Kia ora e te whanau
We are built for connection. We are not solitary people. We are connected in families, in partnerships and marriages, in friendship groups, in teams and by many other social links. When we are disconnected, we feel lonely, and it isn’t a pleasant feeling. This week is Anti-bullying awareness week. It’s an issue that has grown in significance during the pandemic. When we feel left out or are purposely excluded from friendship groups it can be extremely lonely and it is a form of bullying.
- We can feel lonely when we are with our friends, our family or our social group - even when we are in a crowd.
- We can feel lonely or detached if we feel left out of certain conversations or activities.
- We can feel lonely because we have no one to discuss a problem with, in confidence. This can make us realise that the relationships that we have are fairly shallow.
- We can feel lonely if we sense that we’re out of tune with others’ expectations because ours are starting to drift in a different direction.
There are probably some members of our community reading this who would describe themselves as feeling lonely right now.
In terms of our mental health, loneliness can result in depression, sleep difficulties, anxiety and low self-esteem. Over time, loneliness can also affect our physical health. We lose fitness, our energy levels reduce and even our immune systems can be impaired. This is why it is important for us to learn some strategies to handle loneliness.
Jesus had times when he was lonely. The Bible uses words from an Old Testament prophecy to describe his experience, particularly at the crucifixion: “We despised him and rejected him; he endured suffering and pain. No one would even look at him – we ignored him as if he were nothing.” (Isaiah 53.3) Jesus’ final words as he died - ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27.46) - indicate the total loneliness that he felt. Christians believe that this is a sign of how closely Jesus identifies with us and sympathises with us when we experience loneliness. I overheard a group of year 7 students discussing why Jesus would like pink shirt day this week- they said: He would like it because he was bullied too!
This is why, in creating his Church, Jesus emphasised that it was to be a community of people in relationship. St Paul expands on this by likening the Church to a body, with many different limbs and organs connected together. We are built for connection.
Loneliness has always been around; it isn’t a new phenomenon. To alleviate it, we can try some of the following:
- Volunteering at a local charity.
- Doing an unexpected favour for someone in our community.
- Smiling and saying hello to complete strangers.
- Exercising. Our bodies will automatically produce endorphins and we never know who we might meet at the gym, on a walk or on a run.
Kia ora e te whanau
It is great to see so many of our students back at school, wearing their uniform correctly and following the wearing of masks expectation. We do not feel that we are ready to make mask wearing optional yet. There is still a long tail of Covid cases in the south and we are hearing from schools that have lifted the mask mandate that Covid cases are rising again. More than anything we really want to avoid any further rostering of year levels home, school closures and most of all sick students and staff members. Even if we have already had Covid, I am sure we all have family members and friends who may be immune compromised who we want to keep safe. Our case numbers are getting very low, and we are hopeful that we can be back in whole school assemblies and gatherings soon.
It was lovely to be able to celebrate the Academic Blues recipients yesterday in person at the Blessed Sacrament Church. These achievements have placed our students as top academic leaders within the region and well above the Government’s measures of student success in NCEA and University Entrance. These achievements and experiences in and of themselves are special and deserved today’s accolades. We are very appreciative of the work and encouragement that you as parents put into these students to bring them along with us on this journey.
Next Friday is Pink Shirt Day in NZ schools and we encourage our students all to wear something pink to school that day just not hair dye or nail polish please. This will be a free mufti day to raise awareness of anti-bullying in our society. No school is immune to bullying and we take it very seriously when students are experiencing any form of bullying. At this week’s assembly I talked about cyber bullying in particular. Our young people spend a lot of time on phones, tablets, social media sites and messaging apps, so they are more likely to come across it. A survey in 2020 found that seven out of ten children aged 10 to 15 years who experienced online bullying said that it was by someone from their school. Nearly the same number were emotionally affected by the online bullying behaviour that they experienced.
Just because the bullying is taking place online does not make it any less harmful. Cyberbullying can have devastating and sometimes long-lasting effects on the person involved. It is important to know the signs so that we can put a stop to it. Anyone who makes threats to us on the internet could be committing a criminal offence. In NZ, it’s against the law to use the phone or the internet to cause alarm or distress to others. If we post abuse online about anyone or send threats, our internet provider has records of our activity. The police can require internet providers to share this information. Cyberbullying can have a massive impact. It can cause a range of emotions and feelings, including embarrassment, worry, loneliness, hopelessness and feeling overwhelmed. As soon as a message has been sent, it cannot be taken back, so it is important to consider the effect that our message or post could have on others. Cyberbullying often starts behind a keyboard, which may lead the bully to think that they are untraceable, giving them further confidence to post abusive comments.
