And just like that another term has come and gone!
This week we have celebrated the successes of our graduating students. It has not been an easy road for any of them. Rarely would we describe high school as easy, but when you are trying to learn and gain the necessary skills needed to go and shine bright in the world but instead you are learning in isolation in a formatt foreign to both the teacher, student and even the education system at large it adds another layer of challenge to getting to this point in your studies. Yet, so many of our class of 2022 have held their head high and simply just got on with it. With minimum fuss or complaint they simply made the best of a bad situation and worked to the best of their ability. The mass on Wednesday evening was moving, a real opportunity to come together and recognise them for the finer young people they have become. Good luck to each and everyone of you as you begin to write the next chapter of your amazing life story!
Also this week I have had the pleasure of interviewing our prospective College leaders for 2023. Yet again the process has not gone without its interruptions. Due to the National Day of Mourning, we were unable to hold speeches in front of the Year 11 and 10 cohort. We decided we would create a series of profiles based on their letters of application and their interviews. Each and every student showed a real commitment to the want to represent the College and to serve their peers as leaders. Each student was asked a series of questions ranging from the typical tell us why you have applied for a leadership position to some real thought provoking ones such as ‘If you were to identify an area of improvement in the College what would it be and how might you be able to work towards making a difference in this area’. Each student displayed a depth of consideration to such questions and many ideas were raised in which we look forward to exploring with the Student Leadership Team of 2023 and beyond. One thing that I took great pride in was that all students, when asked what they love about O’Connor, all reflected on how they feel that this is a community were they feel that despite what is happening out in the real world, here at school they know that people care and that the staff are approachable and work really hard to know who they are and what matters to them.
Our students will be voting on Friday morning and this year we are using an online platform (Compass) to do this. By choosing this platform, even students who are not present at school during this time have access to cast their votes. All voting students were sent the profiles of the candidates to consider the day prior to voting. The same information was sent to staff for their consideration as well. We look forward to notifying the successfully appointed candidates as soon as possible.
We have chosen to broaden our student leadership team by also inviting our Year 10 students to nominate themselves for a range of three Vice positions (Arts, Sport, Faith & Service). The calibre of applications was outstanding. So much passion and energy and a want to really support the incoming captains was evident. Their written applications were a delight to read, but nothing compared to the lovely conversations I found myself having with each candidate. Yes they were nervous, but once they realised we were in fact just having a chat about their interests, they relaxed and shared their hopes and dreams both big and small and were even proud of the things they have experienced when representing the College in a wide range of events and situations.
Bring on 2023, for I believe if our young people can achieve half of what they want we will be building a College that is a place of welcome and belonging, were students are able to excel and share their gifts and talents with pride and know that the staff are keen to support them in their endeavours beyond the school gate and formal education.
This unfortunately has been balanced out by some very poor actions by a handful of our students. In recent weeks we have had a spate of mindless vandalism occur in the bathrooms. From physical damage to taps, hand basins and soap dispensers to some horrendous targeted graffiti of both students and staff. Vaping also continues to be an issue in the toilets. These incidents are not isolated to one particular block of toilets or to even just one gender. At times we have had staff monitoring the open spaces and access and have asked teachers to be mindful of who leaves their rooms and for how long.
Our concerns are centred around the fact that we want our students to feel that they are safe and able to access bathrooms without having to witness such behaviours. I have spent the past two weeks walking around the school talking to students about these incidents, encouraging them to reflect on the way in which they speak to others and even about themselves, and the language they accept others using when talking to them. I find it challenging when our girls accept such poor language that is currently used by them and at them. I do hope that over the break our students take time to reflect on the impact of words, both spoken and written, on others. And that our actions do in fact impact on so many people, even on those that are not in the firing line. As David Hurley famously stated, “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept”, by choosing not to challenge such language and behaviours of our friends and peers means we as an individual also believe that these words and behaviours are acceptable. Standing up and challenging our friends is hard, but change will not happen if we continue to allow these things to continue, and I am sure that deep down not one individual believes that graffiti and the hurtful things that have been said and written belong in our school, let alone in our bathrooms.
Please take time to rest over the next few weeks. Stay safe and enjoy the break.
Leader of Learning - Pastoral Academic Care & Wellbeing