Education Case Study – Rod Jackson
Rod Jackson’s GEM journey at Bentley Park College
As an educator for over three decades, Rod Jackson, Deputy Principal of the primary school of P-12 Bentley Park College in Cairns, understands the importance of fostering emotional wellbeing across the whole school community.
As Rod and his teaching team were planning for the following school year, they were looking for something new to teach positive behaviours and build resilience in their school community.
A presentation about The Resilience Project from NRL legend Ray Thompson, North Queensland Cowboys community ambassador, inspired Bentley Park College to think about wellbeing in a completely different way.
“After Ray’s presentation we thought The Resilience Project’s philosophy and values would be a good fit for us”, Rod explains. After further meetings with The Resilience Project team, the school was invigorated by the program’s potential and simplicity.”
In early 2020, Bentley Park College began implementing the GEM (Gratitude, Empathy, Mindfulness) curriculum, with the entire staff cohort teaching the lesson plans and activities across the school’s 1500 students.
Central to this was the school embracing an attitude that the teaching of wellbeing was everybody’s business.
And then, COVID-19 came, and national lockdowns began. “It was a great example of crisis meets opportunity. We were concerned about how we were going to continue strong links to all the students while they were in remote learning. We then thought; The Resilience Project is going to be part of this! We saw the GEMs activities as an amazing opportunity to strengthen connections with us to each family in their homes and the students to their parents”, Rod explains.
The school reorganised its priorities and decided that health and wellbeing would be the major objectives during the coronavirus restrictions. The work plans revolved around the children having to respond to weekly challenges using the GEMS activities and all levels
were required to do the same activities. Children were encouraged to work through the challenges together as a family.
“We communicated with every child every day. We asked them to take photos of their home workspaces and share them on our Facebook page. We put out weekly videos and set up #stayconnected as another way to stay linked to each other”, Rod adds.
The school saw this time as the “transition period” – teachers continued to work from the school each day to ensure sustainability when the children returned. The school thought challenges would surface once the students returned after isolation at home. And that these
challenges would be a test of the students’ resilience.
“We thought the hard part was going to come when the students came back. But the attitude and atmosphere has been really interesting. They were delighted to be back, all they wanted to do was reconnect with each other and the teachers! They were openly using the language of gratitude and saying thank you for example more readily” Rod says.
The teachers observed the students’ behaviour each day. Subsequent wellbeing assessments revealed the children were happy, calm, and engaged and Rod believes, their soft coping skills were getting better. The school made GEMs activities daily priorities rather than weekly ones.
Immersion in The Resilience Project activities has changed Rod in ways that regularly delight him. “It has been very refreshing at this stage of my career to have The Resilience Project come into it. I feel professionally so invigorated to get to know people who have a common language and values. To see how far we have come with the students in such a short time because of this program feels so great. I regularly think How lucky am I? I get to see the positive impact of the program daily on the teachers and the students and how the rewards are flowing to everyone”, Rod explains.
Rod has also incorporated GEMs into his personal life, using a teacher’s diary and responding to questions raised such as What are you doing around your mental health?
This question he said got him thinking and spurred him on to doing creative hands-on projects at home and replace his much-loved long-distance swims with alternative workouts and cherished vigorous daily walks with his wife.
“The Resilience Project philosophy just gives you an incredible mindset shift. If you are regularly asking things like: What has gone well there? it just automatically makes me think constantly in the positive. It just completely flips your thinking. I am so lucky as it has had such a positive effect in all areas of my life”, Rod enthuses.