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Welcome Back to term 4 on Senior Campus

I would like to warmly welcome back our Woodleigh families to Term 4 on the Senior Campus.

During the last fortnight, the School's return has looked a lot different to 'normal.' VCE and Year 7 students commenced the staggered start with Years 8, 9, and 10 joining us this week. There is nothing like the sound of adolescents filling Homesteads and the stunning surrounding outdoor spaces at recess and lunch. Schools are lonely places without the hum of students and staff, and we have missed it terribly. I have thoroughly enjoyed spending mornings and afternoons, introducing myself to the Woodleigh community at the pedestrian crossing on the driveway, learning new 'masked' faces and names. Conversing with parents as they welcome me to Woodleigh through car windows and waving to our friendly bus drivers who drive our students from far and wide – it has all has enabled me to feel part of the community.

It's been a long time since there was a 'morning rush' at Senior Campus.

Starting in a new role comes with exciting challenges. Getting lost, learning names, understanding a different way of doing things, and developing new routines all come with the territory. Creating authentic connections and forming relationships are exciting and yet daunting all at the same time. I am sure several students have felt similar to their return to school over the last two weeks. How many of us have felt nervous or unsure about returning to a situation that has now become unfamiliar? Will my friends want to connect with me? Will I fit in again and be accepted for who I am? These are all 'normal' feelings, and our staff are ready to support every students' transition back to school over the coming weeks. 

There will of course be a period of readjustment. It will feel 'normal' after a day or two for some students, but it could take a couple of weeks for others. It's important to be kind to yourself. For most of us, this will be the first time we have been with groups of people other than our immediate families for a long time. It's essential to make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating well, and developing a back-to-school routine from the outset. You will need to change your Zoom clothes (or pyjamas) for school attire, learn to wear a mask for long periods, and manage a classroom environment instead of the quiet domain of your bedroom. Classroom expectations will be in place, and initially, levels of concentration might be challenged. These are new routines we have to get used to over the next few weeks.

What is our new 'normal'? The safety of our community is paramount. It is important to remember that COVID-safe protocols are in place and that all community members respect each other's health and wellbeing. Social distancing, personal hygiene, and wearing a mask are essential for staff and students. We also have varied departure times to ease the congestion at the end of the school day. They are as follows:

  • 3.30 pm - Year 7-10 classes by car 
  • 3.40 pm – Year 10 & VCE by car 
  • 3:45 pm - All students catching a bus

We have been lucky to have two well-known public speakers, Paul Dillon and Arne Rubenstein, virtually present to our students, staff, and families this term. We commenced Term 4 with Paul Dillon presenting to our Years 10, 11, and 12 students. Paul has a unique investment in the wellbeing of young people. Founder of Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia (DARTA) and a former school teacher, Paul conducts drug information sessions and workshops for school students both in Australia and internationally. He provided our students with the skills to navigate young people's risk-taking behaviour and manage challenging situations. Each year Paul presents to our community with updated data and strategies, and our Woodleigh students find his sessions engaging and valuable.

We look forward to welcoming him back in 2021. 

Arne Rubenstein presented to our staff at the start of term and our parents as part of the Woodleigh Parent Education Series. Arne is the founder of the Rites of Passage Institute. 

The Institute uses an educational model based on The Rites of Passage Framework to help individuals strengthen their sense of self, learn critical life skills, discover their potential, and create a healthy future vision. They work to create a world where all people and communities thrive. On this occasion, Arne spoke to us about thriving beyond COVID. He talked to us about the importance of connection and reconnection. Arne asked us to reflect on our challenges and to look at these moments as opportunities to be more resilient and more robust.

Last week we celebrated the annual Woodleigh Arts Festival 'apART.' With the opening showcase, gallery exhibition, art forums, media productions, and life drawing, the week was a massive success with the constraints of COVID. We could not be prouder of the young people and staff that have given their time, dedication, and energy to such a great week of virtual events and performances. Preparation, rehearsals, and the perseverance for excellence have been showcased in this year's festival. I want to congratulate all involved and praise the hard work of the students and staff. Congratulations!

I look forward to meeting you over the coming weeks and wish you all good health. 

NATALIE McLENNAN
Deputy Principal – Head of Senior Campus