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Supporting Student Well-being and Learning through Blue Notes

A creative tool for student reflection, introspection, and communication was introduced this year to support student learning and formation.

In September, St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) launched the Blue Notes initiative, a weekly journaling programme to teach students how to effectively think about, reflect on, and then write about specific themes and topics congruent with our school’s mission and vision.

“I am very pleased with the feedback from staff and students thus far. Members of the Theology Department have been diligent in facilitating this opportunity and have been assistive in tone setting and creating a safe space for students to conduct their personal reflections,” says Paul Fitzpatrick ’95, teacher and Student Curriculum Integration Lead.

Paul Fitzpatrick filming a Blue Notes activity introduction.
Paul Fitzpatrick filming one of the Blue Notes pre-recorded video segments in the studio.

Students in all grades received their own private journals called ‘Blue Notes’ to fill with weekly reflections throughout the school year based on themed discussions.

“The initiative aligns with our Strategic Plan, which identifies four pillars of our educational model, including Fostering Belonging and Well-being, Creating Future-Ready Leaders, Building Empathy through Service, and Taking a Whole School Approach,” says Fitzpatrick.

The initiative is brought to life every week through the school’s Theology Department. Sessions run for approximately ten minutes at the start of each theology class, beginning with pre-recorded videos led by Fitzpatrick and other SMCS community members that introduce the monthly themes.

“Students have spoken to me about the benefits of journalling as a skill they had never attempted before,” he says. “Additionally, I appreciate the support from various staff members who have appeared in the Blue Notes segments, including Fr. Leung, CSB, Fr. May, CSB, Ms. Benzacar, Mr. Blaik, and Mr. Kiel ’09, to name a few. Finally, several students have led our Blue Notes segments as many see it as a great platform to demonstrate in-school leadership and modelling.”

To ensure privacy, the journals are stored in a locked bin in each classroom when they are not being used.

“The Blue Notes initiative has had a positive impact on my self-awareness as it helped me increase my knowledge on important topics while creating an engaging presentation for my peers to reflect upon,” says Lukas Kovar, Grade 12. “Through the process so far, I have learned that understanding my peers’ perspectives leads to becoming a positive ally in the SMCS community.”

Each monthly theme is further broken down into a weekly focus:

Session 1: The first session of the month introduces the theme and includes a personal mental health ‘check-in.’
Session 2: Students and their teacher engage in conversations focusing on the primary theme.
Session 3: Students are asked to reflect on how they might use their new understanding of the theme in their daily interactions at the school.
Session 4: Students then reflect on how they might use their new understanding of the theme outside of the school in the broader community.

SMCS Students engaged in the Blue Notes initiative in their classroom
Some Blue Notes video segments have also been led by SMCS students.

“The Bluenotes programme has helped me significantly as it has allowed me to take a moment of reflection during our busy day and focus on the small details in life that we often overlook,” says Matteo Correia, Grade 8. “These moments allow me to refocus on school, sports, and improving myself. I have learned that slowing down isn’t always a bad thing.”

The Blue Notes initiative emerged after consultation with the SMCS Administration, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, and the Wellness Team under the direction of our School Social Worker, Liat Benzacar.

During the first half of the school year, monthly themes focused on the Basilian Charisms outlined in the school motto.

“For example, during the first term, themes included Gratitude in October, Men’s Health in November, and Generosity in December, which fulfil the charism of Goodness,” adds Fitzpatrick. “In January, the primary theme was the Basilian Charism of Discipline.”

Going forward, the remaining months of the school year will focus on themes that help students broaden their knowledge of themselves and others.

“We hope that the Blue Notes initiative will allow our students the opportunity to think more deeply about various issues in their lives and develop an essential skill that will benefit their mental, physical, and emotional health in the future.”

Blue Notes serves as another initiative at SMCS that is integral to our vision of educating young men to lead lives of faith, character, and service.

“We hope that our students continue to become comfortable with this skill set and that it allows them to reflect on an assortment of themes and topics that they will encounter daily inside and outside our yellow brick halls,” adds Fitzpatrick. “This initiative allows them time and space to formulate their own opinions and actions as they seek to change the world through lives of faith, character, and service as St. Michael’s College School graduates.”

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