members in Marlborough College Malaysia are certified First Aid providers.
In the event that a day pupil requires further treatment by a doctor or at a hospital, parents will be contacted and advised to make arrangements for this. However, in the event of an emergency, the school will arrange for transport or an ambulance will be called, and a member of staff will accompany the pupil to hospital. Under these circumstances, parents will be contacted and informed of action and asked to meet at the hospital.
For boarders, all Hospital Outpatient treatment and other appointments are monitored by the Health Centre and transport arranged by Health Centre staff. A Dame will normally accompany the boarders to hospital and doctor appointments. Remedies, including over-the-counter medicines (OCMs) such as Paracetamol, are provided by the Health Centre under controlled conditions.
The operation of the Health Centre promotes wellbeing so pupils are aware of health risks and are encouraged to make choices which set them up for healthy and fulfilling lives. This is evident from the care within the Centre, the input our Health Centre staff have into Wellbeing lessons, First Aid activities, assemblies, various trips, activities, games sessions, fixtures and in the posters they have displayed around campus to promote healthy habits.
In many instances, illness is a physical manifestation of psychological issues, for example headaches and stomach pains can be due to stress or feeling of overloading, rather than symptoms of a physical illness. Often our nurses discuss with the pupil how stress can manifest itself as physical symptoms, they identify the root cause and give the pupil coping strategies, rather than medication. Most often, headaches and tiredness are due to dehydration, and the nurses will discuss the relevant physiology with the pupil and explain the importance of hydration, normally negating the need for any medication.
We believe that our rebranding of Sani to Health Centre, shows a clear commitment to modernise perception of health, encourage positive thoughts of wellness and change the focus on illnesses per se.
Our move to one Health Centre generally allows nurses to work closely together as a team rather than work in relative isolation; although at times the nurses are located in Pre-Prep, Prep and boarding houses depending on the activities taking place.
The Health Centre Manager visits our boarding houses on a weekly rotation basis to coordinate and deliver talks that encompasses aspects of positive health and pupil well-being. Positive health education is also offered as activity sessions and in classroom learning sessions by the Health Centre Manager.
We believe that mental health should be recognised as equally important to physical health in the development, delivery and provision of health care. Mental health and physical health are inextricably linked. The nature of this relationship is two-way, with mental health influencing physical health and vice versa. A number of medical conditions have been linked to stress, such as irritable bowel syndrome, asthma and migraines. Likewise, stronger immune function has been associated with high levels of social support and resilience.
In recognition of this, our College Counsellor, Mrs Cathy Stronach, is based in the Health Centre and is a crucial member of the team which works together to help our pupils (and staff) to flourish. Although based in the Health Centre, Ms Cathy is a regular visitor to Prep School, boarding houses, assemblies and all around site as she extends care to all. There are clear communication channels across the entire College between the Health Centre team, Pastoral and Academic Managers, that enable us to nurture healthy bodies and healthy minds across the campus.
In summary, we have one Health Centre as we believe it is better to be proactive in our approach to health rather than being reactive. We focus on developing habits which will keep people well whilst also treating those who are poorly at any time. This can only be effective if there is a highly trained team who provide treatment with a smile and recognise the value of positive relationships. We are very fortunate to have such a team and value all they do in helping our pupils to flourish in college and in life.
As I welcome parents into Honan on the first day of a new academic year I always remind them that their daughter’s health and happiness is my main concern, with the rest often falling into place once a child is truly flourishing i.e. in a state of optimal well-being. Flourishing is something that the Positive Education approach puts great emphasis on, as well as positive relationships, emotions, health, engagement, accomplishment and purpose. Achieving this state of self-actualisation in every child is no mean feat, but the values of Positive Education are embedded in a Marlborough education and putting pupil well-being at the centre of all we do at MCM is not a new philosophy. I thought it appropriate to reflect on how we foster a Positive Education in boarding at MCM and what a privilege it is to be a part of something so special.
Honan prides itself on the positive relationships that exist within our little kampung and beyond and never have I witnessed a more openly caring and considerate environment between the girls in a boarding House. Gone are the days of a hierarchy between year groups and this has been replaced by mutual respect between the girls, and a real embodiment of the three Cs: Compassion, Conversation and Companionship. All the Houses prioritise the celebration of pupil success during our weekly House assemblies, and each is unique in the qualities they value in its members. The overarching themes put an emphasis on integrity, first and foremost, but also resilience, when life does not quite go to plan or mistakes, are made. Our #onecollege ethos creates an environment where our Senior pupils are wonderful role models for the Prep School pupils and this can be illustrated by Taylor’s character strength panels which celebrate qualities such as leadership and teamwork by creating an environment where younger pupils can ask questions and discuss these strengths in detail.
