This morning I have headed off with our Year 12 students on Retreat. This is my tenth Damascus Retreat and it is always an experience I value highly. So seldom do we get to spend extended periods of time with the leaders of tomorrow, to share in their hopes and dreams and to have the opportunity to discuss where faith meets life. It is one of the many great privileges of the vocation of teaching for which I am very thankful. We have struck good weather, which always adds to the experience.
Students are settling into the routine of the 2018 school year. Year 7 students have made a wonderful transition, but for new parents beware. Students will cope really well here at school but they are using a lot of emotional energy and with the warm weather they will tire quickly as the weeks’ progress. Just because they are secondary students, they are still the young people they were last year and some early nights enable them to sustain their ability to cope with significant changes. (It doesn’t hurt older students either.) For all students, discourage screens an hour before bed, and don’t allow devices to charge in bedrooms – the temptation to check messages or play another game is too great!
To support all our students as learners I encourage families to go into the Parent Access Module (PAM). PAM can be found by going into the College website, to the Resource Hub tab – Parent Resources - PAM. Click on the Yellow PAM button and it will ask you for a username and password. These were generated for families for the TA interviews – if you cannot locate yours please contact the College. Within PAM you can see the student timetable, but as a parent I appreciate the Learning Areas tab on the left which brings up your students subjects and you can click on them to see when they have assessments due in. This is really important for us as parents to see when work is due and to help our students be proactive in their submission of work. It also allows us to see the feedback provided and look for areas of improvement in the future. Try and build a regular look at PAM into your weekly schedule.
Next week there is a lot going on in the College.
Tuesday 13th is the House Swimming Carnival. This carnival will be conducted from the Eureka Swimming Pool and involves the entire student body. Students to arrive at school as normal in the morning and they will be transported to the pool from here. The swimming sports, as with every weekday, is a compulsory school day for all students. The sports are an excellent opportunity for students to live life to the full. Not everyone is a talented swimmer but there are a diverse range of activities to encourage student participation. It is not uncommon for students to put pressure on parents and guardians not to attend school on these days but it is imperative that parents stand firm and point out that community events are an important opportunity to learn and to build both team and school spirit.
Our focus throughout our sports program across the College is on participation. The team that has the greatest level of participation has invariably been recognised as the overall winner at the carnival. Students that do not attend school on Tuesday without a legitimate reason will not be eligible to attend College formals or extra curricula activities such as ski trips. Non-attendance will preclude senior students from leadership positions in 2019.
Parents are very welcome and encouraged to attend at any time throughout the day. Students will be dismissed from 2.45 pm but if they are to leave from the pool they are required to have a note from their parent in the morning. All students must report to their TA when they arrive at the sports. Given the levels of UV at the moment please ensure students have adequate skin coverage, sun glasses and a hat for throughout the day. We will provide sunscreen on the day, but please ensure that students have good access to their own refreshments and sensible sun protection.
For all families who have a student in a VCE and VCAL subject there is an information evening next Thursday, 15th February from 6.00 pm. More details can be found here. This is important information about the senior certificates and all families are strongly encouraged to attend.
Preparations are well under way for Opening Mass next Friday, 16th February at 11.30 am in the John Shannon Centre. Parents are invited to be a part of all liturgical celebrations throughout the year. Please do not feel intimidated or awkward if you are not a Catholic parent or regular Mass attendee. Our College liturgies are inclusive and the lived expression of our life as a faith community. We would love to welcome any member of our College community to this important gathering.
If your son or daughter missed school photos this week, there will be a catch up session next Thursday, 15th February from 2.00 pm.
Any families who have a student in Grade 6 who will be seeking a 2019 enrolment, please ensure your application/s are submitted by Friday 16th February.
This Friday night from 6.30 pm is the launch of the Next Gen exhibition at the Ballarat Art Gallery. There are many Damascus artists with pieces in this exhibition and I encourage those with an interest in the arts to attend.
The Wendouree Ballarat Rowing Club Regatta spanned Saturday and Sunday and Damascus Rowers competed on both days of the carnival as well as undertaking many other roles in such an event. There were some great individual crew results over a beautiful weekend weather wise. The Damascus Rowing parents have been awesome in their support of students and the College and I particularly want to thank and acknowledge the leadership of Narelle Edwards and Yasmin Lloyd in coordinating the parental efforts.
Next Wednesday 14th February is Ash Wednesday which is the first day of the Lenten Season within the Catholic Calendar. The name “Ash Wednesday” comes from the blessed ashes that are applied to the forehead as a sign of the beginning of the season of Lent, the season of preparation for Easter. The ashes of Ash Wednesday carry a sense of urgency. They remind us that we are not permanent residents here on earth, that in fact life is quite short. This makes Lent a valuable time for examining our direction, refocusing our priorities, and making sure that God is central to our lives. This time of Lent each year provides the opportunity to open ourselves to being captured anew by the love of God – and to find ways for the love we have received to flow through us to others. Lent is also a time for recognising that we cannot help but be moved and respond to those in need.
At Damascus there are a number of events that will mark the start of this Lenten season. On Monday our school leaders will travel to St Patrick’s Cathedral to join with St Patrick’s and Loreto and the Bishop and Vicar General for Mass. Also on Monday 12th, the SRC will conduct a bake sale in the spirit of Shrove Tuesday – a tradition of preparation and cleaning out the pantry for Lent. On Wednesday at 12.30 pm we will gather as a whole school for the liturgy of the Ashes, which marks the beginning of Lent.
I promise that the newsletter will not typically be this long, but there is a lot going on at the start of the year.
We remember Macy (Year 11) and Rory (Year 9) Ludeman and their family as they grieve the passing of their grandfather this last week, may the God of comfort give them strength and peace at this time.
We remember all those who need our prayers, until next week …