This week we were to celebrate our College 80th anniversary on the Feast of St Catherine at St Patrick’s Cathedral. It was not to be. Undeterred, the Siena community gathered for a beautiful liturgy from their homes and offices across Melbourne, celebrating a great woman for our day. St Catherine of Siena; passionate, courageous truth seeker. As a Doctor of the church and patroness of Europe and Siena College, we value Catherine’s intellect, her heart and her dedication to bringing the truth of Christ to every situation. We extend thanks to a team of Year 8 students, led by Deputy Principal Mission and Identity Jen Levett, who prepared this wonderful liturgy, bringing great creativity and ingenuity to remote collaboration. We also acknowledge student leaders and staff for their input with particular thanks to Kerryn McGillen, the College choir and Anthony George for coordinating a wonderful ‘couch choir’ of the Hymn to St Catherine.
We extend our appreciation to all who teach, lead and witness to the spirit of St Catherine, in particular our Dominican sisters who are such friends of the Siena community. Sr Julianna Drobik OP provided this excerpt which speaks of the gift of St Catherine, then and now. Catherine knew all about living through a pandemic when the plague swept through Europe in the 14th century.
Over the past several days, we have heard of a number of our Sisters and Brothers and Laity who have passed away from COVID-19, and of others who are critically ill. The Dominican Family is clearly in great solidarity with our suffering world. However, in the midst of such tragedy and isolation, it is important to be attentive to the glimmers of hope that are very much alive within us and among us. And there is no better moment to consider this than now, as we celebrate the feast day of our sister, Catherine of Siena, on 29 April. Catherine knew first hand our present day experience. When the plague struck Siena, many fled. But Catherine and her companions stayed, nursing the sick and burying the dead. She was a source of great inspiration for those who knew her, and she continues to inspire us today.
Letter from Dominican Sisters international (Rome 2020)
This third week of Term 2 has seen the introduction of Phase 2, SienaConnect. With the teaching and learning program now firmly embedded, this new phase sees the reintroduction of House activities, daily prayer and reflection, wellbeing programs and lunchtime activities. I commend all staff and students for their agility and resilience in adapting to this new environment. We will continue to stay alert to advice received regarding a return to onsite learning and communicate with families at the earliest opportunity. In the meantime, we continue to work together to ensure our students feel safe, connected and well able to access a comprehensive, high quality educational experience.
On return from the Easter break we were advised that Mary Comer, former Deputy Principal at Siena (2000-2008), passed away on Easter Monday morning. Mary commenced at Siena in 1995 as a Religious Education teacher and is fondly remembered by many in the community for her generous, caring nature, with staff describing their time of working with her as a privilege. Mary’s daughter Helen graduated from Siena in 1983 and her granddaughter, Sophie, in 2007. We hold in our thoughts and prayers Mary’s husband Frank, Helen, Sophie and the Comer family.
We also extend our thoughts and prayers to the Xavier community following the tragic death of Joshua Prestney (OX), killed in the Eastern Freeway incident on 22 April .
This is a special day when we celebrate who we are – as Dominicans who care for one another… who have an awareness of the world beyond our walls… and who take action in making the world a more just and harmonious place for all.
On the morning of Wednesday, April 29 led by Year 8 students and members of the Student Voice Team, we celebrated St Catherine in word, image and song. Whilst we were unable to gather in person, members our Siena community entered into each aspect of our online celebration with generosity and grace.
Following this Liturgy of the Word and reflection staff and students were encouraged to follow Catherine’s example of being ‘on the move’ by turning off their devices and taking time away from their screens. This meant time spent exercising, playing with pets, assisting somebody at home, or checking on a neighbour.
An important aspect of each school day is staff and students stopping for Pause and Pray just before lunch – during online learning this practice has been reimagined as "Dominican Minute" where we focus on the image of sunflowers as Dominican symbols of hope. Sr Margaret Mace OP highlighted this hope in her Easter Letter here.
