EP3 | Newsletter

Principal’s Message

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Establish Routine and Stay Connected

Veronica Wasiak, Deputy Principal
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Supporting Student Achievement While They Learn at Home

Aliesha James, English and Religious Education Teacher
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Structuring Successful Learning at Home and Accessing Learning Content

Martin Fairweather, Senior Biology, Science and Maths Teacher
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Wellbeing Resources for Students and Parents

Natalie Clapoudis, Guidance Counsellor
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Keep Well and Do The Five

Dr Jeff Kemp, Guidance Counsellor
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Principal’s Message TRANSCRIPT:

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Hi, it’s Anthony Elmore from St Michael’s College here at Merrimac on the Gold Coast. For our families, you would know that the way we deliver our newsletter and our news has been different this year. And so this is our newsletter format. But for our wider community, this newsletter and this particular episode because of the content that we’re delivering, we thought we would open it out to our entire community delivering news a bit different at St Michael’s in 2020. We hope you enjoy it.

As we begin our Easter school holidays, we’d like to take the opportunity to wish all of our families and the entire community a very happy and safe holiday period. Albeit very different holiday period this year. Easter is a very special time for us and we certainly hope that all of our families enjoy a time of rest and rejuvenation with those you love.

As we head to the Easter break, we’re not sure what comes for us after the holiday period. What we do know is that we enter this Easter period with hope-filled anticipation of what is to come.

Once term two starts, if we are not back here together on campus, what we do know is that we are prepared for the continuity of learning to continue. St Michael’s College of today is not the St Michaels of yesterday, not the St Michaels of two years ago.

For the past 18 months, we have had a unique focus on learning and teaching here at the college. We have invested significantly on teacher professional development, on working with our young people on learning and teaching. As part of that, we have made sure that our platforms have been ready for student engagement. So over the past 18 months, if a young person has been away from the college for a particular reason, they’ve been able to engage in learning and teaching when they have had time off for family appointments, when they’ve been away sick.

So for us, being able to transition into this online learning environment, these alternative education arrangements, has been a natural and seamless transition for us. At St Michael’s, we have been leading the way in these areas. This is not something new for us. This is not something scary for us and for our students. Learning and teaching and the continuity of learning and growth for our young people is at the heart, at the core of who we are here at St Michael’s.

We acknowledge that for some schools, for some families, they will be very worried. They will be very concerned because they have not taken some opportunities that have been available to them. At St Michael’s, we have been at the cutting edge of learning and teaching engagement and I am proud, proud of our students, proud of our staff who have engaged in learning and teaching development, engaged in learning and teaching in our online environment, but have engaged in understanding that progression for our young people.

We are committed to not just the nuts and bolts of subject development, but in the holistic wellbeing of our students. That’s what we are on about here at St Michael’s College and that’s what sets us apart from the other schools that might still be a bit tentative and not giving parents that solid confidence to move them forward at this uncertain time.

One of the most important things for families at the moment is that we do not expect mums and dads, grandmas and grandpas, aunties and uncles to become teachers at this time. Flexibility is the key. We understand that parents and families will have multiple priorities at this time. We certainly do not expect that our young people will be sitting in their uniform from 8:30am to 2:55 each day. Because when you think about it, when you think about the amount of learning that our young people will be able to do in an online environment, it will be different to a normal school day.

The way our teachers have structured learning is that we have considered the individual learning of our young people, of our young women and men. We trust our students. We trust our families to make sensible decisions for their children. We’re not going to dictate that at a set time, young people have to be wearing certain things and doing certain subjects. We are supporting learning across the week so students will know what our expectations are. Our expectations are clear, but our expectations are supported by teachers who are online ready to help. Online for online conversations, there with clear expectations of checking in, providing guidance, providing clear support for students in their learning progression.

We are realistic. We are here to support our families, support our young people. We are hope-filled for all the new horizons and new possibilities that this new time creates for us through our enrolment processes. We are deferring our acceptance fees at the moment for enrolments and we’re looking at the deferral of our application fees because we know that for families, there are a few other priorities they’re thinking of at the moment. But please do continue to get your applications in and we’ll worry about the enrolment application fees and acceptance fees when that time comes down the track.

But for the moment, we’re with you in supporting your young people and that focus on being together as a family and again, supporting the wellbeing of our entire community.

Have a great Easter. We look forward to continuing continuity of learning once the Term II commencement is there on the 20th of April. Whether we’re onsite or offsite, we’ll be there with you.

Establish Routine and Stay Connected TRANSCRIPT:

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Hi, I’m Veronica Wasiak, Deputy Principal here at St Michael’s. Obviously we’re going through a very difficult time at the moment and certainly a time of uncertainty. And during these it can often have an impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing and our students are no exception to this.

There may be students feeling uncertain about things, they may be worried about things, all sorts of different emotions will occur. And so with this at this point in time, evermore before it’s important that students feel cared about, that they feel as though they belong and that there is that connection.

