A Uniting Church coeducational independent day and boarding school on Kaurna Country, Adelaide, South Australia

Early Learning to Year 12

Head of Senior School - Edition 7 - 2021

Paul Dillion

On Monday this week Australia’s leading presenter on Drugs and Alcohol, Paul Dillon spent the day talking with Year 10, 11 and 12 students on matters relating to how they can keep themselves safe and strategies to make informed decisions.

I asked Paul to come to Westminster about 10 years ago and I am confident that he has had an impact on the attitudes of our students. Given the nature of last year, he did not come to Westminster but when he asked this year’s Year 12s some key question about what he presented to them when they were in Year 10 there was no hesitation in recalling his key messages.

One area that he discussed with all year levels was Vaping and while there is a lack of research around the use of e-cigarettes and other products, he provided some good advice to the students. For more detail on this subject, please visit Paul's website.

Car Parking

As many of you would be aware the car park adjacent to Gate 4 is for staff cars. I would ask that parents do not park in these parks as we do not have enough parks for all the staff. This car park can become quite busy in the mornings and afternoons as some parents are using it to drop and pick up their children at the beginning and end of each day. To provide a safe environment I ask all parents to avoid using this carpark after 8.00 am and immediately after school. A reminder that students will need to cross the Gate 4 roadway to access several of the music facilities.

The school is in the process of reviewing the traffic management plan to provide more drop off points within the campus which are safer.

As always please adhere to the speed limit of 10kph when driving anywhere on the school campus.

Helping Senior Students

Psychologist, Andrew Fuller has been a key resource for providing advice around the area of adolescent mental health and is able to deliver his thoughts in an easy to understand manner to help young people and their families as well as schools. Below are his thoughts on how families can support senior school students through the final years of their secondary schooling.

How parents can help students in the senior years of school

When you have a student completing the senior years of school, everyone in the family is doing Year 11 or 12. Here are a few ideas for coming through these years flourishing and having everyone’s dignity intact.

Parents have a vital role in helping students:

  • Manage time
  • Manage energy
  • Manage stress
  • Manage to get everything in at the right time and in the right place.
  • In addition to this, you have to manage yourself.

Developing the System

Regular planned times for study throughout the year creates better results. Short regular sprints of learning are more effective than long study marathons. To create this you need to work out a system.

Sit down with your student and map out an ideal week including:

  • Times for sleeping (at least 8 hours a night)
  • Times for unwinding and relaxing
  • Best breakfast foods
  • The best times for study
  • The best time of the week for consolidating notes and extending memory
  • Time to catch up with friends
  • Required school hours
  • Time for part-time work (less than 10 hours a week)
  • How to handle invitations around exam times

Without a plan, you are simply left with doing what you like when you feel like it and often feeling like studying is not the most likely emotion in teenagers’ lives.

Study sprints should be ideally 20 minutes long and never longer than 50 minutes with a ten-minute break between study sessions.

Usually on the weekend, have some time set aside for organising information and testing memory of new information.

Patiently, talk through the system until you all feel that you have the best plan. Ask them how often you should remind them of the system when they don’t seem to be following it.

You may also need to discuss minimizing distractions- excessive social media use, listening to music while studying, multitasking or chatting with friends online is not compatible with studying. Multi-tasking is just splitting your attention and means you’ll need to study four times longer than you need to.

As a parent of a senior school student, keep yourself informed. Come to information sessions and parent-teacher meetings yourself. Stressed students don't always store detailed information well so take notes of key dates and requirements.

Steering students back to the system

It is hard to get through Year 11 or 12 without some meltdowns. When a meltdown occurs, rather than starting a long conversation about it or providing a motivational pep talk, think about what your student needs- Food? Rest? Exercise? Some social time? Try to quietly arrange for this to occur.

How to deal with the catastrophic thinking

Pacifying or reassuring the unsettled senior school student is a fine art. Acknowledge to yourself in advance that anything you are likely to say is probably going to be heard as the “wrong thing”.

