- Welcome to the Term 4 2020 Newsletter
- Federation Update
- Save the Dates: Helping Kids Get Off to a Good Start in Primary and Secondary School
- Feel Good Stories
- Feel Good Story: Wakakirri Wow! SA Catholic Schools Shine!
- Feel Good Story: My Daughter’s Remote Kindergarten Teacher Taught Me to be a Better Mom
- Feel Good Story: Zac's Song and Story.
- Keep it Simple: Personal Touches Help Make Christmas Special.
- How are our Children and Young People Doing?
- A Survey for Teenage Girls: Have Your Say on Sports Uniforms.
- Christmas Reflection
Welcome to our final newsletter for 2020.
Well, we are nearly there! Just a few more weeks to say goodbye to what has been a challenging year for families as well as for our beautiful children in schools.
I try and live by always trying to find the positives in life and, yes, it can be challenging. Covid has tested us, and I know for my family (4 children - 3 girls and 1 boy) it has been an opportunity to forget the electronics and embrace the simpler life. A little less stress with the running around trying to get from point A and B and some more time reconnecting with each other. More US time. Yet at the same time trying to balance a healthy lifestyle with juggling all those things we do in our normal life.
Life at the Federation has also brought its challenges. We have not been able to meet face to face for nearly a year and, like many, have relied on teleconferencing. Luckily we remember what we all look like! We have exceptional people in the background, predominately volunteers and Teresa, Lisa and Nicole in our office as well.
As always we wish to thank and acknowledge each and every person who works to continue our wide influence and success in this great arena of family and education.
This year we saw the resignation of Kylie Ind, our President. Kyle bought passion, humour and a level of dedication that was inspiring. As a mother, awesome wife, aspiring businesswoman, and a contact from our regional areas, Kylie often drove, flew or caught a ride, not only to our meetings but to represent us interstate. We were blessed to have you with us, Kylie, and we wish you all the success in your family business.
I now get to wish all of our beautiful families in all of our schools a very safe and relaxing break over the holidays. Take the time out to stop and hug those kids of yours, to breathe deeply and relax, don’t sweat the small stuff and remember to laugh.
Merry Christmas to you all. I pray that your families remain safe and we join each other again in the New Year.
God Bless you all,
Term 4 has been quite busy for us and we will be glad to close the office at the end of term to enjoy down time at Christmas and in the school holidays with family and friends.
We wrapped up our series of online webinars with the Life Buoyancy Foundation Institute which partnered with us to make best practice information available to all Catholic school parents on supporting students to navigate COVID-19 challenges, preventing and responding to anxiety and depression in students aged 5 - 18, promoting wellbeing outcomes within schooling contexts, and positive psychology skills.
Thank you to Dr Ivan Raymond, his team at LBIF and Tenison Woods College in Mt Gambier for working side-by-side with us to present the eight workshops which were well supported and well received.
We also wrapped up the parent engagement forum held in September with visits to the St Joseph's Education Centre and Galilee Catholic School to share morning tea and create videos.
In line with our commitment to contribute to collective action around the priorities identified in the Child Development Council's SA 2020 Report Card for Children and Young People, we also attended Healthy Development Adelaide's Annual Oration given by Emeritus Professor Michael Sawyer OAM and titled The Mental Health of Young Australians. Whose responsibility?
We funded professional development for our two Parent Engagement Officers in the nationally accredited Certificate IV in Parent, Family and Community Engagement, and both Nicole and Lisa are benefitting from the theory, practical assessments and connections with other current learners from the not for profit group Australian Schools Plus, the Catholic school system in Victoria, the Christian Community Ministeries school system in Queensland, and the public school system here in South Australia.
We participated in a confidential Department for Education consultation on options for a comprehensive (system, school, community, family) state government policy response to further parent engagment as a driver of student academic performance and achievement and will continue to contribute.
We promoted the opportunity for school communities to apply for PIE grant funding for 2021 and have almost completed the selection process.
