From the Principal

Last Friday evening about 40 students from Years 10 to 12 took part in the St Vincent de Paul Winter Sleepout.

St Vincent de Paul is St Edwin’s House Charity for 2017, so this was a tremendous opportunity to actively participate in fundraising for a very worthy cause. Supported by a small group of staff, our students had a memorable night; most even got some sleep and many of them actually slept out in the yard in the elements, protected only by cardboard box mattresses and shelters.

Together with the students and staff at the sleepout we started listing all the activities De La Salle College students engage in under the theme of ‘service’, and what they gain from giving to their community. In the profiles of our Five Core Principles, the message under ‘Justice’ reads,

De La Salle College commits itself to the Lasallian Core Principle of Concern for the Poor and Social Justice. We dedicate ourselves to raising awareness where there is injustice, being witness to the poor and needy, involving ourselves in community service and advocating for those on the periphery.”

The following list is not exhaustive, but it does capture the essence of our students’ commitment to service as part of their commitment to the Lasallian charism. We display this Core Principle through a terrific variety of activities, immersion experiences and building programs.

  • In recent weeks the Year 12 VCAL students travelled to St Therese’s K‑3 School in Wilcannia, a small town in north-western New South Wales. Living and working in the parish for over a week, students have a unique opportunity to connect with an Indigenous community and to offer support and assistance to a society in dire need.
  • In late November we have 15 Year 12 students departing for Diyagala Boys Town in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The new ‘Yaluwo’ program offers those attending the chance to work, study and play alongside the local Sri Lankan Lasallian students for three weeks, and in that time they will make a significant contribution to Diyagala in challenging conditions.
  • As part of their new program, our Year 9 students commit to Lasallian/Community Service one afternoon a week for a full term. The main beneficiaries of the service are aged care facilities, primary schools, kindergartens and opportunity shops. Year 12 students take on a similar commitment via Ministry Options as part of their Religious Education program for their final year.
  • A very popular option among the Year 9 and 10 students is the Ambassador program, whereby students volunteer to work as guides for our College Tours. Besides providing wonderful service, the Ambassadors are highly effective marketing for the College, as visiting families invariably comment about how knowledgeable, engaging, informative and patriotic the Ambassadors are in assisting them in getting to know the school.
  • Over the past three to four years we have been running our Community Masses on Sundays in parishes with whom we have long standing relationships and from where we draw a healthy number of enrolments. These are invariably very well supported by student leaders from both the junior and senior school, setting a great example for their peers and also younger boys in the parish who we hope will become De La students in the future.
  • In a couple of weeks, we have 15 Year 11 students travelling to Bomana De La Salle High School outside Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea for our annual immersion. The building work the group is able to complete each year within a tight timeframe, supported by staff and volunteer tradesmen, and again in challenging conditions, is a wonderful testament to their ability to serve a needy community. The Bomana students and staff appreciate the opportunity to interact with our students and express their gratitude for the time, effort and financial support we contribute to their community.

In working through the above record of our students’ dedication to service and their commitment to respect, inclusivity and social justice I am reminded of some key points from my studies at the Buttimer Institute earlier this year. In analysing Lasallian spirituality and ministry we read of salvation coming through grace; the redemptive nature of simply doing good.

Working as part of a faith community, each of us is part of the tapestry, regardless of how small or great our contribution. These opportunities for service give our young men a sense of meaning, belonging and purpose. St John Baptist de La Salle wrote of God’s blessing as a reward for those who worked for the salvation of the poor and abandoned youth. The grand calling for Lasallians is to help young people navigate a life which doesn’t come with any map or directions. When I match these principles with the experiences of our students and staff, it is clear there is wonderful symmetry between our charism and our work in this space.

In one of the College’s most visible demonstrations of our student cohort’s commitment to service, we have just concluded the process for selecting the 2018 College Captain and Vice-Captains. As in previous years, we saw many wonderful young men put their hands up for these roles, presenting to their peers, preparing detailed written applications and attending to the demands of a formal interview. What came through in the process is that these students want to help, support, be engaged with the wider life of the College and leave a legacy of their own, having made De La a better place for their leadership. All our College Leaders, from Year 4 to the Student Executive and House Leadership roles in the senior school, consistently show selflessness and tremendous commitment to serving their peers and their school community.

I am very pleased to announce the 2018 positions:

2018 College Captain — Panos Menidis (St Leo’s House)

2018 College Vice-Captain – John Beaton (St Austin’s House)

2018 College Vice-Captain – Joshua Paul (St Edwin’s House)

Each candidate was very impressive in his presentation to the Year 11 cohort, the comprehensive written application and perhaps most significantly, in the formal interview. Thank you to those staff who were asked to provide references for the candidates — the details therein were invaluable in shortlisting and deciding.

The successful candidates were able to articulate very clearly:

  • their vision for the role(s);
  • the strengths which would enable them to contribute strongly to the College;
  • their understanding and potential application of the Lasallian Core Principles;
  • the values instilled in them by their experience in our faith community;
  • their capacities in relation to leadership, organisation, communication and time management.

In closing, I would also like to refer parents to the brief article I came across this week in relation to students seeking assistance with their studies.

When Students Should Ask For Help

Help avoidance’ is a widespread classroom problem. Is there an optimal point for deciding when a student needs help?

Research has shown that there are four variables affecting students needing help in the classroom:

  • prior knowledge (this is the most important),
  • motivational orientation,
  • self-regulation, and
  • cognitive load.

Researchers were able to analyse help-seeking and avoidance by carefully tracking students’ learning behaviours as they went through a computerised learning program on genetics. The results? Except for situations where students had extremely low levels of prior knowledge, not asking for help was strongly correlated with poor learning outcomes. Help avoidance was most damaging in the earliest stages of the learning progression; waiting until later lessons to get help was increasingly unproductive.

The message for students: when you don’t understand, don’t spin your wheels; get help immediately.

Help Avoidance: When Students Should Seek Help, and the Consequences of Failing to Do So” by Victoria Almeda, Ryan Baker, and Albert Corbett in Teachers College Record, March 2017

Finally, I wish all the dads out there a great day on Sunday. It was terrific to see over 450 dads and sons at our Father’s Day Breakfast last Friday 25 August. Being there for your sons on occasions like this is a significant part of the bond between father and son, they really appreciate your presence. The guest speakers from the Class of 2016 and 2017 were terrific and the Parent Network helpers, as always, did an outstanding job.

Mr Peter Houlihan

Back to The Duce Issue 2017 13 - 31 August 2017