Encouraging a healthy sense of optimism

Fortunately, I enjoyed many years playing as the wing attack in my school Netball team and I have a well-honed ability to ‘pivot’ – firmly grounding one foot, changing direction with my head up and looking for my team mates! As such, I appreciate the enormous work undertaken by the Senior Leadership Team in the final days of the holidays to quickly ‘pivot’ to ensure a smooth transition and return to our Learn@Home program for our Years 7 – 9 and Barbreck girls, commencing on Wednesday of this week.

Together with our VCE teachers, I have a sense of relief that our Senior cohorts will remain with face-to-face learning, particularly for the subjects with a practical element such as the Sciences and The Arts. However, the success of this on-campus learning environment is dependent on the girls maintaining a level of physical distancing; the girls and staff are also strongly encouraged to wear facemasks.

As we are now all too aware, Victoria’s borders are closed to the rest of the country and Stage 3 lockdown restrictions are in place for metropolitan Melbourne. COVID-19 represents the worst public health crisis the world has faced since the Spanish Flu in 1918-1919. This virus likely travelled to Europe with American troops. As the war ended, other soldiers then carried it around the world. The virus would kill many more people than the war itself.

In November 1918, the various Australian state authorities had entered into an agreement for dealing with the threat of the Spanish flu, but it did not hold for long. “The dislocation of interstate traffic is quite unavoidable,” commented the Tamworth Daily Observer on 31 January 1919, “as naturally the clean States could not be expected to continue communications with the infected.”

In 1919, communities imposed quarantine, ordered citizens to wear masks and shut down public places, including schools, churches and theatres. People were advised to avoid shaking hands, to stay indoors, and libraries put a halt on lending books!

This week, I have been interested to understand our experience through any recordings of the Spanish Flu in our own Archives at St Catherine’s School. At the annual Speech Night in December 1919, then Principal, Miss Ruth Langley, did not actually reference any impact of the Spanish Flu on the School. One can only assume, the Flu did not impact country Victoria, namely Castlemaine, where the School was located at the time. Miss Langley relocated St Catherine’s at the commencement of the 1920 school year to Williams Road, Toorak. By this time, the Spanish Flu had all but disappeared.

As such, I have approached this term encouraging a healthy sense of optimism. Whilst the word ‘unprecedented’ is often used to describe our current health crisis, it is in fact not entirely an accurate reflection. It is undoubtedly, a unique and extraordinary period in our lifetime but similar historic events have occurred over the past 100 years that our parents and grandparents will recall. A conversation with grandparents will uncover many stories about what they too endured during their lifetime as young children.

Professor Ruth Vine, the newly appointed Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Mental Health at a Federal level, commented recently “young people don’t have the benefit of having ups and downs, or seeing things unfold in the world in the way that those of us with more years behind us have. And so there may be a greater tendency to react and even to catastrophise. Realising there is a potential to living through a crisis like this should build resilience, because it should have made us think about how we do things differently. And to know that you have other mechanisms to cope – and they work – is a very important part of building that resilience.”

Our students are encouraged to carry on life as normally as they can, and to use all the supports available at school, seek out people to study with, exercise with and in time, return to playing netball where the goalkeeper can be called for “contact” without being frowned upon for breaching physical distancing rules!

With the current number of COVID-19 cases increasingly rising, it is important that anyone who is showing any signs of feeling unwell, remain at home for the health and wellbeing of everyone who is onsite. It is vitally important that every person takes responsibility in preventing the spread of COVID-19 as we deal with this health emergency.

Key Dates – Term 3

Information Evenings commencing at 6pm

Wednesday 29 July 2021 Subject Information Night (online) Year 8 into Year 9
Thursday 30 July 2021 Subject Information Night (online) Year 9 into Year 10
Monday 3 August Year 12 Tertiary Information Night (online)
Tuesday 4 August 2021 Subject Information Night (online) Year 10 into Year 11
Thursday 6 August 2021 Subject Information Night (online) Year 11 into Year 12

Staff Professional Development

Monday 17 August         Staff Professional Development Day – Student free day

Parent Teacher Interviews

Thursday 3 September      Senior School Years 10-12 (and Boarding)

Please make welcome Charlotte O’Malley who will be taking Fiona Ganino-Day’s Psychology classes while she is on Long Service Leave during Term 3.

Mrs Michelle Carroll, Principal