Nurturing tomorrow’s changemakers at Learning in Residence (LiR)
In our boarding program, Learning in Residence (LiR), students have overcome perhaps even greater challenges, given they have faced this pandemic largely without their family or home support network. At their home away from home at Wesley, what are the protective factors that support and enable personal growth and resilience from our students?
Our Learning in Residence program focusses on each student’s emotional, social, physical, psychological and cultural needs. In recent times, particularly our Year 12 cohort at LiR, have been away from their usual support networks (at least physically). Our holistic model of care centers on feeling a sense of belonging and connectedness to the peers and the community they live in (both the architecture and the staff). If students feel connected with their peers and as though they belong, they are more likely to feel safe, comfortable and exhibit an internal locus of control. They feel they are in control of their choices, and the way they perceive events (their stress response) will be vastly different to if they did not feel a strong sense of belonging. The flow on effect from a strong sense of belonging is that our students are able to face adversity with courage and bounce forward on their journey into adulthood. Being aware of the impact of a strong sense of belonging and the associated benefits it may have on personal growth and resilience is one thing, identifying systems, processes and opportunities for belonging to be fostered in a safe and organic way is another.
How have we supported students to achieve this connection?
Over the past 12 months there have been a number of new initiatives to cultivate belonging in LiR. These include rituals such as the Year 12 Farewell Dinner, Residence Captain meetings, Community dinners, positive traditions such as the gratitude box, student acknowledgements, weekly What Went Well (WWW) and Even Better If (EBI) conversations with Mentors. Additionally, cultural ‘norms’ that being mindful, considerate and empathic towards others is essential in a Residential community have also been in practice. Students are aware that their peers and Mentors care for them and will ask about their wellbeing regularly, and that they are welcome and encouraged to do the same when comfortable and able.
The Year 12 Farewell dinner held over the weekend and live streamed to parents brought forward a number of emotions from our Year 12s as they reflected on their time at the College, and as their younger peers articulated the many ways they have been supported and mentored by this outstanding departing cohort. As leaders of our community, their legacy will be a culture of support and care, where every student feels connected and as though they belong.
Sean Cox is the Head of Learning in Residence