Normally at this time of the year we would be reporting back on Siena in the City presentation evening and other learning events, but we are in a very different reality. However, we are all committed to ensure that the provision of excellence in learning and the attention to wellbeing continues in these changed circumstances.
Overall the students are making the best of this situation and becoming more comfortable asking questions either by Microsoft Teams Chat function or by interjecting during class time. Teachers are also very aware of how much can get done in a class and we encourage a slower approach to the delivery of new content, as well as providing time for independent learning. These are interesting times, but our students are also gaining new learning skills.
I am very pleased to let you know that the Year 12 Formative SACs are progressing as we’d hoped. Our girls are committed to their learning and it shows in their participation and assessment. Subject teachers are compiling the new VCAA Study Design changes and we will communicate these to students in the next week.
It is true that while the teaching staff have done an amazing job of redirecting lessons and assessments toward online learning, and our administrative staff continue to support our families following up absences, the onus to participate in lessons lies more heavily on our young women in this remote environment. The levels of attendance have been exemplary, and we are very proud of our students. It is so important to maintain this momentum. Please continue to support and encourage your daughters as we all rise to the challenges before us.
All the staff at Siena College are here to assist and support in any way we can, so please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Remote learning is now a reality for many parents as countries act to implement strategies in the prevention of COVID-19. The daunting task of establishing new routines and schedules, whilst juggling work responsibilities, could prove to be disruptive and challenging for families and schools.
Some young people will be transitioning seamlessly, whilst others may be struggling. Therefore, it is vitally important for parents to be vigilant in looking for signs of anxiety and depression. Parents will need to continue to be reassuring and supportive in this time of uncertainty and acknowledge that this may be a stressful time for students of all ages.
At Siena, we will be working hard behind the scenes to ensure our students’ academic and wellbeing needs are met, and parents will need to play a key role in providing them with the structure and groundwork for success. Young people will be looking towards their parents to keep things in context and help ease the transition to a different learning environment.
Parents and caregivers will be provided with some guidelines on how best to navigate this time of transition with minimal disruption in this SchoolTV Report. We hope you are able to take time to reflect on the information offered and invite you to contact us if you have any concerns for your daughter.
Wellbeing - Checklist for Secondary Students
The global pandemic is having a profound impact on our adolescents with many being forced to miss out on so many rites of passage. Some are becoming more anxious or depressed which is completely understandable given the current situation. However, should your teen display any unusual behaviour that lasts for more than two to three weeks this may be a cause for concern.
Research shows there are specific risk factors that increase the likelihood of teenagers developing a mental health problem. Some are set in stone, whilst others are modifiable. Adolescents are considered to be more at risk of anxiety and depression disorders which may affect their mood, thinking and behaviour. It can impact their ability to function and perform normal activities.
It is therefore vitally important for parents to remain vigilant during this time for any signs of distress, even though your adolescent may not have any prior history of a mental health disorder. Early intervention, diagnosis and treatment is more important than ever. In the current climate, one useful thing you can do is help your teen focus on the things that they can control such as their learning, diet, exercise and sleep.
In this Special Report, parents will be provided with a checklist that can be used as a guide in determining if there is any cause for concern. We hope that this is helpful to you.
In the words of Mother Teresa, “Spread kindness wherever you go. Let nobody come to you without leaving happier”. Each and every little bit counts, no gesture of acknowledgement or care for another person is too small. We must never miss our chance to say a nice word or take a kind action. In our world’s current context, celebrating and promoting kindness, empathy and gratitude are ways of actively practising mindfulness and can allow us to become more motivated and resilient.