Generally what you do is more important than what you say. Providing meals, comfort and for some, reassuring hugs is often more powerful than words.

Some teens “freeze up with fear” and want to avoid schoolwork completely. Try to avoid getting into lengthy debates about the merits of the current educational system or their own intellectual ability. Instead, go back to basics. Feed them. Hydrate them. Rest them. Then gently bring them back to the topic. Ask them to tell you what they do understand about an issue. If they will initially reply with, “I know nothing’ say, “Well, tell me what you think you know”. Slowly rebuild confidence.

What to do when the system breaks down

When you are planning the system develop a rule of “never miss twice”. We know there are days when even the best thought through system falls into tatters. Accept this but also plan never to miss twice. For example, I can take a complete break from my study routine for one day but not for two days in a row.

Around August is the most common time for students to become disheartened and lose motivation. However, the work done in August and September probably adds more to the final results than any other stage of the year. The reason is that by this time most of the basics have been covered and we are now able to add the higher-order thinking and deepen understanding.

If taking on new information seems too much at this time, go through the process with them of organising information, drawing up flow charts, making memory aides and consolidating notes.

What if my teenager won't listen to me?

Have a confidential chat with one of their key teachers so that they can have a conversation with your student directly about their progress and study strategies.

How to deal with the build up to exams

Here is the time to trust the system. Keep things as calm and consistent as you possibly can. Ensure that your student has enough sleep, good food, exercise and social time.

Consider ceasing part-time work in the lead up to exams. Also discuss not using or at least, lessening the use of social media sites.

If your family has major birthdays during this period it may be worth delaying celebrations until after the exam period.

It is not the end of the world

Your student’s Year 12 result is not their future. There are many other more important and powerful determinants of success and happiness in life. Many people who did not get the Year 12 results they wanted, find careers where they thrive. Above all, remain calm and believe in your student. Adding an anxious parent to a panicking teenager is always a recipe for disaster.

Parenting Workshop

Parents and caregivers are invited to attend a parenting workshop on Monday 17 May, 7.00 pm in the Michael Murray Centre for Performing Arts, as part of our partnership with The Resilience Project. I believe this free event will be highly beneficial to you as parents/caregivers, and will also give you an insight into the kinds of messages your children are receiving through their student participation in The Resilience Project curriculum.

The Connected Parenting Workshop offers a valuable set of tools for parents and caregivers who are aiming to raise children through positive connections and communication.

In this 90 minute workshop, workshop presenter Lael Stone will provide parents/caregivers with:

  • guiding our children to become resilient adults
  • practical strategies to build stronger connections with your children
  • ideas to support your children when they are frustrated or going through challenging situations
  • simple ways to create cooperation
  • dealing with our own triggers as a parent
  • understanding big emotions and feelings and assisting your kids in becoming emotionally resilient

Our presenter, Lael Stone is an author, TEDx speaker, counsellor and parenting educator who specialises in navigating trauma and disconnection in families. She has spent the last 17 years working with families, as well as running programs in secondary schools for teens on relationships and wellbeing. She has three grown-up children and is the co-founder of Woodline Primary School, a new innovative school focused on supporting emotional intelligence in children.

Please use this link to book into this free event: https://www.trybooking.com/BRCCW

On the night you will be asked to check-in via a QR Code (if not previously checked in on that day at Westminster) or to please record your attendance on our entry register.

60th Anniversary Whole School Photo

Just a reminder that our 60th Anniversary Photo is coming up on Monday 24 May. The photo will take place in stages during the morning and be led by our teaching staff to the right place at the right time. All students will need to be in full School uniform (School blazer essential).

Please watch out for an email to all parents and caregivers with all the details. The email will also include a link for you to be able to do an ‘earlybird order’ of the poster for a special subsidised 60th Anniversary price of $49.50 each.

It will make a great anniversary souvenir for your child’s or children’s time at the School.

Also, please note on that morning, the West (Uniform) Shop will open a bit later at 9.00 am to allow for the staff to be included in the photo.

David Wallage
Head of Senior School