ABC Radio Presenter 0:04
With school students back in the classroom after two years of predominantly online learning, parents and educators are being urged to start conversations about their emotional wellbeing. The National check-in week campaign is providing educators with tools that will provide timely data to help understand student’s state of mind. Tegan Bayliss is a leader of wellbeing at St. Bridget’s Catholic College, at Lake Munmorah on the New South Wales Central Coast, and she says some students have found it difficult returning to the classroom.
Tegan Bayliss 0:36
National checking week allows our students in our classrooms to check-in via a platform, which allows our staff to get a good collection of data, which allows us to make sure that our students are going okay. And when they’re not that we can have those conversations with them. So it’s absolutely critical that we get it in a timely manner, it’s often way too late that we find out that students are struggling. And it’s critical because we need to be able to get students the support they need. And that might mean an array of things through school, but also anything any extra supports that we could have outside of school as well.
ABC Radio Presenter 1:15
And how do you think students are feeling about being back in the classroom after such a disruptive two years due to COVID?
Tegan Bayliss 1:23
Yeah, I think this is a really important and concerning part of where we’re at, I think that some students are actually thriving. And you know, being home was a real struggle and not having that engagement with their friends. And there’s a range of different people, you know, teachers and things like that. And we hear a lot about school being the safe zone for a lot of students, I don’t know that we hear enough maybe about the amount of students that are struggling to get back into the classroom. So a lot of our kids that potentially have anxiety or another form of mental health challenge will find it and have found it really hard. And we’ve seen some students actually not come back into the classroom due to this. So they are there they’re struggling in terms of that, they’re also struggling with the overwhelm classrooms are very different to being in the home by yourself.
ABC Radio Presenter 2:10
What needs to happen, then to help those students with anxiety or other mental health issues, to encourage them to be able to come back into the classroom.
Tegan Bayliss 2:18
So we need to set up a safe environment. And we need to apply wellbeing strategies in classrooms. So now more than ever, it’s really important that we’re using programs or our own skill sets around social-emotional learning, in order to give our kids the skill sets to build that resilience to be in the classroom.
ABC Radio Presenter 2:40
You’re at Lake Munmorah on the New South Wales Central Coast, what are students telling you about their emotional wellbeing needs?
Tegan Bayliss 2:48
I think, definitely, from our perspective, up here on the coast, we have a high, I guess, statistic rate in terms of mental health struggles for us, they’re telling us that they need to have safe people that they can go to. So building that relationship with our students, and giving them safe platforms in order to be able to check-in has been really, really important. I guess that’s the main thing is providing those spaces or check-ins
ABC Radio Presenter 3:16
For parents, what are some of the signs that a student may be struggling?
Tegan Bayliss 3:20
I think this is also a really, really important question. So look, it presents differently. So often, when I’m speaking with parents, sort of things that we’ll hear that would flag for us know, withdrawn, students not wanting to or their children not wanting to be part of the family, they don’t want to talk, they don’t want to come out of their bedroom, potentially, they’re on social media a lot more than they were, they might see signs of potentially different emotions coming out that they hadn’t seen before anger, or just defiance in certain different ways that they hadn’t seen before. They could be as simple as something as I don’t want to go to school today. Or you know what, I’m not wearing the right uniform today. And I know those things. They’re not indicators that we would only use, but sometimes those are indicators, that something is wrong. And it’s actually a really important part of what we then can say, You know what, let’s have a conversation about how you going.
ABC Radio Presenter 4:13
I know that the focus of this week is on young people, but how important is it that teachers are checking in with each other as well, especially after such a tumultuous couple of years?
Tegan Bayliss 4:24
Yeah, this is actually an area really close to my heart. It’s so incredibly important at the moment that we are looking at staff wellbeing, not just our teachers, but our counselors, our support staff, everybody that works within the culture of a school because we’re coming back in, I guess that culture that we would have had moving out into those home-based learning has changed, you know, the world has changed. The way we educate has changed because there are a lot of unknowns and there are lots of unknowns even around, you know, are we going to potentially have to be home-based learning again, is there. And I know that you know, whilst it’s fairly made clear that we won’t be going back into that those are some of the anxieties, I guess, that are presented for staff. Yeah. So I think it’s really, really important that we just not only check in with each other, but we’re checking in, across the system. So, you know, our leadership, and teachers, everybody checking in together and having really, I guess open conversations about how important staff wellbeing is, in order to help our students because we’re not checking in ourselves. We can’t ask our students to do the face.
ABC Radio Presenter 5:31
It’s been a pretty extraordinary couple of years for all involved in teaching at our schools in Australia. Tegan Bayliss, the leader of wellbeing at St Brigid’s Catholic College at Lake Munmorah. That’s on the New South Wales Central Coast.