From the Director of Student Wellbeing

Anyone can be angry-that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way-that is not easy. –Aristotle

Parents of students in the Early Learning Centre and the Junior School had the opportunity this week to learn more about the partnership between St Catherine’s School and the Swinburne University Emotional Intelligence Unit. As part of our Girls Talk: Raising Confident, Courageous Girls parent seminar series, Justine Lomas, the University’s Emotional Intelligence Research Unit Programs Coordinator, discussed the ‘Aristotle’ Emotional Intelligence school modules.

The partnership, over the past two years, has enabled St Catherine’s to draw on a wealth of research based professional materials and classroom modules. The lessons are designed to develop emotional intelligence competencies and have been tailored by teaching staff to suit the needs of our students. The Swinburne ‘Aristotle’ program has been formally integrated into the Years 1, 2, 4 and 8, with the view to expand and reinforce the delivery of these competencies throughout the School. The lessons teach children to identify, consider and discuss how emotions work and how they can begin to manage their own experiences of strong emotions.

Justine explained Emotional Intelligence as a series of abilities relating to the way in which we identify, use and regulate emotions. She noted that as the development of these skills begins in the early childhood, continuing through to adulthood, it is important that the foundations for these competencies are established early. Justine discussed how research shows that these skills can be vital for success in many areas of life including positive relationships, wellbeing, academic and occupational success.

She noted the importance of instilling emotional intelligence literacy in young children to assist them to enable and express their emotions and pointed out that we shouldn’t label emotions as positive or negative but rather as ‘helpful’ or ‘unhelpful’. This vocabulary provides children with an understanding that all emotions are of value and that it is the recognition and management of those emotions that is important. Justine emphasised the role of parents in supporting, reinforcing and modelling these same competencies.

Justine shared some key research and data, explaining how it has helped to inform and shape the Aristotle Program modules. In particular, she noted the relationship between EI and IQ and noted that higher EI can maximise academic outcomes. She also discussed research that suggests that improved emotional intelligence is an important protective factor against anxiety disorders and depression. She explained that with greater EI competency comes the capability to hone problem-focused coping strategies. These coping strategies are necessary to develop resilience in young people. Justine shared her own research into the correlation between low EI and greater bullying and peer victimisation. Studies have highlighted that adolescents who have lower EI may be more likely to bully and are at risk of being targets of bullies.

We are most fortunate to be able to draw on Swinburne’s research and the Aristotle Program materials and we look forward to continuing the partnership to enhance these competencies in our students as part of the weThrive: Wellbeing @ St Catherine’s program.

Mrs Merran O’Connor, Director of Student Wellbeing