Fostering House spirit is an important role of a housemaster of housemistress and it is no accident that the House Singing competitions fall within the first half of a new academic year. House Shout is a whole House event, which involves each and every pupil getting up on stage and singing together. Not only is singing together a wonderfully uplifting experience, but the competitive element breeds comradery, teamwork and collaboration. Many rehearsals later, the excitement and nerves are tangible as the boarding houses battle it out on stage – winning is first on the pupils’ agenda, but it is the feeling of belonging and purpose that is so vital to every pupil’s emotional well-being: each and every pupil has no choice but to engage, Disney smiles and all.
Health and well-being is a common theme to MCM and it is not only the outstanding sports programme on offer, or the well-researched and innovative Well-Being curriculum, but the boarding house routine is centred around enabling healthy habits to be embedded into the pupils’ days. The dame’s dorm checks ensure that the pupils’ day starts with the simple, yet important, task of making one’s bed. The pupil’s hand in their devices before bedtime, allowing them to learn the correlation between separating themselves from technology and a good night’s sleep. Bedtimes are staggered to ensure that pupils have the opportunity for enough sleep for their age and Honan’s ‘early to bed’ Wednesday night, where the house is quiet from 9:45 pm, has become something to look forward to for the girls and beaks. It happens to also be ‘bed sheet change’ night too – is there anything finer than fresh sheets and an early night? In Honan, we put an emphasis on gratitude being a precursor to happiness and we enjoy celebrating the simple pleasures in life. Our book of gratitude gets passed from girl to girl each week, filled with happy scribblings of the week’s highlights and those small things we value, or rather should remember to value. We talk openly about emotions and are honest about being fallible and human, and when emotions get the better of us there is always someone to talk to, whether a peer, a girl’s tutor, one of the resident team or Ms Cathy. When OMCMs visit and tell me about their university experiences, it is the people and the sense of belonging that they miss. The community at MCM is second to none and what a privilege it is to be a part of MCM’s family.
For me, I feel like the most important aspect about boarding which has enabled me to flourish is socialising with people. It has helped me in getting acquainted as well as having tolerance with those around me. Multiple experiences shared, like house competitions, make me understand people better with deep empathy and realise that we come from different up-bringings. This has shaped me into a person that appreciates life while having my self-confidence boosted.
– Remove Pupil
I think the most important aspect of boarding which has enabled me to flourish is social interaction and the opportunity to socialise with everyone and anyone in the House. There is always someone to help me solve problems and it’s not only about academics, but also simply about my well-being. The boarding activities that we take part in like House Shout have allowed me to gain more self-confidence. Also, with many activities being run in the boarding community, this has allowed me to experience many things that I normally wouldn’t indulge in.
– Upper Sixth Pupil
The most important aspect about boarding which has enabled me to flourish has to be the support of my peers, house tutors and HM. This is because being in 6th form can be overwhelming and being able to go back to House to speak to tutors and the HM about work or even just how your day went can make a really big difference in your mood and this can improve your personal wellbeing. The support of tutors and peers has allowed me to strive to be a better person myself and also flourish in my academics, sports, social life and so much more. Being far away from parents can be hard sometimes and the tutors and peers are always there to support and listen to you in the boarding community and for me, that is the best trait about being in a boarding community. The kind of love and care you receive in Honan house is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
– Lower Sixth Pupil
In my opinion, the most important aspect about boarding is the strong support system provided for pupils (especially new pupils) as well as the disciplined routine instilled in boarding houses. Boarding provides a strong support system for me to open up about my problems and seek advice either from my tutor, peer mentors, friends in the boarding house or the housemistress. Having a disciplined routine also helps me to become more efficient, productive and punctual in my day-to-day life. This helps me to develop essential life-skills and prepare me for the future.
– Upper 6th Pupil
Our aim within the MCM games programme is to support each pupil’s health and wellbeing by using exercise as the vehicle. We offer every pupil the opportunity to participate in an activity of their choice that will provide the opportunity to improve both their physical health and their understanding of a ‘Healthy Body’. Furthermore, backed by empirical evidence, a focus on physical health has a positive effect on the individual’s overall wellbeing. This will, in turn, lead to pupils establishing and fostering positive approaches to studying and relationships within the busy and vibrant environment here at MCM.
In recent years we have developed an exceptional culture of morning exercise by offering a multitude of activities within the sports programme. Pupils can access swimming, basketball, tennis and/or a derivative of physical conditioning, with daily sessions involving: Speed (Pace), Strength (Beast mode; Fortius), Power (H.E.A.T), Girls-only sessions (Sweat) or Boys-only sessions (Gainz).
