It has been another busy and productive term at Lowanna College, despite the ongoing challenge of the pandemic, with two short lock downs this term. We are certainly grateful, that unlike our Melbourne counterparts, we have been able to be on site most of this term.
It is known that as humans, our brains like to feel like we are in control, and we like predictability. Generally, we don’t like uncertainty and sudden, unexpected changes. Unfortunately, the pandemic has created an environment for all of us that challenges us through continued uncertainty and constant change. The extent to which this impacts people will vary based on a whole range of factors, but it is important to recognise that many people are “Covid-fatigued”, and it is not uncommon that energy levels, motivation and resilience are not quite as strong as they usually are. It is more important than ever at this time that people invest in self-care, to look after themselves.
A key element of supporting our students at this time is a focus on routines, consistency, and predictability through our processes and expectations. We continue to encourage our students to adopt some regular self-care strategies - exercise every day (which can be as simple as a 20-30 minute walk outdoors), prioritise sleep (8-9 hours per night), stay connected - laugh often and have fun with friends, take regular study breaks (5 minutes every half hour), minimise social media, minimise exposure to the constant news cycles, and plan one or two positive things to look forward to each week. It is normal for students (and all of us) to feel up and down at times, but if a student is starting to feel down/flat more often than not, we strongly encourage them to check in with our Wellbeing Team, who can provide some more tailored support and strategies.
Year 12 students
This week I spoke to our Year 12 VCE students about where they are in the context of their schooling, with only 35 school days to go before exams. We discussed how important the last 2-3 months of school are, how their effort in this period can significantly impact their results, and therefore their opportunities after school. Having a sense of why a strong education is important to them (which will vary) helps keep our students grounded, motivated and focused as they finish the year. It is more important now than ever, that VCE students start to shift their focus to revision and exploring past exam papers and questions. As the students are aware - there is no better preparation for exams than completing past exams, reviewing the answers, and getting teacher feedback. All students should be aiming for at least 3-4 past exam papers per subject over the next two and a half months, keeping in mind the September school-break provides a great opportunity for some rest, and some solid-study. (For reference, our best performing students in previous years usually complete 5-6, if not more, past exam papers per subject).
Our Year 12 VCAL students also have a critical period ahead. While VCAL subjects do not have exams, there are tighter statewide requirements in the VCAL program. Students must successfully complete all units of competency, and satisfactorily pass all subjects in order to obtain their certificate. Students need to make sure they are well aware of what outstanding requirement they still need to complete, and work diligently towards these over the next two months.
Literacy and Numeracy Enrichment
Many families will know we introduced additional support in literacy and numeracy last year, to help support some students to close gaps in their learning and build confidence, and to ensure our advanced students were continually challenged and extended. Thanks to the Victorian Government this year, we received additional funding to significantly expand our Enrichment Programs. We currently have 25 additional staff, mostly final-year university students studying education/teaching, working across all year levels supporting our students. Our students love engaging with the younger educators, and as per last year, we continue to see significant growth in literacy and numeracy as a result of this work.
Uniform Exchange & New Jackets
At the start of this term we introduced a new uniform exchange initiative, which has been highly successful in supporting students and families with uniform. As many parents will know, the premise is that rather than giving students a detention for being out of uniform, we now provide the opportunity for students to change into the correct uniform at school, with no consequence if they change. Our uniform exchange is stocked with all items from our uniform range, in a wide range of sizes. Students switch their non-uniform item in the morning, and return it in the afternoon. The exchange also includes black and white socks, and black shoes, which are provided to students to keep. It was incredibly pleasing to hear feedback from one student last week - she said “This is so much better. Kids can’t always control their uniform circumstances, and parents didn’t always provide notes, so it was hard to have a detention for that. This shows us that you care about us”.
A key strength of the uniform exchange has been the ability to identify students who may not have full uniform for a variety of reasons, and we have been pleased to have already supported a number of students and families to have their own supply of full uniform.
Our college and our students have never looked better, with all students in full uniform each day. This helps support the positive climate across the college, and ensures a strong sense of equity for all of our students.
Our students have been excited to receive our new navy uniform puffer jackets, which came about through students feedback and requests earlier in the year. We sold 300 jackets in our five day pre-order period last term, and have since sold another 60 this term. The jackets look smart, but more importantly, are comfortable and much warmer for our students. We have a supply of jackets now available at our general office, and they continue to be available for $79.95 at this time.
Due to the growth in our college, we are currently recruiting an additional (fourth) assistant principal to support our improvement process. We have a clear focus for the next three years of further building our literacy and numeracy results, building our teaching practice and student learning in all areas through our Professional Learning Teams, further strengthening our Wellbeing and Student Support Services, growing our VCE results further, while also strengthening our VCAL program, and building leadership capability across the college.
We are also recruiting an additional careers practitioner, to enable us to provide stronger careers education and support in Years 7 to 9. Research shows students will be significantly more motivated and engaged in school if they have a clear sense of why they are there, and where their education is likely to take them.
Finally, over the next two months we will be recruiting for a range of classroom teachers to support our core work of learning, and our college’s growth. This will particularly include the areas of English, Mathematics, Science and Humanities. Anyone interested in joining our team (for these roles, or in general) is encouraged to contact me at the college.