We have also been evaluating 2020 PIE grant outcomes, supporting schools who were unable to deliver on these due to Covid-19 and written new case studies to profile good practice projects and related processes to the Minister for Education and other audiences.
And on a less bright note, we very recently met with Professor Denis Ralph (Chair of the SA Commission for Catholic Schools) and Dr Neil McGoran (Director of Catholic Education SA) and received advice that the Commission is forming a new parent representation and advocacy group which will sit within the Church Canonical structure and be governed by four trustees: the Archbishop of Adelaide, the Bishop of Port Pirie and two others from SACCS/CESA. In an unsettling sign of disrespect, schools were advised before the Federation, receiving an email communication as the meeting with the Federation was commencing.
We understand that formal correspondence will come to us from SACCS/CESA and have been advised we must vacate our office at CESA in February next year. In the meantime, Archbishop O'Regan has written to us and we have written to the Minister.
The Federation Council will continue to consider its future options over the coming months and to implement the activities we have planned for Term 1 next year. These include the online webinars for parents and caregivers relating to primary and secondary school transitions with Kirrilie Smout (Developing Minds) and educator/family responses to students who are disengaging or have disengaged (Life Buoyancy Institute Foundation). We are trusting that communications and activities relating to the formation of the new Church-controlled parent group will not cloud the promotion of these webinars or deter Catholic school families from accessing these free information sessions with well qualified, parent-oriented presenters.
In closing out the year, we especially thank the principals and school communities who chose to affiliate with us this year and last, and all school communities who welcomed our school visits, supported our activities and contributed their strength and ideas to our work this year.
We also sincerely thank the reception, property and IT staff in CESA for the constantly warm and friendly service they offered without ever understanding what 'the problem' with the Federation was and our dedicated staff and volunteers.
In Term 1 next year we will be hosting two free online presentations about helping students to make a good transition to school. The first one is for parents and caregivers of Reception students (February) and the second for parents and caregivers of Year 7/8 students.
These presentations are open to families in ALL of our Catholic schools and are a wonderful opportunity to learn from psychologist and author Kirrilie Smout and to ask her questions.
They can be watched at home or, with school support, together with other parents, caregivers and also teachers at a school site.
If you would like to pre-register your interest as an individual or school parent group, please contact us at your convenience through our website: https://www.parentfederation.catholic.edu.au/
Otherwise, registrations will formally open in the first week of term.
We have added both flyers to the end of this article. Please feel free to download them and include them in your own newsletters or social media or distribute them to your parent groups.
THE CHALLENGES AND ADVENTURES OF STARTING PRIMARY SCHOOL: A PARENT’S GUIDE.
Tuesday 23 February at 7.00pm
This presentation by Kirrilie Smout is for parents and caregivers whose children are starting their journey through primary school.
In will offer practical knowledge and strategies including:
- The 6 emotional and social learning challenges and needs for children as they start school.
- Helping children tell us more about their school days and experiences (without pressuring them too much).
- Strategies for helping children manage friendships and social relationships.
- Strategies for helping children become independent and responsible learners.
- Strategies for helping children manage worry and frustration about school experiences.
- Working together with school teachers and other staff.
WELL-BEING AND SUCCESS FROM THE START OF SECONDARY SCHOOL: WHAT PARENTS AND CAREGIVERS CAN DO.
Tuesday 2nd March at 7.00 pm
This presentation, also by Kirrilie Smout, is designed to help parents and caregivers gain confidence and skills in supporting their teenagers as they start secondary school in Year 7/8. Specific topics covered include:
- Understanding the factors associated with higher well-being and academic achievement of students in secondary school.
- Knowing how to talk with teens (including those who are reluctant to communicate).
- Knowing how to support teens to get enough sleep and use devices wisely.
- Helping young people navigate friendships and interactions with their peers.
- Knowing how to implement boundaries in ways which are respectful and empowering for young people.
