*Enter stage left ~ Immense gratitude and praise to the many thousands of educators who are already writing these new chapters in Australia’s educational narrative.

We see you. We hear you. We thank you.

[Orientation ~ Where? When? Set the scene for your readers to anchor their attention to this story. Will they continue to read or has their mind drifted in apathy?!!!]

Schools offer the perfect platform for early intervention and change. For up to six hours a day, a school can create a climate and environment more potent than any single influence in a child’s life. As educators we are called to create a space for young people where all students can arrive, take off the crushing weight of their worry and anxiety, and fully open up to the vital learning and developmental opportunities afforded to them. The generation who will face a schooling experience filled with choice beyond our imagination, vast and varied opportunity and exponential advancement in technology and discovery.

But what if one in seven of these young Australian’s simply cannot show up to this experience because of the crippling effects of mental illness? Do we just plough forward and forget about those students, often suffering in silence?

[Rising Tension ~ Your protagonist is presented with a choice, perhaps a choice to accept or reject some type of quest. Does your reader care enough about this choice to give their attention to this pending quest?]

In 2018 we witnessed 40 schools choosing not to forget about those students suffering in silence. Let’s call them the ‘early adopters’ or the champions of change who are unapologetically choosing to acknowledge and respond to the silent battle so many of their students are fighting. These schools joined the silent revolution by carving out deliberate time and space for students to learn crucial social-emotional skills and mindfulness strategies. Their students were gifted the opportunity to begin the process of navigating their way through the very complex internal landscape of their thought patterns and cognitive habits. All students were empowered to learn that they can return to peace and calm in the present moment at any chosen time, and found relief in realising that they are not their thoughts and can ‘choose again’ whenever they begin to witness their fear voice luring their thoughts down a path of negativity, doubt and attack. Young people across all of these schools were given time to sit with and acknowledge strong and powerful emotions, gifted the vocabulary to name the feeling and where they notice it residing in their physical body. These strategies, and many more, allow young people to move through all that arises, to lean into the discomfort of strong emotion and trust that it too will pass. These schools chose and designed their own unique programs from the Sound Off For Schools Curriculum to develop engaging and relevant sessions for their students – every student equipped with a toolbox of practical strategies to be used whenever and wherever they might be needed.

[Plot Twist ~ That was unexpected?! How will you continue to lure your reader with tension, conflict, complication and the overwhelming need for a resolution?]

An incredible transformation was reported in one school in particular. We partnered with the Senior cohort and the Yr 12 students were given the opportunity to attend a 50 minute session on a Friday afternoon to learn about relaxation strategies, exam time tools for focus & thought clarity, meditation practices for clearing the mind and mindfulness sessions to develop compassion & gratitude. The Assistant Principal of this College described, “This has had such a  positive impact on the school community, it has been beneficial and a key to how we have viewed students mental health and wellbeing” when noticing that the effects of having their Senior leaders learning the art of being present surprisingly transcended those students alone. The impact was felt across the entire school community. Why did this happen? Was it because it was the Yr 12 cohort of leaders? Was it due to the almost contagious nature of peace and calm? Was it because all students could see that the school valued time and space for contemplation and stillness? Was it simply because an entire cohort of students and teachers were talking about the powerful way in which these sessions were impacting their lives and emotional well-being?

[Climax ~ The pinnacle of climatic tension. Does the fate of your protagonist still matter to the reader?]

Schools, and the classrooms within are crucial in shaping a student’s physical, mental and social health. The Australian educational narrative is at a pivotal and divergent point in its plot, a crossroads to change, to forge an untrodden path in accepting the responsibility of student wellbeing and beginning to change the learning landscape to be more conscious, more than just a place where students go to be imparted large quantities of information. Now more than ever before, schools are living and breathing systems with the opportunity to create connection for the disconnected, engagement for the disengaged, and sanctuary for the young people amongst our communities who are fighting the silent and very dark battle of mental illness. Moving forward, we envision a future where creating and promoting a mindful learning environment will be deliberate, planned and intentional.

[Resolution ~ Ambiguous or unambiguous ending? Do you release the tension that has propelled the reader to continue? Truth unknown? Or questions answered?]

The 2018 academic year wrote a vital chapter in this thrilling story of change. Our impact throughout the school year meant 4030 young people experienced time for reflection, stillness and guided practice; in fact over 240,000 mindful minutes were to delivered. Minutes where young people were safe to be still, and to centre into the present moment. Minutes where they could choose peace over persistent worry and calm over chaos. We know this story is just beginning, but after all, isn’t getting started the hardest part?

Become a purveyor of hope for the future – Join the silent revolution today…

*Exit stage right* ~ Overwhelming applause for the schools who are ready to move with the times, who don’t resist change, who understand the young people in their charge. The world sees you. Needs you. And thanks you.

Samantha Stenner