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Where’s the Connection?

 

 

‘WHY’ is unequivocally my favourite word and favourite question.

The first time I was disciplined by a parent other than my own- I was told I asked too many questions, with the ‘WHY’ of everything being the main cause of my apparent offence.

This made growing up some what challenging, as over time I learnt that people don’t always like to be questioned, especially when they don’t have the answers, and particularly by a minor!

It makes sense then, that university was a welcomed space for me- as I was finally surrounded by like minded students and academics who spend their days pondering things. Choosing to major in journalism and counselling across both of my degrees only fed my curiosity more, as question- asking quickly became my 9-5 for 6.5 years.

I’ve always believed that life is about practicing what one preaches and that, whatever we dish out, should be welcomed and accepted in return.

Which is WHY it only seems fair that I start answering the very question. Since launching  The Meet Up Collective’s social presence, the questions have started to pour in. And while it feels like there are a million different reasons that feed into the need for such a program (and the overwhelmingly positive response does consolidate this), I will start with my story. 

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My primary education started strong, as I gained a best mate from day one of kindergarten.

James and I were inseparable. From the shared car rides, Sailor Moon viewing sessions, sleep over club and water bomb fights, there was nothing we didn’t do together. Living three doors apart, we didn’t need many other mates (except for scooter races on Sundays).

I can now understand WHY I experienced my first heart break at the tender age of six– as my bestie was relocated to Sydney. Whilst I was a sociable child with a solid group of friends, I was also timid and shy. On top of this, I always found it easier to relate to boys, and was made a target of female bullying from year two.

I have been blessed with extremely supportive parents who acted quickly and made the decision to enrol me in an all girls catholic primary school.

This culture of course brought its own dynamics and issues. While there are definite pros to Catholic discipline and ethos implementation, curious students who question the WHY of everything and appreciate male energy don’t always fit the mould.

I can still recall spending maths daydreaming about how I would set my own class room up, and how differently I would approach students. I had a strong vision that included a ‘chill out’ corner in which students could have a supportive one- on- one chat with ‘cool’ teachers, who would always understand. I’m not sure if what I am doing now stems from this little dream, but it’s interesting to reflect on.

This underlying theme of feeling frustratingly misunderstood bled into high school. While I made friends easily and found my niche in the creative subjects, I never saw the point of playing the ‘game’. It has taken me many years of analysis and conversation to realise this, and to see some benefits in conforming to the game of life, for the sake of success and survival.

Additionally, being deemed incapable of attending university despite my proven scholastic ability in a fair few subjects was frustrating, insulting and led me to question WHY.

I am so grateful to my younger self as well as my mother, for having the courage to challenge the man calling such shots, and choosing to prove him/ the system wrong.

It was this determination that pushed me to persist through many years of uni, with the end goal of making some kind of difference. 

It was also my parents unconditional encouragement and support, not just of my academic pursuits but also the choices I made.

Across year nine and 10 and then year 12 I had a boyfriend (much to many Head of Years and religious teachers disgust).

On reflection, I completely understand my parents encouragement and I’m so glad that it was there. Because, these relationships gave me an outlet; someone to talk to, to be understood by and supported by- outside of the school walls and separate from the family unit.

I could be loud, opinionated and imperfect. Which is what I believe we all need. A sense of connection, belonging and community is paramount to peoples wellbeing. It is these ingredients that I believe are lacking in so many young peoples lives.

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Call it luck or fate, being approached to work with secondary students back in 2013 turned out to be a pivotal part of my story. All of sudden, my WHY’s became ‘WHY NOT?’s.

Since my first session until now, I still find myself challenging students self doubt, time and time again. In fact, I still ask ‘older’ people the same thing, including myself.

Confidence boosting, resilience building, enabling of coping mechanisms; call it what you like, such notions all come down to self belief, or a lack there of.

I created The Meet Up collective with a sole purpose of minimising the pressures school students experience. The provision a safe, encouraging and empowering space for people to just be themselves, whilst forming healthy relationships (and improving their grades) is my goal.

As I discussed with Dr Alec O’Connell- the Head Master of Scotch College recently, intelligence is not solely defined by grades. If one lacks the ability to communicate their thoughts and feelings, and form relationships, life can be rather difficult.

Over the coming weeks I will explore the specific elements that The Meet Up Collective program is designed to address. Each week will be themed and I will consult with different experts where appropriate. I am very open to positive feedback and engagement from parents, students as well as educators!

Thanks for reading,

Isabella Mitchell

Founding Director- The Meet Up Collective.