Kirrilie Smout is the founder of Developing Minds, a large child and adolescent psychology clinic in Adelaide and Calm Kid Central which provides online support for children who are struggling with worry, frustration or challenging behaviour.
She has worked with young people, their families and teachers for 24 years, presented thousands of workshops to school students and authored three books: When Life Sucks, When Life Sucks for Kids and The Years that Count.
This year has been difficult. We have all faced various challenges that have tested us, shocked us and made us change the way we go through our day to day lives and think about the future. Many of us are experiencing roller-coaster emotions and this is all valid, normal and okay!
However, here at the Federation, we like to try and focus on the positives. In a world where mainstream and social media is increasingly displaying more negatives than positives, more darkness than sunshine, we believe in spreading joy, hope and humble triumphs.
So, we have collected up a set of three "Feel Good Stories". Stories we hope will put a smile on your face, exercising those facial muscles that have been neglected a bit this year.
Wanting to showcase spirit, insight and optimism, we have chosen an amazing accomplishment of Our Lady of La Vang student Zac, Whitefriar's empathic dance-story about the impact of bushfires, and a New York city parent-teacher's admiration for her child's kindergarten teacher and her own child during remote learning.
Keep scrolling to read through these stories:
- Wakakirri Wow! SA Catholic Schools Shine!
- Zac's Song and Story.
- My Daughter's Remote Kindergarten Teacher Taught Me to be a Better Mom.
If you have your own "Feel Good Story", then please send it through to us! Message us on our Facebook Page and we can share the good feelings with all our contacts!
This year’s national online Wakakirri Story-Dance Challenge was an absolute bright spot in the gloominess of COVID-19 and South Australian Catholic school students absolutely shone!
Wakakirri’s National Panel said it was incredible that students and teachers had been able to create such stories and performances despite all the unexpected obstacles, and they were every bit as moving and inspiring as the ones performed in theatres in previous years.
While COVID-19 has made life difficult for many Australians, as a country, we have been in a much better position than many others around the world. Even so, Emily James, a parent and ex-teacher living in New York city found magic in listening to her daughter's remote classes every day.
Emily's perspective on parenting was published in the Washington Post, 26 October 2020:
“Can you guess how I’m feeling?” my daughter’s kindergarten teacher says to the 25 little faces during her morning calendar talks in Google Meet.
Allie sits with perfect posture, shoots her hand up to the sky. “Happy,” she says when Ms. G calls on her to unmute her microphone.
“I am happy!” the teacher replies. Her tone reveals none of the anxiety and stress I know she must be feeling.
New York City schools have been open for hybrid learning since September, and teachers are facing lack of staffing, rising covid-19 numbers, unhappy parents and bursting class sizes. There has never been a more stressful time to be in this profession — and as a former teacher of almost 15 years, I can attest that even pre-covid-19, teaching in New York City was beyond challenging. But every morning, my daughter’s kindergarten teacher’s sweet voice rings through our computer speakers: “Good morning, friends!”
All summer I agonized over the idea of my 5-year-old daughter missing out on a true, in-person kindergarten experience. When deciding whether to send her to school or keep her home, the choice was clear but not easy. My husband has health complications, so we need to limit our exposure, and I knew that because he works nights, he could be with her during the day. It felt like the safer and more stable choice. But the sadness of what is happening to students and teachers and parents around the world is heavy. Childhood is such a short time, and it feels like our kids are being robbed of the normalcy we always took for granted. I knew Allie wouldn’t get to tell secrets to friends, to line up by height, to have that space she deserves to develop into herself without her mom and dad close by.
Even more surprising than how well Ms. G manages remote kindergarten: Allie isn’t the only one learning lessons here. Spending these past few weeks listening to the way my daughter’s kindergarten teacher talks and interacts with her during their live sessions has affected me in a different way than I imagined. It’s made me into a better mom.