When cyberbullying continues, it can feel relentless. It may result in victims not wanting to come to school or go about their usual activities. They may withdraw from friends and family, and sometimes, their feelings can even lead to self-harm and suicide. The most important thing is not to ignore or hide what is going on. Otherwise, the bullying may escalate. If students are being bullied, whether it is happening online or in person, they must tell an adult whom they can trust. This could be a parent, a member of school staff or a helpline advisor. There are actions available to put a stop to bullying; we do not have to put up with it. Most social media sites have a button for reporting abuse; making a report can result in the perpetrator being blocked or deleted from the site anonymously. We can also block anyone on social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram so that they cannot message us again. It is a good idea to take a screenshot of any abusive messages to use as evidence.
We wish Mrs Kate McGowan all the best as she goes on maternity leave and we know her year 7 homeroom class will be in capable hands with Mrs Liza Wilson coming back to teach this class until the end of the year. We will be re-advertising the Learning Support Coordinator role later in this term.
Kia ora e te whanau
Refreshed and refocused. That’s how we hope to begin this school Term under new Covid requirements. It would be great to be able to say that this Term will be less disrupted by illness and home isolation than last Term, but we must not become complacent. Covid is still very much active in our community. We are hopeful the main ‘Covid surge’ will be behind us soon. Masks continue to be one of the most effective measures to prevent the spread of air borne infections and all staff and students will continue to wear these next week, when it will be re-evaluated again next Friday.
Case numbers in the South are still high and Dr Michael Butchard, the Medical Officer of Health for the Southern District Health Board shares this statement strongly encouraging the wearing of masks:
“When you leave your home, wearing a well-fitting mask when indoors is still one of the very best ways to protect yourself, your whānau, and those around you from Covid-19. The Southern DHB region currently has one of the highest rates of Covid-19 in New Zealand, higher than all of the North Island DHBs and the larger South Island DHBs, so please still keep up your mask wearing.”
Dr Michael Butchard, Medical Officer of Health
This Term, we will begin to move towards more in-person gatherings, in well ventilated and larger venues, for our students. We know that the opportunities to get together, as larger groups, have been very limited over the past three Terms and we want to ensure we can continue to build community, especially for our younger students who have just joined our learning community. We will have whanau conferencing later this term in school and more information about this will be available in the coming weeks. We were so thankful to be able to run our annual cross country this week and it was lovely to have parents back onsite again showing the children encouragement. We look forward to celebrating the Academic Blues Excellence recipients next week at the Blessed Sacrament Church and welcome all family members and supporters to attend.
Encouragement is an important word and concept in our vocabulary. In an online dictionary, it is defined as, “the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.” It is the action of cheering someone up, uplifting them. By encouraging others, we are giving them “courage.” We are scaffolding others’ self-esteem and belief in themselves as being able to keep going and slog on through. Runners of marathons often say that it is the encouragement and cheers from the crowd that keep them going even when it is hard.
By giving encouragement, we embolden and empower people to know that they are doing a good job, or they are doing all right and their efforts are appreciated. Everyone thrives on praise and on being told that they are doing a good job, they are good at something. Who doesn’t like to get a smiley face or positive comment on their work or even a sticker?
Why is it, then, that, most of time, the first thing we say is a negative word or a criticism? If we include our own self-talk in this, then I have no doubt that you are your own harshest critic. Why so often when we are given compliments do we simply shrug them off and find something negative to say about ourselves or our performance instead. Words of affirmation and encouragement are so important – in the way that we speak to ourselves, but also in the way we talk to others. I encourage all of our students to talk nicely to themselves and use encouraging words:
When you get a test result back and it’s a high grade, don’t think, “I’m so rubbish, I should have got the top grade”, try to think of something positive. Remember, there may be someone sitting next to you who is not capable of getting the grade you got, let alone the top grade.
Try to encourage your siblings if you can or even tell your parents what a good job they’re doing (even though it might not always feel like they are). I am sure they’re probably being negative enough about themselves so don’t need you to be!
Try to catch those negative thoughts before they cause you to spiral into a day of negativity.
If all else fails, take a deep breath and focus on one good thing that you can see. If it’s not you, it might be your friend. If that’s the case, tell him or her. Give your friend some encouragement.
