Guidance Professional Learning Day

The Guidance Professional Learning Day is now an annual event for the guidance team to take a PL approach to our positions. Deans PL is usually deferred to learning-on-the-job and internal support, so having this day to stop and examine our practices and be introduced to new ideas is so valuable.


Presentation from Marc Mulholland as our guidance counselor. Talking around helping student to slow down think less and rationalise through mindfulness. Mindfulness is:

  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Marc suggested the importance of taking time out and time to focus during our days. He took us through an exercise where we were instructed through a meditation process. It was a  time out and a chance to focus on the moment. He talked about the importance of taking time to stop and notice things in our environment that we don’t notice everyday.

We were introduced to six mindfulness exercises you can try today:

  1. Mindful breathing
  2. Mindful observation
  3. Mindful awareness
  4. Mindful listening
  5. Mindful immersion
  6. Mindful appreciation

Mindfulness is training the brain to have focused attention and increased emotional regulation. Data to support the implementation of a mindfulness programme is part of this TED talk:

Conversation then turned to how this might be incorporated into our current programmes. Initial feelings were positive and this is a discussion worth continuing.

Cross Sector Agency Perspective on Vulnerability 

Jo Brider – Lead Adviser: Social Sector Partnerships | Sector Enablement and Support

Jo spoke about the introduction of the Vulnerability Children’s Act 2014. The impact on schools and professionals and the actions we take to support these students. Vulnerable children are defined as:

Vulnerable children are children who are at significant risk of harm to their wellbeing now and into the future as a consequence of the environment in which they are being raised and, in some cases, due to their own complex needs. Environmental factors that influence child vulnerability include not having their basic emotional, physical, social, developmental and/or cultural needs met at home or in their wider community.

What do we do as professionals?

  • Sometimes something as simple as asking “are you OK?”
  • Trust your instincts – be professional
  • The need to share information, pass on disclosures
  • Sharing of information is absolutely vital

Further reading: The White Paper for Vulnerable Children and a FAQ.

Research on Student Wellbeing

Julia Davidson – Principal, Wellington Girls College | Woolf Fisher Scholarship 

With Julia’s scholarship she targeted visiting high performing schools and how they are dealing with mental health and wellbeing of their students. Her findings pose interesting challenges to the way in which we are supporting student wellbeing in these increasingly complex times. The first part of her session was reporting back on her findings. Most of the following examples come from Ontario:

  • Integrated and holistic approach to wellbeing – part of the vision, annual and strategic plans, comes from the top.
  • Curriculum integration – health compulsory until students are 15/16
  • Incredibly well resourced including this website: Well Ahead Canada
  • People involved are generous and collaborative, with additional staffing in place (the US system Julia encountered doesn’t have guidance counselor, broadly speaking they are under resourced careers advisors)
  • Ontario just started walk in mental health clinics

What action is possible for schools?

  • Learning environment: ‘climate of care’; responsive classroom model
  • Curriculum: health; wellness days (teachers not involved, student managed, external providers) and pop ups; reduction of credits 15-19; quality not quantity; NCEA policies around withdrawal and assessment clarified and emphasised; no exams Y9/10 or homework; flexi-block of time in timetable.
  • Pastoral care: form time (swap for more focused mentoring? Smaller groups?) Tuakana teina instead of peer support – 1:1 matching; wellness theme in assemblies with student voice.

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