Whilst morning clubs are a small part of the overall sports programme, it does carry significant importance in an attempt to start the day with a positive mindset. The opportunity to release feel-good chemicals, endorphins can set you up for a great day ahead.
Tommy (Remove Pupil) – “I attend the ‘Pace’ and ‘Heat’ morning clubs and although getting out of bed can be a challenge, they both put me in a great mindset to work just as hard throughout the day.”
Jemima (Shell Pupil) – “Every Tuesday I attend ‘Pace’, a club designed to improve my speed. Each week I push myself harder and the results do always show; whether it’s on the athletics track or the sports field running for a try. It is a great way to learn that you can always improve and Pace is a gateway to that mindset.”
At MCM, we pride ourselves on the education we provide. Within our sports programme, we value and encourage the exploration of self-discovery and improvement. Understanding how the body moves efficiently and learning your own movement capabilities is essential for a lifelong interest in Health and Wellbeing.
In business and in sport the buzz words of ‘positive culture’ or ‘winning culture’ often stem from a clear purpose and an understanding of what you are trying to achieve. In an attempt to further embed our initiative of becoming the best athletic development school in southeast Asia, we introduced and educated our Sixth Form pupils to ASCA (Australia Strength and Conditioning Association) Level 1 coaching. Whilst every practitioner promotes exercise to our pupils, having student peers endorse this positive culture is always more powerful and sustainable when establishing long term motivation and success. Sixth Form pupils have actively advocated participating in the clubs programme in order to improve. The passion and enthusiasm that all the coaches bring to sessions have enabled our pupils to become fitter, stronger and faster.
We are educating our pupils in planning their training and work schedule to think about what is best for their overall development throughout the week. Learning to prioritise and self-regulate your training load is a huge skill to master as you approach adulthood. One other addition that is often noted in the business world is having strong ‘soft skills’ within the workplace. Developing character strengths, such as integrity, responsibility and leadership is often more achievable when placed in a sporting environment. The affordances that team sports’ create are often hard to replicate within a classroom. These ‘soft skills’ long term will carry our pupils much further than the sports field, although it is a great place to start!
Akmal (I.B. Student, ASCA Level 1 Coach) – “Being a student coach is both exciting and challenging. Whilst I do have my own training programme to keep up with, I also help out other students using my sports science knowledge that I gained through the ASCA coaching course. Altogether, this experience has very much improved my communication and time-management skills.”
Finally improvement. What are we actually trying to improve that will contribute towards a ‘Healthy Body, Healthy Mind’?
A research study commissioned by the Headmasters’ & Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), noted that sport and exercise have been proven to have ‘lots of positive benefits that impact the pupils’. The study undertaken within the Psychology department at the University of Huddersfield by Professor Peter Clough observed thousands of pupils from across 289 of the most prestigious UK schools. The research stated that during stressful periods, such as exams. Pupils recorded a positive improvement in academic performance when participating in sport, which was often contrary to the belief of many.
The study stated, “the pupils were happier, psychologically healthier, less anxious and more resilient and robust”. The study found a significant relationship between involvement in sport and mental toughness, as well as a positive association between sport and psychological wellbeing.
The evidence combined with the programme we have established witnesses pupils’ choosing to participate in activities before, during and after school. This is a pleasure to be part of, as we get to observe the positive effects regular exercise has on our pupils. Creating confident, resilient, and robust young people in both the classroom and outside on the sports field is one of our notable ambitions here at MCM.
Mr Scott (Head of Chemistry; regular morning club attendee) – “attending morning clubs has given me a chance to see pupils demonstrating grit, resilience, and teamwork at a time of day when most people are still sleeping. The camaraderie on show between pupils and beaks (and we are all equals on the track) has certainly helped me develop my working relationships with the pupils who attend. Morning clubs are a key part of my weekly routine and a significant boost to my well-being and mindset in general.”
What is Digital wellbeing and how do we promote it?
Digital wellbeing is being a confident and competent user of modern technology whilst also being equipped to flourish in life. We pride ourselves on this not being unique to our Wellbeing lessons but spanning across a number of areas in the College, from discussing ways to managing the demands of a busy work schedule, to relaxing, as well as embracing compassionate relationships with friends and family.
All staff support our learners by discussing and acknowledging challenges surrounding the use of the “digital devices”. Whilst the aim of using digital technology is focused on becoming digitally literate, digital learning at MCM has also evolved to empower pupils to be mindful of their technology use and to support them in establishing a healthy balance of device use,
As such digital wellbeing is explored through Digital Citizenship, which includes Social media usage and online presence, effective screen-time use and balancing digital usage, as well as promotin good digital habits.
