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From the Deputy Principal, Student Engagement and Wellbeing

07 March 2024

“The first 5 minutes of class are critical for setting the tone for the rest of the learning. Consistent rhythms and routines, particularly ones that embed intentional positive micro-moments, are powerful healing interventions as they “help build confidence that positive events will occur and …flexibility when unexpected events are encountered” (Brunzell, 2016, p.76). Welcome circles – nurturing routines that support engagement in learning and wellbeing (Roffey, 2006) – are a key strategy for consistently embedding strengths and also tending to the body and relational connection.”

BSEM “Rhythms for Success: Trauma informed routines to centre culture and strengths.”

We have begun the school year engaging in Welcome Circles and Consistent Predictable Routines (CPRs), both Berry Street Education Model strategies that help our young people to connect, to self-regulate, to share, to flourish. We know that emotions and learning are intrinsically linked. We can’t learn if we are heightened for any reason, our brains physically cannot elevate to the function of learning new information or skills. Welcome Circles and CPRs are two highly effective practices that remind our students that they are safe, that they are known, and that they are a part of our community.

Welcome Circles consist of 6 parts:

  1. Greetings
  2. Prayer
  3. Values
  4. Expectations
  5. Announcements
  6. Positive Primer

Each part of the Welcome Circle serves a purpose.

  • Our greetings acknowledge each person – I see you and I know you are here.
  • We pray as a community daily to centre us and to remind us that we are all children of God.
  • Our values connect us with a common understanding – this is important to all of us.
  • We remind ourselves to aim high through our expectations, to be our best so that we can flourish.
  • Announcements give us an insight into each other’s lives; our joys, our challenges, our interests are shared and we become closer to each other.
  • And finally, the positive primer releases endorphins and other positive hormones so that our minds are not only more open to learning but also to connecting with each other.

Even though we have only participated in Welcome Circles for the past few weeks, our data is showing us that it is having a positive impact already. We have seen a significant reduction in student behavioural incidents and an increase in student engagement in their learning. Our students are anecdotally informing us that there is a more positive “vibe” around the College, and that they feel more seen, more heard, more known.

Our staff are also speaking about the shift in mood both in the classroom and out on the yard. They employ Consistent Predictable Routines in every class, spring boarding from the Welcome Circles. They are able to collaborate with each other in our Student Engagement Teams and Professional Learning Circles to ensure we all are engaging best practice in our classrooms.

We will continue to use our Welcome Circles for the entirety of the academic year as the key strategy for not only engaging our students with their learning, but to also create opportunity for our staff and our students to create meaningful connections so that this learning can be sustained and beneficial for the social, emotional, spiritual, and learning outcomes of each and every one of us.

Ivanka Spiteri
Deputy Principal – Student Engagement and Wellbeing