As a parent, you may be looking for ways that you can support the mental health of your daughters and help them to remain resilient as they learn from home this term. The Wellness and Spirituality tile on Siena Central has plenty of resources and activities covering four key areas - empathy, gratitude, mindfulness and motivation. These four pages are updated weekly with resources from all types of educational companies, universities, not-for-profit organisations and both state and national government departments. Some of these resources are better suited to individual use, whereas others provide activities that whole families can engage in. This engagement is a real way of fostering human connection in a time of social isolation. The following are some additional resources that you might like to explore as a parent or as a family over the coming days and weeks:
The Art of Wellbeing, Meredith Gatson
Teen Breathe Magazine
The Resilience Project, Hugh Van Cuylenburg
The Little Book of Lykke, Meik Wiking
The War on Waste
Seven Worlds, One Planet
The Lion King
We would like to congratulate both students and staff for making the transition to online instrumental music lessons so seamlessly. Many students are taking advantage of the extra time at home to practice their instruments and progressing well. No doubt parents will be enjoying hearing their daughters practicing their pieces and technical work while working from home.
Music is so important during this isolation period where it can give students quality time away from screens and devices, the opportunity to be creative and to achieve performance goals, to improve their technique and understanding of various styles of music and to have fun! Music is important for our brains and medical research has proven the benefits of learning and playing musical instruments. Please take some time to watch this TED talk by Anita Collins
A special request to Year 7 parents whose daughters have only had a few lessons so far. Please continue to support your daughter’s interest in music and be patient with them as their explore sound, develop instrumental technique and play repeated exercises so they can develop their music literacy skills.
Please note that Fine Music, Hawthorn, is still open online and at the store so if students are requiring extra reeds and music, they can be purchased in this way.
We are excited to be asking students to take part in online small soirees for each instrumental family this term. Music teachers will be inviting students to perform a piece they have been working on and that are ready for performance. More information will be sent out directly to students next week. If parents have any questions regarding online lessons please notify the music department, the instrumental music teacher or Kerryn McGillen at email@example.com
Our Ensemble Program commenced this week in an online format, and the feedback has been wonderful. Congratulations to students and staff for working together to maintain their ensemble skills in readiness for when face-to-face rehearsals resume.
Students are attending a rehearsal meeting on Microsoft teams, listening to recordings of their pieces, checking in with their directors, practicing sections of the set pieces and connecting with other students in the ensemble where possible. Students are asked to upload their practice recordings to the Dropbox on each ensemble page for feedback from their directors.
Please click below to view the ensemble timetable:
We have been notified by AMEB that all examinations for Session 1 and Session 2 have been postponed at this stage and they will notify all schools when face to face examinations will resume. In the mean time they are offering online repertoire examinations as an option.
We have had a number of students enrolled in AMEB music examinations for this term but the majority will have their examinations rescheduled by AMEB with consultation with the schools.
The Student Leadership Team has embraced the online learning environment, and are learning new ways to operate effectively as a team in this space. With a new focus on ‘Connection’ to drive their leadership, the team have been developing idea and activities then can lead to encourage connection and engagement within the school community. It is shaping up to be an action packed term, with a variety of activities on the horizon, to appeal to a wide range of students.
The Pillars Year 7 Leadership Program concluded at the end of last term. It was lovely to see such an enthusiastic group of young Siena women committed to learning about Dominican leadership, and furthering their own individual leadership journeys. The girls reflected on lessons from St Dominic, examined characteristics of effective leaders in our world, reflected on their own personal gifts and strengths, and entered into conversation with three of our current Siena Leaders to hear about their own paths in leadership. Following on from our Year 7 Reflection Day and the Transition Program at the start of the year, the Pillars Leadership Program provided an opportunity for our students to further engage in the question of what it means to be Dominican, with many of our Year 7s embracing the idea of being a “Dominican Do-er”!
The Pillars Leadership Program will be continuing throughout the year for other Year Levels, including another opportunity for Year 7s in Term 4. All students are welcome to participate.
With the move to online learning and teaching, the SRC have continued to meet each week over Microsoft Teams. The approach to our leadership and our goals have had to shift, as we are working from home.
To support us with this change, the SRC had one of the Siena College Leadership Team members come in to share with us their experience and how they are changing their leadership to adapt to the current climate. They offered us advice on how we can change our approach, and how to be there as leaders for our peers.