As a parent I can identify with the comment and frustration that siblings can spend too much time on their devices and are not engaged with their surroundings. Whilst this is supported by certain sections of the media who emphasize research such as Raja, R. & Nagasubramani, P. (2018) who suggest that “Being ever-connected to the online world has resulted in lack of focus and concentration in academics”. This is a complex subject and a balanced view should be sought, as can be highlighted by Przybylski, A. K., & Weinstein, N. (2017) “moderate use of digital technology is not intrinsically harmful and may be advantageous in a connected world.” Their 2017 research surveyed 120,000 15 years olds in the UK and the results may surprise some. In testing the digital “Goldilocks hypothesis” they concluded that there is a tipping point where moderate becomes overuse, varying between weekdays and weekends (from 3hrs 41 minutes to 4hrs 17 minutes during the week playing games and watching video, increasing to 3hrs 35 minutes to 4hrs 50 minutes at weekends) and only after these time periods would overuse have a negative effect on wellbeing.
Whilst this is certainly not a one size fits all model and times would vary for younger pupils, one of our focal points with pupils is on creating content (being active) rather than mindless consumption (passively) using their iPad, MacBook or Smartphone. The temptation can be to pacify oneself with YouTube video and Social Media, endlessly scrolling, or allow ourselves to be distracted by digital technology by a stream of notifications. As such wellbeing lessons, assemblies, form times and many other conversations will continue to focus on how pupils utilise their screen-time effectively, by using built in screen timers on their apple devices and empowering our pupils to limit their own screen-time.
Having said that a 2019 paper published by Ulrik Lyngs named “putting self control at the centre of digital wellbeing” outlines a number of digital self-control tools that can be used, which we have discussed and suggest to all pupils.
Feedback from a recent Screen time assembly delivered to the Sixth form:
Upper Sixth pupil –
“I am more conscious of my screen time since the assembly and I have spent less time on my phone and in particular social media. I decided to use a digital timer (Forest App) during my IB mock preparations, as well as deleting my social media Apps, which helped reduce my distractions when I was revising.
Digital citizenship and creativity
Digi dudes launched last month in both the Prep and Senior School activity program, following the whole school migration to the Google platform. The main aim is to embrace pupils’ passion for creativity whilst, also educating themselves and other members of the community about digital technology. Google’s wellbeing page states “we believe technology should improve life, not distract from it” which is central to the digital wellbeing aim of MCM, and supporting the pupils in developing their toolkit to support learning. All three groups have been researching and focusing on what makes a good digital citizen.
Feedback from a sixth form girl, who created this poster to share with prep school pupils:
“When I first heard about ‘digital citizenship’ during one Digi Dudes session, I had no idea what it was. I found out more about it from aeseducation.com; it concisely explains what ‘digital citizenship’ means, as well as providing guidance on how to teach it to students. Nevertheless, I figured that this website is not suitable for a younger audience as it is made for teaching purposes. Hence, this motivates me to create a simple poster that can help a younger audience to grasp what it means to be a digital citizen.”
Digital habits at home
Good digital habits start in the home and we aim to get the wider MCM community to achieve a balance within their digital well being. We have spoken about mechanisms by which we can control our use of digital technology, which centres around forming good habits. The graphic below indicates some of those key behaviours in which we can help to create good study habits at school.
What action can we all take?
In January we introduced the Common Sense Media Educator programme to all staff at MCM. Common Sense media resources are being used in wellbeing lessons, tutor times and assemblies to support pupil and staff understanding of some of the challenges that can surround the use of digital technology. The links below will give you a better idea of where you can start or add to the ways in which you already support your child with their digital wellbeing.
MCM is invested in good quality research to guide our policies, as well as the conversation with parents about the needs of the pupil. The Common Sense media website also focuses on a number of aspects of digital research and helps to explain how all of our digital habits are changing.
Google has also launched an online support program called “Be internet awesome”. It covers the fundamentals of digital citizenship, as well as a game called Interland which challenges children across a range of levels throughout this online adventure.
Media Mentor Month:
MMM is in its 3rd year and focussing on conversation between adults and children on how to use their devices responsibly. Please view the March Media Month calendar which is taken from Keri Lee Beasley website “Tip of the Iceberg” which contains a wealth of information about positive parenting, teaching and use of digital technology. https://kerileebeasley.com/. Her views are very balanced and well researched, and I particularly like her blog post on Media Mentors, not Media Police. https://kerileebeasley.com/2018/02/14/media-mentors-not-media-police/
I hope you enjoy March Media Month and that it inspires you to balance digital use in your family and further conversation about digital wellbeing.
“It is not who you are but what you do.” Character strengths are tools we use at any given moment to behave in the right way in difficult situations. Examples of character strengths are qualities such as: perseverance (grit), leadership, teamwork, self-regulation, kindness and social intelligence. I talked with a Head recently and he highlighted the process, the ‘extra’ effort at the often incremental and important moments which defined success (or failure) further down the line. He said,
“The lesson is simple: we have to commit in the present, and somehow trust that our efforts will count in the future.”
