MESSAGE FROM THE PRINCIPAL
Year 12 Retreat
The recent Year 12 retreat was the perfect opportunity for students to enrich their faith, from strong friendship bonds and remove themselves from their fast paced world before the HSC later in the year.
Students had time, space and structured activities to discover themselves and each other over three days at Kiah Ridge Tahmoor, Grose Vale and Mulgoa. I was privileged to visit each group at each site and you could feel the strong connections the girls had with each other and their greater sense of belonging. The retreat was a great time to be able to open up to others and also listen.
The break from social media and Wi Fi access was hard for all the girls but gave them a chance to focus on one-to-one human connections. Many students have expressed their feelings that retreat enriched their faith experiences and gave them an insight into others’ faith experiences.
Retreats are an ancient practice, Before Our Lord began His public ministry, He spent 40 days in the desert praying and fasting as a way to prepare for the important work ahead (see Lk 4:1-13). Those were days of retreat. During His three years of public ministry, Jesus would sometimes invite His disciples to “come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mk 6:31). Again, days of retreat.
Prayer for Spiritual Openness & Breakthrough
Father, we ask for your divine presence after our retreat. Please prepare our hearts for your ministry. We ask for healing, worship, and salvation. Supernaturally remove obstacles and distractions that may prevent students from receiving from you. Open up our thoughts to the life-changing truths of your Word, and give us a new understanding of your character and your love for us. Touch each of us profoundly so that their lives are forever changed by your touch. Thank you for loving us and for reaching out to us. We worship you. Amen.
National Data Collection
The Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (the national data collection) is an annual collection that counts the number of school students with disability and the level of reasonable educational adjustment they are provided with. The national data collection counts students who have been identified by a school team as receiving an adjustment to address a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (the DDA). The DDA can be accessed from the ComLaw website at www.comlaw.gov.au .
We have an annual enormous job to collect and report on data about adjustments. We would report on students who have had adjustments for:
- Medical issues – epilepsy, anaphylaxis, asthma etc
- Learning Disabilities – intellectual, language, sensory, behavioural
- Mental Health – diagnosed and also those without diagnosis who have received ongoing support from the School Counsellor
There is information in this newsletter about this collection of data and the benefits for all students in Australia. Students’ privacy is absolutely assured however, if any parent does not give permission for their daughter to be included in the collection of data they need to contact the school as soon as possible. It would be most appreciated if you would make contact with Anna Charas in Learning Support as soon as possible.
The Biology of Positive Habits
One valuable, often overlooked, and durable way to manage stress is to build positive habits, slowly and over time. Our brains are hard-wired to focus on the negative, but by practicing mindfulness, we can reprogram them — teach our brains to accentuate positive experiences and maintain serenity.
The human brain evolved with a “negativity bias,” says mindfulness expert Metta McGarvey, a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Negative events and thoughts have a proportionally greater impact on our memory and psychological state than positive ones do. From a survival standpoint, it makes sense — a strong recollection of bad experiences means we’re more likely to learn from mistakes and avoid a life-threatening situation.
This negativity bias also means that smaller, day-to-day stressors tend to take precedence in our thoughts, leaving less room for positive framing or constructive action planning. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Our brains can change, physically, as a result of learning, says McGarvey. In a process called “experience dependent neuroplasticity,” neural connections grow based on what we’re learning. Repeating the same thoughts, feelings, and behaviors increases synaptic connectivity, strengthens neural networks, and creates new neurons through learning. In other words, practicing a positive habit can predispose our thoughts to be more affirmative.
The key to developing these positive habits? Mindfulness.
According to researchers at the Greater Good Science Center, a project at the University of California, Berkeley, mindfulness has two core components: maintaining an awareness of our immediate thoughts, feelings, and surroundings; and accepting these thoughts and feelings without judging them. McGarvey explains it as “single-tasking,” or approaching any situation with your undivided attention and keeping that attention on the present moment.
By approaching your work with mindfulness, you decrease the amount of energy you spend worrying about the past or the future, and you increase the amount of attention you give to present and positive experiences. But because stress and worrying can be so engrained, McGarvey explains, you need to practice (and keep practicing) the skills and habits you need to keep your attention on the present.
She offers five mindfulness exercises that build brain-strengthening positive habits over time:
- Several times a day, take a short break from whatever you’re doing— step away from the computer, put down your phone, close your book — and look at something different. Savour the feeling of calm for a minute or two.
- Practice looking for small moments of beauty or kindnessthroughout your day: raindrops moving across your window, a moment of warmth in the sunshine, an amiable exchange with a stranger. Focusing on the positive will strengthen your ability to turn your attention away from worries.
- Search for and comment on the positive qualities and actions of others.This behaviour is especially important in exchanges with loved ones; research has shown that successful marriages have five positive interactions for each negative one. Appreciating the good in others, says McGarvey, “creates a ‘virtuous cycle’ that builds positive communication and relational habits.”
- Calming meditations, yoga, and tai chi can all activate the parasympathetic nervous system and evoke a physically relaxed state. Making any of these practices into a habit can make it easier for your body to relax after a stressful event.
- Remember that habits can be hard to form, and change takes time. Focusing on the positive means going against your brain’s automatic response systems. Try to be persistent with your mindfulness practices, but don’t beat yourself upif you slip and find yourself getting stressed. Be gentle with yourself.
[From the Harvard Graduate School of Education, http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/16/03/biology-positive-habits ]
Our mantra:“Girls can do anything. Bethany girls can do everything!* (*except divide by zero)” Vicki Lavorato Principal