Branksome Hall News

Reframing Stress and Success with Dr. Denise Pope

At Branksome Hall, we put well-being first. As a school, we are always looking at ways we can improve the emotional, mental and physical well-being of everyone in our Branksome community, which is why we were excited to welcome Dr. Denise Pope to our campus this November.
Over a busy two days, Dr. Pope met with students, parents, faculty and staff to share her insights on how to change the way we think about stress and success.

Dr. Pope is a Senior Lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, a co-founder of Challenge Success, and the inaugural visiting scholar of our Chandaria Research Centre (CRC). Having worked with many schools across North America, Dr. Pope is an expert on students’ experiences of workload, stress and well-being in schools. During her time at Branksome, she helped us to dig deeper into what we can do to create a more balanced and academically fulfilling experience for our students.

What we already know to be true is while stress is often perceived as negative, it can have positive outcomes when girls learn and practise the skills to adapt and cope with stressors. It was valuable to hear some of Dr. Pope’s insights on how to support students to adapt to and cope with stress, including the importance of sleep and allowing for unstructured time in their busy schedules.

At the annual Branksome Hall Parents’ Association Luncheon, which was co-sponsored by the CRC, Dr. Pope addressed Branksome parents and shared insights from her years of research. “When we talk to students, the definition of success is very narrow. You have got to get the grades to get into university, to get the high-paying job, to get to happiness,” Dr. Pope noted. “However, when you talk to parents about success, the definition sounds a bit different … When you talk to parents [and ask them] to define success for their kids, they say happiness, they say health, they say balance and well-being. So there is a real disconnect between what the girls are hearing and what their parents think about success. We are trying to get people all on the same page,” Dr. Pope said.

As a school, we know that getting parents and families on the same page when it comes to well-being is a journey that requires an ongoing dialogue. With every school year, the social and digital landscapes of our students’ lives are changing and we are committed to creating a community of care where we consult with experts, such as Dr. Pope, to provide us with the most up-to-date research and insights.

While working with Branksome students, employees and parents, Dr. Pope emphasized the importance of what she calls PDF (playtime, downtime and family time). Incorporating these into weekly routine are vital to creating healthier, happier students—and adults, for that matter! Incorporating PDF five times a week for 25 minutes is proven by research to be a protective factor for kids. In addition to this, backed by plenty of research, Dr. Pope shared the importance of getting enough sleep. For students and adults alike, a person getting an appropriate amount of sleep is a person who is doing better academically and interpersonally.

Dr. Pope’s visit was an opportunity for us to explore the day-to-day lives of our students more deeply, while at the same time learning various strategies and tools that can be used by parents, students and employees alike to deal with stress and lead more balanced lives.

We look forward to incorporating the learnings from Dr. Denise Pope’s visit into our planning for school programs and practices over the coming year. We also look forward to continuing our work with Branksome’s Chandaria Research Centre and our team of guidance counsellors, social workers and other caring adults in the Branksome community to re-think stress and support students in their well-being.

To see Dr. Pope in action, you can view an interview with Dr. Pope following the luncheon.

Branksome Hall

10 Elm Ave, Toronto, ON, Canada
M4W 1N4
Toronto’s only all-girls, all-years, IB World School.
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