From the Principal

Welcome to Week 4 of Term 2 to everyone in the community. We have made another good start to a term with students and staff working away diligently to ensure great teaching and learning is taking place. Students appear to have returned willing and ready to undertake the work required to guarantee their success.

Staff and students have been and will be involved in a myriad of activities this term and I wish all involved all the best. Extracurricular activities enhance the work we do in the classroom, however, they do place an extra burden on all involved, so the College thanks the staff who have organised these for their students and continue to give of themselves for the sake of the students in their care. I would like to make special mention of the staff and students who attended the ANZAC ceremony ‘Camp Gallipoli’ at the Melbourne show grounds on April 24 and 25. Reports back suggest it was a wonderful and moving experience for all involved. Thanks to Ms Caitlyn Jarret and Mrs Kamila Bielinski for organising the event and to all the staff who attended. I wish also to thank Mrs Marianne Marshall and her Year 11 History class for organising the College tribute to the ANZACS here at school on Friday April 24. It was a wonderful gathering and the boys participated with great reverence and respect, it was very moving and a fitting way to recognise such an occasion.

Whilst reflecting on Gallipoli, the selfless acts and courage of our war veterans and war itself I pondered the relevance to us and in particular to our student body in our contemporary world. What can we take from their efforts, how were they able to confront what they did and how is it relevant to the life we lead today?

Unfortunately ANZAC day was soon followed by the tragic events in Nepal where earth quakes have resulted in thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in damages. Once again I couldn’t help but think and reflect on this tragedy and ask myself what impact these things have on our children.

It was an article I was reading titled ‘Teaching Students the ABCs of Resilience’ written by Renee Jain on January 14, 2013 that provided me with some insights. Renee is the Founder of – Anxiety Relief Programs for Children. She writes that the world in which we raise kids is increasing in complexity. Events such as the natural disasters as witnessed in Nepal, world events including economic meltdowns, wars abroad to tragic shootings close to home make life difficult for our kids and can have detrimental effects on their resilience.

She goes on to say that our natural instinct as teachers, parents and caretakers is to protect children from hardship, yet we know walking between the raindrops of adversity is not possible. Instead of sidestepping challenge, we can teach kids to cope positively, to learn and grow from adversity. We can arm our youth with skills of resilience, and these lessons can begin in the classroom.

Renee’s article unpacks her thoughts on understanding the roots of resilience and what we can do to help our kids. I include her writing to contemplate.

‘Have you ever wondered why one student may be more resilient than another? Let’s say Lisa and Jenny are students in the same eighth grade math class. They both struggle during the quarter and, in the end, they both receive low final grades. Upon hearing the news, Lisa and Jenny share myriad negative emotions: disappointment, anger, fear and sadness. However, after a few days, they diverge in their coping strategies. Lisa picks herself up; she finds a tutor and commits to making a greater effort in math going forward. Meanwhile, Jenny tumbles into a downward spiral of negativity; she sulks and starts performing poorly in all of her subjects. Lisa and Jenny faced the same adversity, so why did one bounce back while the other did not?

You may guess the difference lies in their genetic disposition or family circumstance. Maybe Lisa was born a “stronger” person, or maybe Lisa’s parents are more supportive than Jenny’s parents. While this may all be true, one factor supersedes the influences of genes, childhood experiences, and opportunity or wealth when it comes to resilience. In fact, according to decades of research, the biggest influence on resilience is something within our control. The biggest influence is our cognitive style — the way we think.

The ABCs of Resilience

Students can adjust their own cognitive style by learning about the ABCs of resilience. This model was first proposed by psychologist Albert Ellis back in 1962, and it is still used as a foundational lesson in resilience. Let’s learn about the ABCs by going back to our example.

If you asked Lisa or Jenny why she was unhappy upon receiving low math grades, she would probably look at you quizzically. It’s obvious, isn’t it? She was upset because she received a low grade. This seems to be the correct answer, but it’s not. Many people mistakenly believe that facing an adversity like receiving a low grade leads to a consequence like feeling unhappy.

Myth: Adversity Leads to Consequence

If a particular adversity led to a particular consequence, then Lisa and Jenny would have shared the same enduring reaction to their poor grades. In fact, everyone would have the same reaction to every adversity in life, and we know this is not the case. People react differently to the same exact challenges, because between A (adversity) and C (consequence) lies the crucial letter B. Here is the more accurate model: every adversity one faces triggers beliefs about that situation, which in turn causes a reaction or consequence.

Reality: Adversity Leads to Beliefs Leads to Consequence

The ABC model explains why Lisa and Jenny coped differently with the same challenge. Lisa knew she received a low grade, but she believed she would improve by making a greater effort; she also felt that one bad grade wasn’t the end of the world. Lisa’s beliefs led her to acquire a tutor. Jenny, on the other hand, believed that doing poorly in math had spoiled her chances of getting into a good college. Jenny thereby decided there was no point in trying at all in school and began skipping her classes and neglecting her studies.

Lisa’s optimistic and more realistic beliefs contributed to her high resilience in an adverse situation. Jenny’s pessimistic and unrealistic beliefs contributed to low resilience in the same adverse situation. Optimistic and realistic belief systems combine to create a cornerstone of resilient mindsets. The great news is that once students learn the ABC model, they can hone in on their beliefs and begin fine-tuning them for greater optimism and accuracy.’

The ABC model is a simple yet powerful tool in cultivating self-awareness — a crucial element of resilient mindsets. I hope that gives all in the community something to think about and reflect on.

Last week we had the task of finalising the list of students we are to offer a place in Year 7 for the 2016 school year. This process is one that can bring great joy, yet at the same time provide a sense of frustration and sadness. The joy comes from meeting some outstanding young men who wish to study at Salesian College Chadstone and being able to offer them a place. The frustration and sadness comes from not being able to offer all of them a place. I am confident all the boys we will offer a place will live up to our expectations and be great ambassadors for the College, however I am equally confident that the boys who have missed a place will do the same for their schools given the opportunity. We wish all the boys every success and happiness where ever they are in 2016 and pray that they are aware of God’s presence in their lives through their secondary education.

God bless.

Rob Brennan