Poetry slam keeps students mindful

Year 10 student Colin Edegbe and friends recite their work at a school poetry slam on June 20. Photo: Kitty Beale

Year 10 student Colin Edegbe and friends recite their work at a school poetry slam on June 20. Photo: Kitty Beale

Poetry and positive psychology were the focus of a Year 10 wellbeing day at All Saints Catholic College Liverpool with the theme ‘Write your own story’.

Guest speakers who presented students with personal stories and tips for wellbeing at the June 20 event included Youth Off The Streets supporter Greg McDermott, spoken-word poet Miles Mirrill, former Socceroo’s captain Paul Wade and Wests Tigers player John Skandalis.

School Psychologist Breanna Sada also spoke about the eleven habits of happy people. These included things like using positive self-talk, getting enough sleep, good nutrition, practicing mindfulness and living in the present. She said students were energetic throughout the day.

“It’s all about a holistic approach to wellbeing, looking after your physical self but also your mental health as well,” she said.

“We spoke about building on their character strengths – finding the things they are good at and the things they enjoy and incorporating them into their daily lives, and not being so critical of the things they can’t do.

“At their age they’re focusing on HSC and what’s going to happen when they leave school, so it’s really grounding them and trying to get them to live day-to-day and not worry about if all of those dreams are going to come true.”

It reiterated to students that if mistakes are made you can rewrite that into something more constructive.

– Matt Shackleton

After a performance by Mirrill, students wrote their own poems in a one-hour workshop which they performed at the end of the day for their peers.

Year 10 student Colin Edegbe performed a poem which dealt with racism and social media use, with phrases like “Learn to see me as a brother, not two distant strangers”.
“Teenagers now aren’t behaving the way they should, to be honest, posting photos that aren’t appropriate,” said Colin, 15. “I liked Miles’ work. He’s really inspirational with the words that he used. I learned a lot from him.

“We’ve done a lot of poetry from Years 7 to 10 but in class it’s just reading the poem. We don’t really go up and speak, so today when someone came in to perform we listened more because it wasn’t by the book. It was engaging and interesting.”

Year 10 Assistant Leader of Wellbeing Matt Shackleton said the students’ poems were a highlight of the day.

“Some of it is a parody, some of it is a bit personal, but it’s just about allowing students to stand in front of their peers and try to confront some of the more awkward situations at school that you can be faced with,” he said.

“Poetry is a creative medium and something that the kids can do anywhere. They can have these thoughts, or feelings, or experiences float through their mind.

“The idea behind poetry slam is that when they do get a moment they can sit down and express these thoughts and feelings and have them take shape in some way that is creative rather than being bottled up as a negative experience or a positive experience that wasn’t acknowledged.”

Mr Shackleton said the theme also encouraged students to think about their own journey at school.

“It reiterated to students throughout the day that if mistakes are made you can rewrite that into something more constructive,” he said. “Listening to some of the presenters we were able to hear more about mistakes made or success forged through adversity, people getting to a goal that they’ve set in unconventional circumstances.

“It was about allowing students to see that it wasn’t as simple as just setting a goal and getting there on one trajectory, that they could write their own trajectory and find their own way.”

Year 10 students Lily Aguilar, 15, and Amy Santoro, 16, also found plenty to appreciate within the day.

Lily said she enjoyed hearing one speaker talk about his goal to cycle around Australia.

“The Wests Tiger player that came in also said it’s good to have a goal set from the beginning and have it in your folder, on your mirror and places so you can see it every day,” she said.

Amy said the study advice from two current university students was valuable.

“They were speaking about time management and ways to study without giving away your sport and friends,” she said. “They told us to write up a timetable and stick to it.

“It’s helpful so we can prepare ourselves and get ready for Year 11 and 12.”

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