And so I’m here this morning to put your minds at ease that, that will continue. Our students here at St Michael’s continue to be supported by our pastoral team, can visit our Counsellors, they can visit our Pastoral Teachers, they can visit their Heads of Year.

But we also understand that there are students that have entered into the transitioning of online work. And so it’s important that they still continue to feel connected and supported here at the College. So we’ve got a varying mechanisms that students can do that. There are many different online options.

We’ve said to our staff that, that they will respond to students and families within a 24-hour period, so if you do have any concerns where students have any concerns please make contact. You can also make contact with me directly here at the school. There’s been many correspondence that my mobile phone has been provided.

Please at any time if you have any concerns that you make sure that you do make contact.

It’s important during this time, particularly during online transitioning, that there’s a level of routine in the household that’s maintained. Particularly if we do close down, we go into early closure it’s easy to stay in pyjamas all day.

But as a family it’s important that, that routine is maintained, that there is that wake up, that there is getting changed, there is getting stuck into work and doing different activities that will help with that mental health. So not only with schoolwork but making sure that there is some activities and throughout this period we’ll be sending out different videos about different online physical activity.

There are great apps out there from Headspace, Smiling Minds, puzzle apps, and those apps also can be used for connection with family and friends as well.

At this point in time, social media, what a great mechanism, FaceTime, Facebook, Instagram, maintaining that connection. But it’s important that we don’t get trapped in that online world, that there is that connection. So the use of FaceTime, Skype, those sorts of things where there is that one-on-one communication group communication still does continue.

Supporting Student Achievement While They Learn at Home TRANSCRIPT:

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My name is Aliesha James. I am a Year 7, 9, 10, and 12 English and Religion teacher St Michael’s. This is my first year at St Michael’s and I am loving it here. The community and the spirit of all the kids are… I’m very happy to be here.

The support at St Michael’s has been incredible, and the communication from our Leadership Team and the support from all the teachers has made this an easy transition. I’m also finding that having everything online is amazing because all the kids know where to go, where to look to find our resources.

I expect every family to have different expectations for how their day at home will look like, but what I’m putting up for the kids is on OneNote and Teams, they’re my platforms that I’m using. I’ve sent an email to all my classes, letting them know exactly the expectations that I have for them, and I’m just setting it out week by week. So I’ll have week one and the three or four different activities that I expect them to do that week, and then a check in so that they know exactly what is expected of them from me.

I really do believe that students will have the opportunity to even improve or set higher expectations for themselves. Not that a classroom can hold students back, but people or students who want to work at their own pace or extend themselves, they have the opportunity to really do this now and to really live up to high expectations.

I’m doing weekly check ins and I’m going to be emailing and calling home if I don’t think students are doing the work that is expected of them. Just checking in with the students. Is this too hard? Do you understand this? Doing different resources. There’s even certain kids that I’ve talked to that I’m sending hard copy resources home with them, so if that’s an issue for them to get onto the computer, or if they feel like they need to write rather than type, they have access to that.

I really don’t view this as a setback for a Year 12 student, but I really do think that these students need to take a step up and be responsible for their own learning. But if that is what they do, if they do live to high expectations, there is no way that this should stop them from doing any kind of learning.

As a parent, I would definitely keep on track of what they’re doing and keep communicating with them. Ask to email their teachers, even. If you’re not sure, look at the different unit guides that have been put online and just hold them accountable for their work. I think that if students are just given free rein to do whatever they want to do, and there’s no check-ins, a lot probably won’t get done. But if you’re just questioning them, asking them, having conversations with them, even sitting down and doing some work with them, would be really helpful.

Structuring Successful Learning at Home and Accessing Learning Content TRANSCRIPT:

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My name’s Martin Fairweather. I’m a Senior Biology, Science and Junior Maths Teacher at St Michael’s College.

I feel that here our kids are pretty well prepared. I know the way that I feel about my classes, the kids that have been in front of me, especially over the last week, should feel pretty prepared for where they’re at. It’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure, but we’ve had lots of time to chat to them about what it’s going to look like and what learning might look like here and for them. I guess for every kid it’s going to look different and that’s okay. And that’s, I guess, one of the messages that I think we want to have out to the kids and the parents that for some kids it might be a really structured day that might start, that they might actually use their school timetable and they might jump on and use that as a way to make sure that they’re getting through each lesson each day.

For other kids it might be that they can’t do that, that they have to manage their day differently because of what their family situation is at home and that they might decide that it might be one day a week or two days a week that they sit down for the entire day and they knock over their assignments, or they go through the content and make sure that they’re keeping up to date with their assignments. For others, it might be that they have to do it in the evening or the morning, whatever that is, I guess, the kids hopefully, I guess, if they don’t, I guess the message I want them to have is that it’s okay for it to be different, but we do want them to have continuity of learning. If they are engaging in the online platforms, then we’ll know whether they’re engaging in what we need them to do and actually taking part in the lessons that we provide for them and the material we provide for them.