So each morning, after feeding and dressing and cleaning and getting her ready (she makes me do her hair in a perfect, slicked-back ponytail and takes her time picking out a “fancy” outfit), I sit on the couch nearby with a cup of coffee as class begins. As Allie practices her letters, I practice watching the way that Ms. G speaks to her and the rest of her classmates, with her silly tone of voice, her stuffed owls “Echo” and “Baby Echo.” I am reminded of how a 5-year-old deserves and loves to be treated.
After spending every waking minute with my children during the pandemic, one day bleeding into the next, we became partners in survival. I didn’t realize that I had only been seeing Allie as my daughter, someone whose needs I was responsible for, and not seeing her clearly as her own person, a 5-year-old kid among a couple dozen other 5-year-old kids. How could I? The stress of this pandemic has been immense. But it’s been eye-opening watching how Allie reacts to someone taking such careful time with her. Talking to her patiently, using silence as opportunity for encouragement. “Keep trying, friend!” Ms. G will say if Allie gets stuck. Cheering her on, even if she makes a mistake, using a much more theatrical voice than my own. Being silly in ways I wouldn’t: “Kiss your hand and put it on your head to give your brain some love!” Ms. G will say, and Allie follows.
These small moments of enthusiasm and positivity give my daughter something that I’ve been holding back, something that she deserves.
I can tell in her body language, the way she sits up straight, the way her small frame settles into her desk, that she feels completely engaged and seen. I watch her little fingers holding a pencil and trying to write a perfect E. She seems so little, so innocent in the mess of what’s going on in the world today, and it shifts my heart in a different way.
And even though Ms. G tells the kids how “happy” she is each day, I’m not naive enough to think she isn’t struggling. Yes, I have experience in being a stressed-out teacher, teaching public high school for almost 15 years. But this is nothing compared with what teachers right now are feeling. Kindergarten is hard enough to manage in person, let alone virtually. I know Ms. G has to deal with ballooning class sizes and disappointed parents, with long hours tied to technology, nights prerecording her lessons so that the students she isn’t seeing live can watch them on their own. And then the actual teaching through a screen — in small and large groups — all day long. To do all that seems unbelievably hard, and to do it well? It seems impossible. Yet here we are.
That in itself has been another lesson to me. No matter what Ms. G is going through, she maintains that space for Allie and her classmates. That space where she can be silly and laugh and give a 5-year-old the environment he or she deserves.
My hope for this year was that Allie would enjoy school, that she’d be able to learn. But there are lessons for all of us if we pay attention to what teachers are doing. In my case, I’ve found myself able to zoom out and see my child in a new way, treat her with more care and tenderness, less as just my daughter and more as who she is at heart. I’m still far from perfect, quite a mess actually, and by each night, I’m almost back to my old ways. I see a child who needs to be fed, needs to be bathed, needs to be loved. Sometimes, her needs put me into full-on parenting mode and distract me from seeing her for who she is.
But then each morning, we wake up, we do our hair, we brush our teeth. Ms. G shows up, not just for Allie, but for both of us. “Good morning, friends!” her silly singsong voice rings out, and brings each of us somewhere else — or really, back to where we need to be.
Source - https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/10/26/remote-kindergarten-teacher-parenting/
When we were collecting up the evaluation reports for this year’s PIE grants, we heard this wonderful story about Zac Waterhouse, a student at Our Lady of La Vang Special School. Zac met Tori Marshall, the co-founder of Lift Up Voices at a Disability Provider Expo Our Lady of La Vang organised last year and, soon after, they set a goal for Zac to record a song in 12 months. That might seem like no big deal except that Zac is non-verbal.
This video of Zac and his music coach shows how the seed of an idea once planted, can be nurtured into a dream and transformed into reality. With a clear goal, courage, commitment and inspiring coach, the seemingly impossible is shown to be possible after all.
Thank you to Zac’s mum for encouraging us to share his story and success.
* Lift Up Voices is a registered NDIS provider which offers inclusive group workshops and individual sessions incorporating singing, movement, song writing, recording, production, music and podcasting.
Find some wrapping paper with Christmas themes.