The reason I start with the idea of moments defining us, is that our awareness and experience of character strengths helps us cope with, build on and learn from these moments. But how to embed character strengths in our home environment and in school? A good starting point is asking yourself, “When at your best what do you draw on most?” It is about knowing, developing and utilizing what is right with your best strengths. I recommend taking the VIA Character Strengths survey. Whilst the questions could be perceived in several ways and are dependent on what memory you are drawing from, in general, the same strengths will appear in the top half. The ones at the bottom of the list of 24 are not weaknesses but strengths which have not been used as much yet!
I recently completed a course on embedding character strengths and we did a ‘speed dating’ task where we had to listen to another person talk about a recent event for one minute and in that time we had to highlight the character strengths they used in that ‘moment’. It was an enlightening task and something you can do with a group of youngsters for fun or when you have a quiet moment with one or doing a chore at home. How did they behave at their best? Which strength did they use? Deliberately identifying strengths in their behaviour is a more proactive approach than purely focussing on negative aspects.
“We often forget that, for many children, academic learning is not a primary, natural or valued task. It is the positive relationships and sense of belonging that a good school culture provides that gives these children the comfort, confidence, competence and motivation to learn.”
– Dr James Comer, 2005
What better way than through MCM’s 3C’s – Compassion, Companionship and Conversation and to which we could add – Courage and Creativity.
Wellbeing at the College is being thrust into the limelight as a fundamental and essential narrative for our community to thrive and the culture surrounding it only serves to benefit the teaching and learning that goes on in and around our campus. To embed this language, which is guided by character strengths, we take an approach which does not seek to dismiss failure, or suppress negative emotions, but celebrates the learning that comes from accessing and acknowledging these common threads to being purposeful, grounded and well balanced. The approach we are advocating is a strengths-based approach which this article sums up very well and is relevant to us as parents and teachers – How to be a strength-based parent
A strength is only a strength if it is used productively to move you forwards. Bravery, love and compassion are all too easily referred to, or dismissed by the cynical, but they are to be celebrated and are just three character strengths that spring to mind in this fast paced world as being underdeveloped and undervalued.
By focusing on our young peoples’ strengths, we can help them flourish and reflect with a purpose which avoids being over critical and growing unhealthy habits. Character strengths strengthen the minds of our young people as they steer through their teenage years and unpredictable life that will follow.
The following are sound bites from some sixth formers:
- Forgiveness, Kindness and Fairness – “I believe that these are a true representation of my strengths. My personality allows me to forgive people easily even if they have said something that offended me. It also allows me to treat others equally. I think that I love being kind to people, as it makes me feel better, knowing that I have just helped someone. I think that there is a high value in knowing what your character strengths are. This allows us to choose a career path that is most suitable to our personality, which allows us to excel in the career that we choose.”
- Humour, Gratitude and Judgement – “I rely a lot on humour as I feel that it is a great way to make life a lot better. Making people laugh and feel happy is quite an important factor to consider in my opinion when interacting with other people. Gratitude is also something that I frequently express as I feel that there is no reason not to. These are my top strengths since they are easy for me to show in general. Knowing your strongest character strength can be quite useful for most people. If they are feeling a bit lost or are unsure of themselves during tough times, they can rely more on their character strengths, and return back to something that they are familiar with.”
- Creativity, Curiosity and Gratitude – “I think of myself as being very creative and curious and I often try to play to these abilities.”
“I think that to be successful, you need to play to your strengths and maximize them in every opportunity. Identifying what they are is obviously very useful as it would help you to make choices on a small or large scale.”
What fascinates me about these comments and is striking, to say the least, is that they remind us all of how much we can learn from the young people we care for. This is a very powerful reason why we have the three C’s and why engaging in ‘conversation’ with the young people around us is so invaluable. It is why the pastoral side to education is such a great strength of our community; it provides important additional opportunities to positively engage with and support the young people and the adults in our community and beyond, and for them to learn to support each other – a vital skill on their journey after school.
Further Reading: ‘The Strength Switch’ by Dr. Lea Walters
It seems a very long time ago that I wrote the introduction to the first Parent Wellbeing Blog:
“I hope 2019 ended well and the new decade has started on a positive note for you and your family. To enable us to work together to help your son/daughter flourish at MCM and in later life we are starting a regular weekly blog/podcast on a variety of Wellbeing based matters. We want parents to be fully aware of what we are doing to support pupils Wellbeing, why we are doing this and what can be done at home in order to bring maximum benefit to our pupils. This is one element of our commitment to incorporate aspects of positive psychology within our wider curriculum so we are thoroughly preparing our pupils for successful and purposeful futures, whatever they choose to do with their lives…”
The sentiment is still relevant but the backdrop is much changed. The above was written from a College that was full of smiles, laughter and learning. We now do not hear the laughter or see the smiles due to our microphones and cameras being switched off but it is testament to our teachers and network infrastructure that the learning continues albeit in a virtual classroom.
