Every Year 9 student at Melbourne Girls Grammar (MGGS) now has access to weekly, one-on-one wellbeing coaching, thanks to a new team recruited to help the girls balance their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. In total, the School has employed five Wellbeing Coaches and over the next four years, they’ll play a key role in the girls’ Senior Years program.
Principal Catherine Misson believes it’s imperative to have this type of infrastructure in place. “We’re preparing our girls to manage their own wellbeing and equipping them with the skills they’ll need to maintain balance and control in their lives — not just today but well beyond their graduation,” says Misson.
Engaging full-time Wellbeing Coaches was an innovative move and so too was the recruitment drive to secure them. In addition to conventional selection processes, MGGS deployed more than a dozen Year 9 girls to put the candidates through their paces. The successful applicants included Jarod Kaplan, Meg Viney, Rose Jost, Meg Donnelly and Emma Grant.
They come together from diverse professional backgrounds including counselling, elite sport, psychology and education. However, there are no teachers among them and that was a very deliberate decision by MGGS management. Wellbeing Coach Meg Donnelly says “we provide a calm space within the school environment and give students plenty of time to say what they want to say”. “We’re not their parents nor their teachers, but rather we’re adults whose sole purpose is to help them facilitate a way to achieve their goals,” says Donnelly.
Helping girls to identify their own values is critical to the process. The team do this by introducing “four pillars of wellbeing” — comprising spirituality, health, learning and relationships. According to Wellbeing Coach Meg Viney, if any one of these areas is ignored, stress, anxiety or depression could result. She believes it’s important girls learn to “self-regulate”. “I want girls to recognise and acknowledge their own feelings and give themselves what they need to recharge and reinvigorate their brain and body to cope and move forward,” says Viney.
Naturally, girls will likely identify varying ways to “recharge” and “reinvigorate”. These themes were explored in a Term 2 workshop where girls were challenged to place a nominal value on “self-care” activities ranging from relaxing in the great outdoors through to spending time on social media. For some, it reaffirmed they are striking a healthy balance between academic pursuits and relaxation. For others, it was a reminder to start prioritising their wellbeing.
MGGS Wellbeing Coach Rose Jost admits many students are setting exceptionally high standards for themselves. “Being a high achiever is great but we need to recognise that perfectionism and anxiety can be a by-product of high achievement,” says Jost. “Our role is to support the girls to maintain their high level of achievement but to create a more holistic and lifelong journey towards self-efficacy.”
That journey is currently being complemented by the MGGS Fit For Life program. Here, girls are given the opportunity to take part in yoga, Pilates, spin classes or strength and conditioning classes to help break sedentary study routines or to enhance an already active lifestyle.