Parent, teacher and pre-adolescent lived experiences of wellbeing and spirituality: A hermeneutic phenomenological study

Year: 2021

Author: Manton, Claire

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Over the last few decades, wellbeing has occupied a significant space in the educational context due to enduring concerns about the mental health of children and adolescents. Holistic education is one particular perspective of wellbeing that goes beyond mental and physical health to frequently highlight the spiritual aspect of the child in relation to their overall wellbeing. In this perspective, spirituality is considered to be a dimension of the child that schools have a duty to nurture. Yet, despite its enduring position in theology, religion, philosophy and education, spirituality is an ineffable phenomenon. Whether confined to religion or viewed as an abiding aspect of humanity itself, spirituality remains a nebulous field of inquiry. This doctoral study explored lived experiences of wellbeing and spirituality in two Victorian primary school communities. Data collected from teacher, parent and student participants and analysed within a hermeneutic phenomenological methodology will be presented, which show wellbeing and spirituality to be essentially relational phenomena. What is curious about exploring relationships through the phenomena, is that these relations were shown to be not simply self-other relations in the here-and-now, but rather, existing in a temporal in-between of self, other and world. In particular, I focus on the experiences of pre-adolescent students who described lives that are imbued with past relationships and unseen entities, including deities and loved ones who have died. These ways of being in relationship were extremely significant for these students, but not necessarily visible to the adults around them. Drawing on the work of Donald Winnicott to explore these internal relations, I propose conditions for the expression of both wellbeing and spirituality to support pre-adolescent students during what is a significant period of developmental transition.