Charity Fulfils the Law
Kia ora e te whanau
I write before the beginning of Holy Week when we remember and celebrate Jesus’ passion, and the mystery that is, his death and resurrection. It is a time for prayer and reflection of who we are as a Catholic school. “Charity Fulfils the Law” our school motto, comes from the Rosminian tradition and also reflects the charism of the Sisters of Mercy. Charity Fulfils the Law can also be translated as Love Fulfils the Law. The “Law” of Jesus Christ is the commandment to love God and love thy neighbour. Love is about acting in a way that is consistent with the Ten Commandments. Our challenge is to reflect on this as we enter this holy period.
It is my very great privilege to share with you all the schools new strategic plan for the next three years. Our plan is a result of a joint effort of students, parents and teachers. Thank you to our staff for the dedication and professionalism they bring to St Peter’s College, and for the encouragement and care of the students they connect with daily. Thank you also to whānau for supporting the college, and the investment in your children’s learning. We hope you see the hopes and dreams you have for your children reflected in this plan. The strategic plan can be viewed via the school website: https://www.stpetersgore.school.nz/governance.html
Supporting busy young men and women who balance schoolwork, after school activities, part time jobs and a growing interest in having ‘a social life’ has its challenges. However, I am sure you will agree it brings a huge amount of satisfaction. Each one of our students possess God-given gifts and talents and it is our job, and our privilege, to help them become the very best version of themselves aiming high in their aspirations. Early next term we will have our Academic Blues Assembly where we will recognise last year’s senior student success for those who achieved Merit and Excellence endorsements. This will be an opportunity to recognise those students who achieved in the academic sense, on a par with the best in the country. The young people who will be acknowledged are examples of students who live our school motto through taking every opportunity to learn. This is a habit that has been nurtured, nourished, and formed over time. It has involved learning how to prioritise, be organised, make best use of class time and teacher availability and how to balance a busy life.
We certainly hope that here at St Peter’s, the education of the students is a partnership and that our desires as parents and teachers complement our Catholic tradition which aims to form young adults who will make a difference. One of the ways we develop these relationships is through our Parents, Teachers and Friends association (PTFA). This group helps support us to complete and fund key work in the College community. Today a special fundraising request will be going out to each and every family in our school community to further help support this key work. Recently the PTFA purchased more outdoor seats for staff and students which has been greatly appreciated, especially while we are still in the red traffic light setting and are encouraged to eat outside.
Winter is fast upon us and please note: winter uniform is compulsory from the start of Term Two this year. Winter uniform means no hoodies or puffer jackets (school related or not) as they are NOT part of the school uniform. Thank you for your continued support ensuring that our students present themselves with pride in the Blue Blazer. This will be our last newsletter for the term due to the short week next week. To our students, I always say at this time of the school term, travel safe and don’t take risks over the holidays. Think before you act. I look forward to seeing you all next term, winter uniform, hair neat and a desire to learn. These are all key aspects to our way of following our school motto, “Charity Fulfils the Law.”
Kia ora e te whanau
The Education Review Office, more commonly known as ERO is due for its third visit to St Peter’s College next week as part of the new ongoing partnership model- Te Ara Huarau. Under this model ERO is moving from one off event based external review visits to supporting each school in a process of continuous improvement.
Te Ara Huarau will use a developmental approach to evaluation that will reflect our school’s individual context, culture and needs. Their aim is to strengthen the capability of all schools through embedding a continuous improvement approach, strengthening our engagement with and accountability to whanau. We have an ERO evaluation partner who is working alongside us, Ms Christine Gold, to support us to be an even greater school and every child a success.
We are excited to share with you next week the schools new strategic plan for the next three years. This work is a culmination of board planning and leadership, community and student consultation involving 75 parents, 58 students and all teaching staff over the last 8 months. We hope this plan mirrors the dreams and wishes you have for your children, and you can see your feedback reflected back at you.
Covid continues to wreak havoc across the community, and we are continuing to roster senior students’ home to ease the pressure on staffing. This will be reviewed next week, and we will share the plan for the last week of term with you then. Some students have returned from isolation under the impression that they have had Covid now so they no longer need to wear a mask as they can’t catch it again. This is untrue and all students must please continue to always wear a mask when inside. Every day when I collate the statistics, I can assure you that those students who are wearing masks correctly and consistently are on the whole avoiding Covid. It is also ensuring the safety of our staff and keeping them at work every day.
We remember the special soul of Whaea Vanessa’s mother, Anne Whangapirita who went with God this week.
Oh God, Who has commanded us to honour our father and mother, have compassion in Thy mercy, on the souls of our fathers and mothers; forgive them their sins, and grant that we may see them in the joy of eternal brightness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Charity Fulfils the Law