Wellbeing and social-emotional learning are key priorities of our caring, relationship-based community

Trinity College School’s strategic plan prioritizes wellbeing and the intentional consideration of how our programming and practices align with the authentic flourishing of our students and staff. Backed by research in the areas of education and the development of young people, we know this intentional approach is critical if we are to graduate healthy, balanced, adaptable and resilient students.

Goal 2 – Foster a healthy and productive learning community: Nurture the academic and personal growth of students, prioritizing academic and social-emotional relational learning

Habits of the Heart and Mind
The School’s mission, developing the habits of the heart and mind for a life of purpose and service, reflects the importance of developing skills beyond the curriculum. Our mission, in concert with current educational research, emphasizes how now, more than ever, the development of social-emotional skills in young people is crucial, especially as we emerge from the pandemic. Social- emotional learning is focussed on developing healthy identities, managing emotions and building resilience, achieving personal and collective goals, empathizing with others, and establishing and maintaining supportive relationships. At TCS, we believe social- emotional learning will be essential in moving on from the more restrictive world our young people have encountered and in becoming the creative and resourceful humans they can be. And we know that young people naturally crave the intentional modelling of these skills in the adults who surround them and the programming in which they participate.

To this end, TCS developed an ad-hoc committee (composed of Junior and Senior School faculty and operational staff) to develop a school definition of wellbeing that we will use to audit current practices and programming.

At TCS, we define wellbeing as an individual’s journey to authentic thriving and flourishing.

We commit to the following pillars of wellbeing to foster what is intrinsically valuable for the members of our community, students and staff:

Belonging: feeling valued, welcomed and feeling safe to challenge and advocate

Compassion: a flexible, empathetic, consistent approach that seeks to balance the wellbeing of the individual and of the wider community, acknowledging that approaching situations with grace is essential when all are facing challenges we may not even be aware of

Awareness: the intentional development of social-emotional skills such as understanding ourselves and others, resiliency, and the ability to understand and manage emotion

Agency: given the individual nature of wellbeing, choice and independence, balanced with responsibilities, will be important

TCS acknowledges that adult wellbeing is directly related to student wellbeing and knows that the intentional modelling of social- emotional and relational skills is essential in building those same skills in students.

This spring, a series of further ad-hoc committees are meeting to use the above definition as a lens through which to consider programming such as student leadership, co-curricular activities, discipline, weekend experience and house structure to ensure alignment of goals, expectations and intentionality of how we are looking at wellbeing in the community.

As a key condition of wellbeing, belonging has been a focus of the School as well. Further to the initiatives mentioned in the last strategic plan update, some other areas of focus have been:

  • The development of a Belonging Advisory Committee this spring: the committee will consist of a group of staff and students who will work towards the school calendar, student life and programming reflecting the diversity of our student population and the continued inclusive practices in our community.
  • BIPOC Circle: a weekly therapeutic and support group offered to our Black, Indigenous and students of colour facilitated by Karla Belfon, the School’s social worker, out of the health centre. The group emphasizes community, collaboration and skill-building.

A hallmark of a TCS student experience is the nurturing and supportive presence of the School’s adults, and continued research in the area of wellbeing suggests just how impactful having even just one trusted adult is in a young person’s development. To that end, the School has more recently focussed on our student support model as well as developing social-emotional skills in our community’s adults. Though teaching and coaching students in the development of their own social-emotional skills are helpful, the greatest impact is actually through the modelling of these relational skills from the adults who surround them. Some initiatives undertaken have been:

  • A more formalized “Circle of Care” model of student support was adopted last academic year ensuring that each student had a personalized group of adults focussed on their growth, development and wellbeing while at TCS.
  • Monthly coaching skills training sessions with interested faculty focussing on the development of social- emotional learning skills in adults and intentional modelling with students
  • Regular coaching skills training with residential assistants to support their work with our students in our boarding residences
  • The growth and the development of the School’s guidance department to include both academic and personal counselling. The hybrid approach to student support has been highly utilized by students and staff (in their support of students) and currently two members of the department are Registered Psychotherapists (Qualifying).
  • In the Junior School, a social-emotional and relational learning program has been developed and is taught to all grades by the student and academic support coordinator. The coordinator also offers support to all students through academic and social-emotional coaching as a full class, small group or one-to-one support.

All of these initiatives are exciting and in service of the School’s wellbeing, both of students and staff. As we are able to spend this spring term on campus together, we will all certainly benefit from the sense of community, and the opportunity to forge deeper relationships in service of our wellbeing. What could be more needed after more than two years of a pandemic?

- By Krista Koekoek, director of guidance and wellbeing