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News > School Newsletter > Staff Features- 5 August 2022

Staff Features- 5 August 2022

Ms Sally Munro, Director of Pastoral Care, discusses the growth opportunities and guidance our students are provided through immersions and our oakSEED program.
5 Aug 2022
Australia
School Newsletter
Staff Features
Staff Features

Student Growth outside the Classroom

Sally Munro | Director of Pastoral Care

As the sun peered over the horizon on Monday morning, I was there to greet it on Cape Tribulation Beach with the 37 students I am accompanying on the Far North Queensland experience. As we sat in silence listening to the ocean and looking out to the horizon, I was gently reminded of my small place on this magnificent planet. This feeling came over me again gazing up at the canopy of the Daintree Rainforest, surrounded by trees that have stood for 135 million years, and welcomed by a Kuku Yalangi elder, a traditional owner of the land of which we stood.

An extraordinary experience of awe and wonder.

A holistic experience in its truest sense that provides every student with an opportunity for growth.

To walk beside the students on this journey is equally as profound as the itinerary itself. A journey that started at the commencement of the year when relationships began to form. There are inevitably moments of challenge for every student when living away from home and in a community for two weeks, and whilst each challenge has a different lens, when feelings are in motion, social and emotional skills continue to be the common significant influential factor in a student's capacity to manage them. Although the Loreto Normanhurst oakSEED program develops social and emotional skills, opportunities for their application could never be replicated in a classroom in the same way that is gifted to us in a two-week immersion experience. All around me have been social and emotional teachable moments, particularly now as fatigue settles in, relationships shift and one day to the next remains uncertain.

Learning how to accept difficult feelings and challenge their thoughts through emotional regulation contributes to the growth that occurs for students during their time away. When faced with uncertainty, all individuals tend to predict, worry and create stories about the world around them and the people in it. This can lead to catastrophising, personalising and using assumptions to conclude outcomes that may not be reasonable. Young people need guidance and effective role modelling to support them to embrace discomfort and establish constructive ways to respond. Too often, significant adults work towards solving the problem for them which limits the development of coping strategies for the young person and inhibits their self-efficacy. Parents and teachers have a shared responsibility to support this development. They should guide young people to pay attention to the language in their self-talk that is unconstructive and that fuels their worry. They should encourage them to acknowledge their feelings and define the problem, challenging assumptions can be fundamental for the development of resilience and navigating uncertainty.

As each day passes and we begin our sixth day, emotional regulation is paramount for establishing positive and respectful relationships with a diverse group of people. Being self and socially aware, and having the ability to manage emotions, thoughts and behaviours support the development of these relationships. Key relationship skills such as communicating clearly, listening attentively, cooperating, being considerate of others and negotiating conflict constructively are the cornerstone for building connections and they are essential in this environment. Although the reality is that it can also be very challenging, and at times, confusing as the student's process relationship changes and try to make sense of those that are unfolding before them.

Our oakSEED program draws upon an analogy using the resilient characteristics of the Oak Tree. The oak tree stands strong and tall, and its spiralled trunk can flex in the wind. When the wind comes, it doesn’t tense against the wind, instead, it relaxes. When the wind comes its branches bend and its leaves curl allowing the wind to pass through it effortlessly. By acting in this way, an oak tree rarely breaks. The intertwined roots of the oak tree hold it firmly to the ground and provide additional support for nearby trees. The depth of this experience enables our students to experience remarkable growth in a way that emulates the characteristics of the oak tree; to embrace uncertainty and to hold each other firmly in the ground. I have seen this growth unfolding over the last five days and every day, the young people in my care, are standing a little taller and extending themselves further like the branches of an oak tree.

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