In this ever-saturated media world in which we live, we – parents and teachers – are not short on advice from all quarters. Whether it be criticisms of the way we parent or the way we teach, everyone has an opinion. Unfortunately, these opinions are often just that. They are not statements of truth necessarily based on careful research or evidence. One of the more recent examples was from writer John Marsden who claims in his new book, The Art of Growing Up, that poor youth mental health outcomes are a result of ‘toxic parenting and ineffective schools’. It was salutary to read a critique of Marsden in a recent copy of The Conversation where the writer questions the basis for Marsden’s conclusions, beyond his own direct experience. There is an alarming lack of discernment more generally in the media we consume and sometimes create. By discernment I refer to the ability to be discriminating, and to understand complexity. We need to appreciate that there is rarely a simple answer to the challenges of contemporary life and raising or educating children and young people. We appreciate that there is nuance in most situations involving human behaviour. What is right for one family or one class, might not necessarily be appropriate for another. 

As a Catholic Dominican school, discernment is a highly valued attribute that we try to nurture in our students, as well as in our teachers. We try not to rush to judgement about student behaviour, for example, or to make snap decisions about educational choices. We always need to talk, to listen, to investigate the facts of an immediate situation such as conflict between students, or academic research regarding educational trends. I appreciate that this may be frustrating for parents when your own children are involved in conflict with peers, or are unhappy about aspects of their class. Please walk with us as we attempt to discern the situation, and arrive at thoughtful solutions that fully engage your children. When it comes to the vexed question of mobile phones, for example, I am very aware that a number of schools have attempted to solve a problem through banning their use at school. While this might seem like an obvious solution we have to first identify the nature of the problem. At Santa Sabina, students do not use phones in the classroom in Middle and Senior Years unless specifically requested by the teacher as part of a learning activity. For some students, being able to ‘catch’ the content of a lesson on the phone is a very useful learning technique. However, the degree to which mobile phones are a distraction, or affect rates of cyberbullying as well as inappropriate posting of images and text is a very debatable question. I have attached a literature review undertaken by the NSW Department of Education which we are using as part of our discernment process. I am more than happy for parents, who are reading this literature review, to assist us in developing a genuinely well-informed approach to digital devices and their responsible use. We will form a focus group of interested parents. Adopting the IB learner profile attributes of being inquisitive, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-taking, balanced and reflective will be essential to the enterprise.

We have had some stunning student achievements since the last update. Congratulations to the students who entered the MANSW competition. We submitted 11 entries from Years P-6 and have received outstanding results with seven Firsts, three Merits and a participation. These results reflect the excellent inquiry approach to Mathematics, and to the wonderful support by teachers. Huge Congratulations! Rachel Frecker (Year 10) has achieved first place in Australia in the 2019 Australian Geography Competition. Over 15,000 Year 10 students across the country competed in this very challenging competition and Rachel was the only student to achieve the highest score of 39/40. Congratulations Rachel!

Our Year 11 IPT girls participated in the Microsoft AI for Good challenge, a global initiative to help engage students in conversations and come up with ideas relating to how artificial intelligence can have a positive influence on society and be used to tackle both the big problems (such as preventing the spread of disease) and personal issues (such as inclusivity). Three Santa Sabina teams progressed to the State finals, with one of the teams placing third at the national competition announced last Friday at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Last Friday the College was abuzz with Community Day on the Primary Campus. The theme was ‘Superpowers’ (connected with Book Week theme – ‘Reading is our superpower’). The day began with busking; raising money for Kids Helpline, followed by many activities to engage the students such as author visits, parents reading in mother tongue, culture dancing, planting seeds in preparation for a green wall and sport clinics. The students enjoyed a multicultural buffet lunch organised by our parents. A Deeper Learning Day on the Secondary campus saw the Year 7s dressed in cultural outfits and sharing meals from those cultures. 

Currently, our Year 4 students are enjoying their first trip to Tallong with them participating in high ropes, rock climbing and group activities whilst enjoying the Tallong hospitality.

I look forward to celebrating our 125 years dinner tomorrow evening with so many of our community and I would like to thank the P&F and Ex-Students’ Associations for the organisation of what is expected to be a wonderful event. 

As another way to honour the 125 years of Santa Sabina, the College commissioned Michael Galovic, highly regarded and internationally recognised iconographer, to write two icons, of St Dominic and St Catherine.

These large and very impressive icons have now both arrived and are ready to be installed into the Chapel. The blessing and installation of the icons will take place in the Chapel on 29 August at 3:30pm. By blessed coincidence, the day happens to be the feast of St Sabina. Please join us for this special event. 

Jesus speaks to St Catherine of Siena:

I gave you your EYES to look at the sky
and everything else
and the beauty of creation through me.
I gave you your EARS to listen to my word
and to pay attention
to the needs of your neighbours.
I gave you your TONGUE to proclaim my word,
to confess your own sins
and to work for the salvation of others.
I gave you your HANDS to serve your neighbours
when you see them sick
and to help them with offerings in their need.
I gave you your FEET to carry you to places
that are holy and useful
to you and your neighbours
for the glory and praise of my name.

(From ‘Dialogue’ of St Catherine)

Dr Maree Herrett