School health in action:
Words to inspire
"Love is free and freeing."
These are the words of Shaylen Hildebrand, Family School Liaison Counsellor at St. Michael's School in Pincher Creek. She's expressing gratitude for a staff wellness practice that means a lot to her. It involves writing love notes to her future self—brief words of inspiration, kindness, and encouragement.
Each school year, Holy Spirit Catholic School Division (HSCSD) creates space and opportunity for counselling staff to write love notes they'll keep for later, opening them as the school year goes on. It's a simple concept with far-reaching effects. Shaylen explains:
"As adults working in schools, we need to remind ourselves that we're examples to each other, just as we are to the young people we work with. Words of inspiration can go a long way—empowering us and building our resilience, helping us get through the tough times.
For each month of the year, we write ourselves love notes on blank cards. These notes can be anything at all—words, phrases, quotes, reminders, things that make us laugh. We seal each note in an envelope, then open them monthly through the year. Every month I surprise myself because I've forgotten what I had written at the beginning of the year.
For example, I wrote just one word to myself for January: smile. When I opened that note, I smiled because I remembered why I wrote it. The first reason? I do forget to smile some days, and I need a reminder to do it more often. The second reason? January can be a particularly tough, wintery month. But I know I’ve got this...so, smile!
Writing a love note doesn't cost anything. It's a small act with an endless impact. Each note encourages me to carry on with kindness and compassion, leading by example."
The practice of writing love notes was introduced in HSCSD in 2021, sparked by Anita Lethbridge-Gross, coordinator of counselling and wellness. It now reaches beyond counselling staff, with many wellness champions and teams also taking part.
Recently, love notes has grown to include words of inspiration for colleagues. During some staff meetings and professional learning sessions, staff get space and time to write notes of praise and gratitude for each other. This practice builds authentic connections between people, reminding everyone of the gifts and talents they bring to their school team.
For more information and tips to take action, go to: