07 May 2020

From the Principal

Article by Mr Michael Exton

From the Principal

Dear Parents,

We have nearly completed the fourth week of remote and flexible learning.

Remote learning update

I want to start by acknowledging overall the great work that students, teachers and parents have been doing during these very challenging and difficult times. I am well aware of many tremendous examples of students who have pivoted, to use a word that’s been used a lot lately, to remote learning. I appreciate that there are many and varied challenges for families as they adapt to these current circumstances. Thank you for your continuing support, flexibility and the great efforts you continue to make to maintain our students’ learning continuity.

I have received positive feedback from many parents and students about how remote learning has been progressing. Of course, there have been some concerns raised. Still, the great majority of these have been framed in a complimentary and constructive way and expressed with gratitude to our teachers and our student wellbeing, education support, maintenance and administrative staff. They all continue to play such an essential part in ensuring we deliver our core business, student learning.

We will continue to learn and make improvements as we progress so we can better deliver learning online. To help us to improve, we welcome your feedback. Please see the “Remote & Flexible Learning Information for Students & Parents” document emailed to parents at the start of the term for who to direct the feedback to and their contact details. You can also access this document (with many other COVID-19 related resources) through the link on the College’s webpage.

We have a small number of students undertaking remote learning at school in the ILC. The students appear to be working very well on their subjects. Thank you to the staff members who are supervising these students.

I am very grateful for the dedicated support of our College Executive members. They have been working incredibly hard and will continue to ensure that our focus is on troubleshooting, problem-solving and supporting learning continuity for our students.

At yesterday’s Critical Incident Management Team meeting, we decided to set-up a return to on-site learning and working group. While the current plan is for a return to regular classes here at school from the beginning of term three, we are starting to sense that there may be a move before the end of the term and if that turns out to be the case we want to be as well prepared as possible. So over the next weeks, this group will work on developing a plan for return. If the return doesn’t happen before the beginning of next term, this plan will still be needed for when we do. Please stay tuned for updates via email.

It seems that after government deliberations on the 11th of May, we may learn what the direction for Victoria is in regards to the return to school. We will wait for the advice from the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria which I expect will be in alignment with the Department of Education and Training and the Victorian Health authority advice before we finalise any return plans.

Congratulations to two 2019 Year 12 Students

As a school community, we are delighted with the news that two of our 2019 Yr 12 students have received significant awards as a result of their very impressive achievements last year. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing uncertainty caused by the Coronavirus outbreak, the very special awards ceremonies in Melbourne have been postponed indefinitely; however, the students have been recently publicly acknowledged.

Congratulations to the following students. As their families are, the College is very proud of them too. Well done!

The state winner of the VCAL Senior Achievement Awards, 'Excellence in the Category of Work Related Skills (Senior)' - Courtney Waugh

The annual Premier’s VCE Award, Study Award, Top of Form - Laboratory Skills (VCE VET) - Emily Gordon

I also commend the teachers who supported these students over the years.

Student wellbeing and mental health

The effects of the pandemic on wellbeing and mental health and in particular, for youth have been highlighted in recent media reports. Our students’ wellbeing is at the forefront of our minds In the Geelong area. Last week, Deputy Principal, Mr Michael Timms, Wellbeing Office Coordinator, Ms Tenille Thomson and I joined in an online meeting with Principals and wellbeing staff members from many Geelong schools and some local health professionals organised by ‘headspace Schools – Be You.’ We discussed the situation in Geelong, and how ‘headspace’ and the Education sectors can work with schools to support the Geelong community during this time. Our Student Wellbeing Office remains proactive and ready to support our students. If parents or carers have any concerns about the wellbeing of their daughter or son, please feel you can contact our Student Wellbeing Office for support. Each day we have a wellbeing team member rostered to be at school. For immediate assistance, seek medical or professional help. Mr Timms provides more information about support and resources available in his article in this edition of the College newsletter.

I share the following advice in “Principals’ Digests” (Vol. 26 No. 16) in an article, “Lessons for Coronavirus” from Ned Johnson (March 2020.)

The causes of stress fit into the acronym NUTS: novelty; unpredictability; threat (or perceived threat); sense of control. Pandemic viruses hit on all of those stressors, more so for the young, for whom the novelty is higher and a sense of control lower. Neuroscience shows that it is adversity in life, dealing with tolerable challenges, that wires the brain for resilience. So, while ideally we will be spared the worst of the crisis, there’s also an opportunity to use it to help our children.

Make a plan … and a Plan B. Visualising how to navigate a situation activates neural pathways in ways similar to actually doing the thing. This is why airlines give the same instructions to passengers time after time. Anticipate difficulties and make multiple plans to navigate them. It can be paralysing to feel you have only one route and that is blocked, so make a Plan B too.

Make a list. Putting plans, thoughts and concerns on paper can increase a sense of control, lower the power of those concerns and free up cognitive resources.

Assign children something to do. Parents want to make children feel safe but it’s better if we make them feel brave and give them a sense of control.

Teach children where to get help. Talk about what they should do if they feel ill or afraid. Show them where emergency supplies are kept. Share your plans. That helps engage their pre-frontal cortex and its problem-solving faculties, calming their amygdala (the stress response) and strengthening the connections between the two.

Teach children what to do. When they can see washing hands as something that helps others and not just themselves, it increases their sense of control. Hygiene becomes a super power!

Spread calm. When family members are alarmed or panicking, calmly say, “Do I look worried? This is manageable.”

Take the long view. We can remind ourselves of the difficulties we and our families have weathered in the past. It engages our coping skills, helping us better figure out how we will get through this challenge if it comes our way.

Talk back against your own fear in front of your children. “It is scary that so many people are sick but the news doesn’t talk about the fact that everyone else is doing fine, or all the people who are only a little sick. We have a good plan and other people looking out for us.” It is the sense of control that can be the source of future resilience. After this virus has run its course, not only will we have a greater herd immunity to the virus, we may also have greater herd immunity to the stress. And if we handle it properly, our children will, too.

Rescheduling of Teacher Professional Practice Day (PPD)

The first day of this term, Tuesday 14th April, had been allocated as a student-free day to provide a PPD. As you would be aware, with the move to remote working, teachers used this day to prepare for this change. The PPD has been moved to Friday 22nd May and consequently teachers will not be available for remote classes on this day.

Year 7 Enrolments for 2021

Can I please remind parents of current students that if you have a child in Year Six this year that applications for a place in Year 7 next year at Saint Ignatius College Geelong close on Friday 22nd May 2020? Application forms are available from our office or the College website.

Best wishes,

Michael Exton Principal