The backdrop of quarantine due to the current COVID-19 crisis makes it even more important to be mindful of wellbeing. It is in trying times such as these that we are put to the test and we need to have help at hand. We are so fortunate at MCM to have such strength and depth in our pastoral care and staff who go way above and beyond what might be expected, in order to support every individual child. You will see many messages from pastoral staff across the college, in the table below that, I hope, will provide you and your child(ren) with guidance that will help you stay positive throughout this trying time.
Although it is never the same as meeting up in person and having the vibrancy and dynamic of a real classroom, we are very fortunate in being able to have our lessons through Google Meet. This can provide valuable structure, learning opportunities and a normality to our routine in abnormal times. The response to the move to ‘virtual lessons’ has been superb from our staff and our pupils. A great deal of credit for this must go to Mr Ogilvie, our Director of Digital Learning who has directed the overall programme. In addition to lessons, there have been tutor times, both group and 1:1 enabling tutors to catch up with tutees and give them guidance on staying positive, looking after themselves & others and making good use of time. Assemblies and Wellbeing lessons have also added structure to the day and enabled key staff within year groups and houses to communicate key information on staying healthy and having purposeful routines.
As parents you will now have a prolonged time with your children in an environment that, in all likelihood, has restricted movement. This is a disruption to the normal routine but time with children is precious and, as a parent of two girls in their twenties, I know how important it is to make the most of the time and to let the children know how much they are loved. Regardless of whether they are 3 or 18 or any age in between they need to hear this. They might not want to, or be able to, acknowledge how much it means to them but at some point they will and they will thank you. In terms of things to do and resources to refer to, I will give a few suggestions then pass on some advice from our College Counsellor, Ms Cathy & then from a wide variety of pastoral staff.
Suggestions from me, relevant to pupils and to parents:
- Do some exercise every day, getting outside to do so is ideal. If that is not possible then use an app such as ‘The 7 minute work out’. Although the idea of that is high intensity training in a short space of time. You may wish to spread it out a bit to take up more of the day.
- Read books that are uplifting and enlightening. Two I have strongly suggested in the past are The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor and Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. Both are true to our vision of [email protected] and are great reads. Books such as Jude the Obscure, Wuthering Heights and The Road are wonderful reads but do not necessarily give you the emotional lift you might need at times such as these.
- Have meals together, whether they are cooked or delivered and have discussions and debates around the table. This is something that is often squeezed out of family time due to work pressures but can provide some of the best memories for all around the table (provided the food is good and the points for debate are not too contentious).
- Tell stories to each other so you open up about the past, the present and the future. It is important to remember this time will pass and we need to make the most of it. Try the VIA Character Strengths on line assessment and share your core strengths. Talk about your favourite holidays of the past and where you would live to visit in future; your favourite sporting moment & why it means so much to you; your favourite film; favourite food; favourite play…
- Ensure the family have the opportunity for uninterrupted sleep (by removing devices from bedrooms at night). Sleep has remarkable powers in terms of boosting our immune system, aiding our memory and contributing positively to our overall wellbeing. If ever we need to be sleeping soundly it is now.
- Share jokes and laugh together. Laughter and smiles gives us all a lift and bad jokes do not need to be kept until the are unleashed from a Christmas Cracker. There are ready supplies of Dad Jokes on Instagram and most social media although some are in better taste than others.
- Be kind to yourself and others. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you and ensure you embrace all that is good about the extra time we have to explore with our families and in our communities. Acknowledge the character strengths you are accessing; putting to good use, and make sure you do the same for your children.
- Refer to the Action for Happiness web site as it is a rich source of guidance on staying positive. Its monthly calendar is particularly good in prompting regular actions so we feel good in ourselves, do good for others and embed good habits. The focus is very much on flourishing which is entirely consistent with the Parent Wellbeing Blog. The site is one that our College Counsellor, Ms Cathy promotes to all pupils and staff on a regular basis.
Enough from me, now over to some words from the College Counsellor, Ms Cathy
Magnus Cowie – Deputy Head Pastoral
It’s hard to follow on from the great tips and advice from Mr. Cowie. What I would like to add is to say, there is no rule book written for how to deal with Covid-19. We are all doing our best. Whatever it is you are doing, you are doing fine.
If you are totally relaxed and taking each day as it comes and you are adjusting and tweaking your life accordingly, you are coping just fine. You should feel very proud.
If you are worried, crying, not sleeping, feeling agitated, it’s normal, you too are also coping just fine. You should feel very proud.
If you feel you or your child are struggling, try to imagine doing things that will reduce the worry, then simply do them. Write them down in order of easier/realistic to harder. Then one by one do those things. Take action and do things differently.
You need to have thoughts and actions that are helpful to you. Worry doesn’t help anyone. It only makes you feel worse and does not give you a solution. So if you spot you are doing it, STOP, make a change. Do one of the things Mr. Cowie mentioned above. Try a new App and gain skills in how to relax, get active, keep your mind busy etc.
I’ve included some great references to help you maintain a healthy body and healthy mind. Have a look around them. Hopefully you will find something really useful for you or something that assists you in supporting someone else.
If matters get too challenging reach out to speak to a health professional or you can be put in touch with me and I will help where I can.
|(Living Life to the Full) Some resources you pay to download and some are free.|
Also, click on specific link for Covid-19
|Also, click on specific link for Covid-19|
Great & positive things to do with children. Age-specific areas
Some resources you pay to download and some are free.
|Also, click on specific link for Covid-19|
|Also, click on specific link for Covid-19|
|Also, click on specific link for Covid-19|
|Also, click on specific link for Covid-19|
|https://www.ocduk.org||Also, click on specific link for Covid-19|
The end of this Blog has tips from a variety of staff across the whole College community. You will notice that some are written to pupils and some are written to parents.
I hope the content of this article and the various suggestions below are of help to you and your family.
Miss Cathy – College Counsellor
|Staff||Suggestion for staying positive and true to the principles of [email protected] in the weeks ahead|
(Head of Prep School)
|It’s OK to feel sad, worried, nervous and even have a few tears. And then, count your blessings, they are always abundant, take a deep breath, hug your family and then write the next list. Be kind to yourself!|
(Head of Prep Wellbeing)
|Remember that your form tutors are always there for you – they are only an email and Google Meet away if you need them. Make the most of the form time meetups when you have them.|
(Head of Year 6)
|Set aside time for yourself, each child and your partner, giving them undivided attention. It must be hard in a busy and full household particularly if you are working or assisting with online learning. However, schedule time for giving absolute undivided non-school based attention. Play, listen, share or create on a 1:1 basis.|
(Head of Year 4)
|The best way to make sure you maintain your composure is to stick to a daily routine. Set an alarm for yourself. Get dressed, don’t stay in your pyjamas all day. Use one of the many workouts online to get your body moving. Commit to a home schedule to make sure you are keeping your mind and body active. Make time for the couch, make time to learn a new skill, use the apps that are for free during this time. We always complain that we never have enough time but now we do so do those things that ‘you never have time for’.|
(Head of Pre-Prep)
|Know how proud your teachers are of you and all that you have achieved so far. You are stronger than you imagine. You can overcome everything with faith, courage and perseverance.|
(Head of Year 3)
|We are so proud of the mature responses towards a tricky situation that you have all shown. We have been blown away by your independence and adaptability. Although we have all missed each other’s company, we love seeing your posts on SeeSaw and you put a smile on our faces every day. Keep up the good work! Use this time to learn something new – everyday is a school day (even if we’re not actually in school!) Enjoy time with your families – they are lucky to have you!|
|Keep active and exercise regularly. Remember that the more you move, the better your mood.|
|Be kind to yourself and others – simply regather yourself by remembering this when your emotions get the better of you. Stop worrying about what others are doing – if it is out of your control then you are focusing on the wrong things. Be kind and set an example.|
(Head of Year 7)
|Helping your parents in the house will be well received by them and also give you a sense of purpose each day. You could set the table, help to cook, wash up, hoover, take the rubbish out, etc. You could even challenge yourself to cook a three course meal for your parents.|
(Head of Senior School Wellbeing)
|It is important to maintain a sense of positive purpose during this time by considering what you want to achieve from each day. Ticking things off a to do list releases dopamine in the brain, so set tasks for each day and place a focus on the things that you can do, rather than can’t.|
(Head of 6th Form)
If you struggle with anxiety, expressing yourself in writing can help you worry less about stressful tasks. Keeping a journal allows you to express overwhelming emotions and observe your thought patterns, rather than simply reacting to them. Journaling can help you to prioritise your problems, concerns, and fears. This can make it easier to figure out what is upsetting you most and focus your attention accordingly.