So, we’re pretty lucky in that we have the OneNote platform and the Teams platform as a way that we can engage the students. So within OneNote it’s very easy for staff to be able to monitor student work and within Teams as well. So we can look at the work, we can go to individual student pages and we can see their responses to activities that we’ve given them to, or even just engaging in the actual content. So at least if they are actually there making notes, completing the worksheets, completing the activities, then we can see that they’ve actually done that. So we do need them to actually put something there. If they just sit there and look at the page and read through it, we’re not going to know that they were there. So it’s really important that they actually go on and annotate those pages, copy them across onto their page so that we can see that they’re actually using the resources that we have for them.

And then for us it’s easy. We jump on, we can look at every kid’s page and we can see that they’ve done those activities. So for them, I guess that’s the biggest way for us to know whether kids are engaging and then if we see that they’re not, then that’s where we’re going to be contacting parents and contacting your kids and just saying, “Look, I can see that you haven’t got through this work. Is there something that you’re not understanding? Is there something that’s stopping you doing that?” We’re pretty understanding that it’s going to be different for every kid, but I think that’s the best that we can do, is to be able to monitor, that’s the way that we’re going to monitor them physically. Within Teams, there’s good functions for us to use to be able to have live meetings with our kids as well, as well as being able to have them submit work through Teams. So some staff will ask their kids to submit work through OneNote, some staff will ask their kids to submit work through Teams. For some classes it’d be a bit of both.

The live chat version of Teams is a nice way to have that interaction with your teacher and interaction with other students. We practiced it last Friday. I was actually off sick, but I wasn’t too sick to be able to speak to my kids, I just had a doctor’s appointment. So I connected with my kids and we just practiced using it. We practiced in class the other day using it so they could see how to actually get on. I literally was speaking to my kids this morning on Teams, my Year 12’s I would normally have right now. So we’ve already connected. I set up a meeting. I then had to cancel the meeting, but we’ve already connected this morning. I’ve had a chat to them and let them know what I’d expect from them today or for them to be able to message me throughout the day on that. It’s a really good platform that it doesn’t block up our emails, so they can put as many messages as they want there. It doesn’t block our emails up and it’s specific to the subject. So we can get onto Teams and find out where they’re at and be able to offer that one-on-one support, or we can offer group support if we see that it’s necessary.

Wellbeing Resources for Students and Parents TRANSCRIPT:

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Hi parent community. It’s Natalie, another part of the Guidance Counsellor Team here at St Michael’s College. So Jeff’s already talked about the five ways to wellness, which is really critical and important during this time. I guess what I’m going to be talking about is supports available to you and your young people during this time, because we are a community, we care about your wellbeing as parents, we care about the wellbeing of students, and we care about you during this time. We are all in this together. So we’ll be sending out some emails to your young people over the next week regarding supports that are still available, especially for our young people who have decided that home at the moment is a safer place to be. We want to still remain connected. We as still there to support you, even though you are not at school, and we recommend to young people to reach out to us, to email us.

There are also some amazing services in the community such as Kids Helpline for phone counselling, eHeadspace if your young person doesn’t want to get on the phone but they’ve more comfortable on email, and there’s also some great websites which we will send out not only to young people but also to you as parents. But also right now your role is really important and critical, and you might be wondering and might be a bit stressed as well, so reach out to us. We are there to support you in your role as well, and we are walking this journey together, but also if you don’t want to reach out to us there are other services available to you in the community as parents as well. There’s Parent Line which is a phone counselling line. There is also Lifeline telephone counselling and Lifeline is open 24 hours a day, they have access to a range of resources that can help you in your role as parents right now.

So take care, take care of yourself, your role is important. Take care of one another. Your wellbeing is important and we are all in this together. Thank you.

Kids Helpline:

Keep Well and Do The Five TRANSCRIPT:

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Hi, Dr Jeff Kemp’s my name, I’m the College Counsellor here at St. Michael’s College, and keen to work in partnership with parents and their families, for the best possible outcome for their children here at St Michael’s College.

There are five things you can do right now to support your own mental health and that of your family and loved ones. One is, to stay connected. Stay connected with your family and your friends. Have virtual meetings with your relations, your loved ones via online presence.

Secondly, be active. Look after yourself. Do some internal gym work. Don’t have to go to the gym. You don’t go to the gym, you can work out at home. Stay active, stay fit, stay well.

The third thing, is to keep learning. Find that favourite book, that you’ve been wanting to read for a long time. Learn about things. Learning is good for your emotional and mental health.

Also, take time. Look out the window, look around the backyard, notice the trees and the birds. Look at the clouds. That also can help you.

And finally, you give. Look at ways you can make contact with people, from your own home. Look into supporting elderly people, and people that you haven’t spoken to for a long time. It could make such a difference to their mental health, and also to your own.

So keep well, and do the five. Stay connected. Be active. Keep learning. Take notice, and give of your time. Thank you.