Staff Development Days provide great opportunities to reinvigorate professional enthusiasms as well as to reflect on learning and life at school.
The idea is that staff can best help students learn and be happy at school if we are feeling strong, personally resilient and optimistic. Getting off-site to reflect and be stimulated is part of the strategy but more importantly it is about celebrating our successes, as well as having time for collective and personal reflection.
These Resilience and Optimism conferences continue this year but at a new venue, the University of Wollongong*. Our local university is formally a “learning partner” and we have many links to this important local institution. Our students are very used to visiting the university and having uni students run programs at our school.
Thanks to the Associate Dean, Sharon Tindall-Ford, for welcoming our school so warmly to the University, School of Education and the Early Start Facility. The spaces we used today are wonderfully adaptable, flexible, brightly coloured and ergonomically sound. The university has the wonderful ambience and is a perfect venue for our conference.
in2Uni is an important opportunity for our students to learn more about tertiary opportunities at their local university and has been positively evaluated over the last few years but not all staff have had the opportunity to see what is on offer. Jennifer Porter explained how these programs work for students in stage 4, as well as those who are much closer to departing secondary school. I had not realised that the program starts with students as young as six. This is a very important initiative to encourage tertiary education.
Immanuel Kant, in his “rules for happiness”, talks about having “something to do, someone to love and something to hope for”. University is a great opportunity for our students post-school and them knowing that “hope” for a tertiary education is likely to be fulfilled if they understand what is required and what opportunities lay ahead is potentially very important for future wellbeing and happiness.
The program today also included keynotes by Meredith Young-Whitford & Neil Ryan presenting on student and staff wellbeing at the University of Wollongong. Neil gave a very good overview of what was available for staff at the university and the challenges with having everyone engage with the services. He spoke well.
Meredith (“Mim”) was brimming with enthusiasm for the programs supporting students and we gained a number of ideas for wellbeing projects at school. The “silent disco” appealed to me and I think our students would love this uplifting, fun activity. I always find it interesting, considering how hopeless at ‘craft’ I am, that so many teachers love making with their hands. There were some pretty stunning paper cranes constructed mindfully today.
“We know from previous research that mindfulness meditation can assist with managing stress as well as symptoms of issues such as anxiety and depression.” Dr Sng
Mindfulness is popular with students and Dr Rebecca Sng had impressed staff who had attended her sessions previously. Her opening activity, involving M&Ms, demonstrated the nature of mindfulness in a fun way and we will have students investigate the HSC Stress-Less app she was instrumental in designing.
Workshops today were varied and included:
- Mindfulness – Dr Rebecca Sng
- Team Building Games Workshop – Katie Thompson
- Yoga Nidra – Kayte Peters
- Managing Upwards – Andrew FitzSimons
- Drawing – Doerinda Gardner
- Tour of the University – Grant Hughes
Thanks to the workshop facilitators. Your enthusiasm is appreciated.
An important component of our last day professional development is to celebrate professional excellence. Our awards, as voted on by staff, were announced:
School and Community Service – Eric Rosewarn
Teaching and Learning – Merrideth McGregor
Student Wellbeing – Andrew Horsley
Innovation – Troy Koglin
Leadership – Daniel Inness
Congratulations and thanks for your brilliant work this year! As an aside, I notice that the four teaching staff awarded can be followed on Twitter.
The Nan Tien Temple has been a great locale for our annual conference for the last six years but the university has worked better than well today. Certainly, the partnerships between the university and Dapto High School are to be treasured and nurtured. Our students love being at the university and strolling around today, rather than rushing (after work) to lecture my pre-service teachers, was a very pleasant experience.
What did your school do for the last day of the year?
Featured image: flickr photo by Darcy Moore http://flickr.com/photos/darcymoore/23190155334 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license
*Thanks to Luisa D’Acunto and Jillian Jones for their stellar organisation of the event.