Also – as none of us can go to the gym or exercise outside right now you should tune into The Body Coach TV – all home based exercise – and he is currently doing live workouts for children whilst the schools are closed @ 5pm Malaysia time.
|As a family we have tried to reduce screen time as school is mostly screen now. Jigsaws, Twister, Monopoly, Pictionary and Risk have been great. We have argued, laughed and a few tears on the way but that is life; we are together ‘warts and all’. As others have said, it is good to talk about our worries and fears, as well as our hopes. It has been an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends (email and messenger). We have also started cooking new recipes.|
|Students who no longer have examinations with extra time on their hands, should focus on the future and work towards their self-development rather than dwelling on what has happened. This could be academic development or just trying to learn new skills. Preparation for IB courses and university courses could be a focus or learning something new like photography skills. There are so many online resources and courses which can be tapped into, take control of the situation and use the time productively. Don’t waste an opportunity to utilise what is usually scarce resource – TIME.|
|Be thankful for what you have and not to dwell on what you don’t have or can’t do! Structure and routines may help to get through this difficult period. Remember that everyone is going through the same and perhaps you could make a difference to someone else by an act of kind kindness. Perhaps now is the time to get in touch with old friends or family members.|
|It is important to express any fears or concerns that you might have at this difficult time. Verbalising or writing down your worries will allow you to process them, so I would encourage all to talk openly to friends and family or to record their thoughts in a journal. It’s important to give time to the positive at the same time e.g. What are my fears? What are my hopes? Try to also record/ verbalise three things you are grateful for every day.|
|1. Boost your immune system – eat healthy and maintain exercise routines|
2. Structure your day – Having a set schedule for meal times and a set bedtime can help you to stay on track. Planning out activities and setting goals can also help keep you motivated and stop you from feeling down
3. Maintain social contact – reach out to friends via phone call or messages. This is very important for your mental health
4. Avoid conflict – even those we love dearly can get on our nerves if we are stuck with them all day every day so be mindful of others and make an effort to be patient and tolerant
|I often say that it is important to remember to be grateful for the little things even if we don’t always feel that way inclined. At the moment this is so true. So take time to think about all the things that we can still be grateful for, whether this be a lovely sunset, family time, having the time to watch a good film, having the time to draw a great picture and facetime friends or even having the opportunity to have a bubble bath.|
Having a routine is important but that routine does not need to be the same every day.
|Don’t be dismissive of ‘cheap tricks’ that work on cheering you up: If I’m feeling down I love watching fail videos on YouTube. They always make me feel better, and they’re easy to get started with! Failing that, remember ‘there is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be diminished by a nice cup of tea’; stick the kettle on.|
(Head of CAS)
|Seeing the opportunities that are still possible. This includes still being able to communicate with others (make sure you keep in touch with family and friends on the phone or through video calls on a regular basis), being able to be creative (by drawing, writing, sewing etc) or learning a new skill or language.|
(Head of Senior School Outreach)
|Be mindful of your children with Additional Needs. For some the gift of time – less travelling and school based activity will be a gift, for others the change in routine will be a challenge. Help children to understand how these changes are impacting on them academically, emotionally and psychologically. Remember to have frequent breaks, for water, a stretch, a run up and down the stairs to reboot and refocus. Help children to break down the tasks at the beginning of a lesson or activity – many beaks will have already done this but perhaps asking your child to articulate what they have to do for lesson x today will help them organise themselves and get started. If they need prompting say, OK – how are you going to start this task or where will you find this information. I’ve noticed that with research based work pupils can use the first bit of research they find and then when better research is identified they don’t want to change what has already been created. A good idea is to list the research ideas and then evaluate the best ones before creating the final version of the task. Motivate them with rewards to stick at the tasks that are more challenging, in fact find ways to reward as much as possible. Fun time with parents who are often working but are now home will be seen as a treat.|
Most strategies helpful for those of us with additional needs are helpful for everyone!
(Director of Co-Curriculum)
|The old saying that ‘we are not always able to control events, but we are always free to choose our attitude towards them’ is never more true than at present. Life has changed dramatically and the challenge for all of us is to find the positives in these difficult times. Perhaps you have always wanted to learn a new language but have never been able to find the time. Or perhaps you would like to learn an instrument or improve your ability in the kitchen. Whatever it is, find a pursuit that you would like to engage with and get better at. You may have had your most important recent focus (exams) taken away from you. You need to replace it with a new focus. Having a positive purpose in the coming weeks and months will be essential for all of us.|
(Director of Sport)
|I thoroughly enjoy a quote, so here is one to ponder ‘With change, comes new opportunities’. This current situation has afforded new opportunities that most of us haven’t even explored. For senior pupils, you now have an opportunity to set yourself apart from the crowd with a potential project, business plan or idea prior to university. Teachers and younger pupils can set personal challenges that will stretch them both physically and mentally. Take this time to reflect, organise and then attack your personal journey again.|
Below is a beautiful piece of artwork created by a Year 8 Pupil.