In our meetings, we have been working in our small teams to develop ways we can keep students and the wider community engaged and connected with our community, which are our goals for the term. This week we had the first of our online connection activities, a Household Scavenger Hunt, which was a great success with more than one hundred students participating.
Over the rest of the term, we will continue to provide a variety of activities for students to participate in, to connect with each other and to earn HOTY points for their House.
Communications Leader – Public Relations
Speaking from personal experience, these unusual times afford us all the opportunity to read just that little bit more. The Learning Centre would like to support Siena students and their families with access to reading material.
A new tile has been created on the Albertus Magnus Learning Centre page on Siena Central to support students and ensure that all have access to books and book suggestions. You will find the tile “Wider Reading Support during Covid-19” alongside the Wider Reading tiles arranged by Year level. This tile will take students to resources of numerous book collections, our ebook and audio book platform and blogs of interest.
For those who embrace ebooks or see this as an opportunity to try out reading or listening from a digital platform, students are reminded they can access our entire ebook collection. You can search for books by author or title. For those undertaking the Premier’s Reading Challenge, book titles have been arranged in Year level order to make the search so easy.
Commencing next Monday, 4 May, students will also be invited to come into school from 3:30pm-4:30pm to borrow books. This service will be offered each Monday afternoon. Students may use the catalogue to reserve books in advance and then come in to collect their reservations. Alternatively, students can browse the shelves for books. This will be a supervised session with requirements pertaining to social distancing and numbers of students in the space monitored. Hand sanitiser will be provided.
The Premiers’ Reading Challenge has commenced. All students in Years 7, 8 and 9 have been enrolled in the challenge. English teachers have referred their students to the tile on the Learning Centre page to access updated information about the challenge.
Students are also invited to demonstrate their creativity and have some fun participating on Siena’s bookface Friday Competition. Students are encouraged to select an appropriate book cover and recreate the book cover, placing themselves or another person into the scene. Submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and will feature on our social media platforms. We look forward to receiving your entries. Prizes will be awarded for the most creative and effective entries.
We have included some examples of Book Face Friday in the gallery.
Our Eco Warriors have commenced Term 2 meeting via Microsoft Teams. We meet each Thursday at lunch time, gathering together to discuss environmental issues and share resources we have come across. Last week, we launched our Meat free Monday group initiative. Eco Warriors are encouraged to plan, prepare and cook a meat free meal for their families each Monday night and to share images and recipes with other members on our group page. Links to recipes can be found on the Eco Warriors tile on Siena Central. We have explored the rationale behind this movement and acknowledge that a reduction in meat consumption will have a positive impact on the environment in numerous ways. We look forward to sharing some of our favourite recipes with the Siena Community in Newsletters to follow.
You can be certain of nothing but change – this saying certainly rings true in the current COVID 19 climate, but it is also a very apt reminder that even when we think we are on a particular trajectory, be it career, study or otherwise, change is always lurking around the corner. What is occurring now is unprecedented and the need to be informed, to research a range of careers and be aware of job opportunities and flourishing industries, whilst always important, is certainly crucial now.
Fortunately our tertiary institutions are moving to provide Course Information Sessions and Expos online and details of these sessions are included in this edition of Siena Career News.
Careers Appointments will take place this term via Microsoft Teams and bookings can be made here.
Items in this edition of Siena Career News include:
- Dates to diarise in Term 2
- Attend a Virtual Careers Expo
- Webinar: The Importance of LinkedIn
- Aspire – Early Admissions Program to La Trobe University
- Early Entry Programs at ACU
- Passion for Business (P4B) Early Entry Program
- Passion for Law (P4L) Early Entry Program
- Snapshot of Victoria University (VU) in 2020
- Optometry Courses in Australia in 2020
As we continue the enrolment process for Year 7 (2022) students, we would like to remind any current families with daughters in Grade 5 to please ensure that you have submitted an enrolment form.
Applications and supporting documents can be submitted online via our website. Offers will be made in October of this year.
If you have any further enquires please contact Tracey Lawson at email@example.com