Buy enough flat-bottomed chocolates for everyone who will be at your Christmas meal.
Cut the wrapping paper into tall triangles.
Paste the tall triangles onto some cardboard and cut them out again.
Wrap the chocolates in alfoil.
Tape a bamboo skewer or toothpick to the back of each tree.
And poke a tree into each chocolate.
Artistic, affordible, edible!
Nativity sets are a fantastic addition to your Christmas tree and decorations, and a great hands-on tool for teaching children and reminding teenagers of the true meaning of the Christmas story. Even if you already have one, consider this fun way to make one in the family.
There are no rules as to how complicated the Nativity scene must be and this website offers plenty of ideas.
We'd love to see your finished products, so feel free to Facebook us.
South Australia’s 2020 Report Card looks at how children and young people are doing in the areas of health, safety, wellbeing, education, and citizenship.
The good news is that most are doing well. Most are safe from abuse, neglect and crime. Most are healthy. Most have supportive early learning and development experiences. And most are gaining the literacy skills they need to become independent and participate in community life.
But there are some concerns too. When compared nationally, kids in South Australia have:
- higher rates of disability
- higher rates of developmental vulnerabilities at school entry
- lower educational achievement at Year 3 and Year 5 levels
- higher estimates of mental health problems
- higher rates of binge drinking.
The report suggested six priorities for collective action in 2020-2021, and the Federation responded to two of these:
- children entering school with unidentified disabilities and developmental delays
- increasing obesity rates
- poorer outcomes for Aboriginal children and young people
- children and young people’s mental health concerns (a Federation focus in 2020)
- children and young people who are involved in both the child protection and youth justice systems
- economic, social and health impacts of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic (a Federation focus in 2020).
The Victoria University is doing a national survey on what girls aged 12 - 18 think about their school and club sports uniforms, and how these can be designed to help girls feel comfortable and confident to participate in sport.
The Federation has confirmed that the survey is ethical and checked the questions.
We encourage parents to support their girls to participate in the survey, and girls to ask their team mates.
When completing the survey, there is an option to enter a $5,600 prize draw for 16 prize packs (2 per state/territory) with winners able to choose between a set of club shirts with their team's logo or an individual S-Trend activewear pack.
Entry into the prize draw requires a contact phone number which the researchers have assured will be deleted once the prize winners have been notified.
The joy of celebrating Christmas with our loved ones lies in the mystery of the meeting of God and humanity, in the person of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God who comes to be with us and save us.
In what has been such a trying year, one where many of us have been forced to change our usual ways, this Christmas, let us enter into a dialogue with God. For he revealed himself in Christ Jesus, allowing us to see that he is speaking and listening to us. His birth was no coincidence, it is the compassionate response of God, showing us that he is listening to the voice of humanity hoping and longing for the coming of the Saviour, to meet him and listen to His voice.
This year, let us reflect on how important it is for us to once again discover that God continues to speak with us and listen to us. He is not remote from us, he is near. He is closer to us than we are to ourselves.
The Holy Scriptures affirm how God has spoken to us in different ways, but in the fullness of time, He spoke to us through His Only Son (Heb 1:2), the Word Incarnate, through whom God has told us everything.
Let us ask the infant in the manger to give us the simplicity and trust of the shepherds, and the humility and faith of St. Joseph, to behold the child born with the power of the Holy Spirit, and to gaze upon Him with the love and tenderness of the Virgin Mary, His mother. May the Star of Christmas light our path to Him, as it guided the Magi. Let us come before Him and worship Him, bearing gifts of gratitude, forgiveness, reconciliation and love.
On Christmas day this year, let us proclaim together:
Christ is Born, Alleluia!
In Bethlehem, God has become Man,
and in Jerusalem, He has offered Himself for us.
Let us adore and worship him, for he is the Saviour!
Image of this year's indoor Nativity Scene at St Maroun's Parish Adelaide. Picture provided by the Maronite Youth of South Australia