This week there are two parts to my update, celebrating the wonderful occasion of Open Evening on Wednesday; and secondly, reflecting on a challenge facing our students, of trust and where they go to feel safe and secure.
I extend a huge thank you to everyone involved in our Open Evening. These events are a critical opportunity for potential new families to come and see what we are all about, to meet staff and students, look at the facilities and hopefully ask lots of questions about everything that we offer. There is some exciting planning underway for developments that are going to eventuate at both campuses, including community partnerships that will enhance learning for these students throughout the years they are with us. Over the next few weeks Year 7 students will be visiting our Catholic Primary feeder schools. These visits are a great opportunity for Year 6 students to talk to our Year 7 students about transition and to ask anything they like about coming to Catherine McAuley College, in the comfort of their own classroom.
Challenges for our students
One of the greatest challenges for our children is trust. This issue keeps emerging, it is a constant struggle.
Who can they rely on? How can they separate the facts from the opinions? The local, national and world news is awash with bad news and events that we, as adults, cannot fathom. How can young people make any sense of it? But on that point, it has been interesting to note this week the filters that our teenagers operate within. When addressing the atrocity in Christchurch, a large proportion knew very little if anything, and if they did it was via someone else, a cyber friend, interpretation or post. Very few had accessed a dependable source, such as reputable news, to find out some real facts and detail.
The dependence that teenagers have on “friends” is a real concern. Despite efforts to educate and inform students, there seems to be a surreal understanding of how to act when on these social and news platforms. To be frank there doesn’t seem to be any etiquette! Anyone can be a target and the offender doesn’t seem to correlate their actions with the reactions of the victim. The common experience is that there is little, if any, empathy for the victim. It was just a post, or it was a joke. It is as if the cyberworld has no relationship with social norms or state laws. It is a space where people drop all their inhibitions and filters.
The problem in many instances is that these actions are just tolerated, or the school is expected to respond and set the standards. My recommendation is that if you, as parents, ever become aware of an issue (and that likelihood is fairly low based on research), that you take the issue to the eSafety Commissioner (https://www.esafety.gov.au/) and make a report. When a matter is presented the response is always the same: we can deal with the College-related matters if they happen during College time or on our devices or sites. Otherwise, sadly, they are a personal matter whether posted privately or publicly.
The hurt and suffering that can happen is real and can be long term. Many are just too unrestrained in their intimidation and aggression when communicating in this space. It is an opportunistic and weak way to bully and harass, seemingly easy because it is impersonal yet incredibly emotive. As challenging as it may be, I cannot overstate the importance of monitoring how your children use these communication mediums or how you support and model appropriate social etiquette through these mediums. In some countries, access to these devices is going to be limited to 16+. As adults, we need to be strong and not let these devices be divisive. Some behaviour is simply illegal and should be reported so that those who perpetrate these acts are made accountable.
As we pray for the victims of the Christchurch shootings we need to be aware and sensitive to our own social challenges. People get isolated and become irrational. As parents we need to be vigilant and observe how our kids are interacting and socialising. I am not trying to draw any direct correlations with the events of the past weeks but highlight that young people can be easily swayed and influenced through a range of mediums. If they don’t have the right supports and strategies, they can be incredibly fragile. The best advice I can give is spend time with your kids. Temper their access to technology, keep them active, socialising with others – talking even – and keep modelling good values. Every time these issues arise, we reflect on how the actions relate to the Mercy Values of respect, courage, hospitality, service, compassion and justice.
It so important that we give our kids the tools that they need to be able to rely on themselves and so, in turn, trust their judgement in all aspects of their life.
Mr Brian Turner, Principal