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Pastoral Care and Wellbeing

Vaping In Schools Across Australia – Different Management Strategies

Dear SMC Community,

Vaping has become the ‘new smoking’ for a range of children across Australia with many of the current manufacturers being smoking companies. This activity does not discriminate across gender or age, with countless young people being tempted to explore the trend. We know that for some young people, this can be addictive, and the substances contained in the vapes can be dangerous and unpredictable. As a College, we deem this not only illegal but also unsafe and high-risk to our students, community and College brand.

In recent months, many reports, research and programs have been written about the dangers of Vaping. Schools are a micro-community of the real world. As a Catholic school in the Lasallian tradition, we continue to see what other schools are doing in this space and the cutting educational and pastoral programs we can provide to support our students. For students in Years 7-9, we continue to work with Life Education, and for students in Years 10-12, we work closely with Paul Dillon and DARTA to provide the very best information about being safe. Some schools have taken drastic measures to lock bathrooms during lesson times. Students at these schools must obtain a key or swipe card to access the area. We have not put this in place at SMC, but we do ask that all students only go to the bathroom by themselves during class or break times. There is no need to go to the bathroom in groups or pairs; if we do see this, we can only assume they are using their mobile phones or Vaping. A key reason we do not want more than ONE student attending the toilet space at a time is to eliminate the temptation of peer pressure. The College would like all of our students to make good choices.

St Michael’s is investigating and looking at installing Vape Detectors, which can create a safer community by alerting a Leadership team member if any Vaping is detected in a particular space. We are working towards installing floor-to-ceiling toilets across the campus for student safety and privacy. As a College, we are also investigating if the current student ID cards could be used as swipe cards to use bathroom facilities.

We continue to monitor, engage and work in partnership with health authorities and educational providers to deter young people from Vaping. We want our students to flourish and realise their potential in making informed decisions that minimise the harm that Vaping can cause. The information provided advises that Vapes are not in any way safer than cigarettes and can often be much more dangerous to an individual’s health.

Moving forward, we will continue to engage with Life Education and Paul Dillon (DARTA). The College will also support staff, parents and caregivers around this current trend, the current forms of vaping, and the paraphernalia that continue to evolve. We will look to run further parent and caregiver sessions as we move forward and continue to learn more about this dangerous and unsafe practice.

I wish to remind all parents and caregivers that we have counselling services available for all SMC students and can also provide contact details for external providers that support individuals on addiction or Vaping activities.

In closing, I would like to remind families that following the St Michael’s College policies and procedures form part of every student’s enrolment. Students caught with Vaping products, Vaping on school grounds or even selling such items will be managed by a member of the Leadership team. This may result in difficult conversations around suspensions and expulsion from the community for the more serious matters.

Mr Matthew Williams, Deputy Principal Pastoral

YEARS 7-9 WELLBEING CHARACTER STRENGTH FOCUS

Week 1: HUMOUR

Laughing has a way of making us feel good. When was the last time you had a huge belly laugh? We can all relate to how good that feels- as though we are laughing all the way from our toes. There are some people I know who have the most amazingly contagious laugh- the kind that instantly makes you want to join in when you hear it, even if you are completely unaware of what they are laughing about. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to bottle this laughter- to be uncorked at a later time when you
could really use a laugh or two? A recent article I read suggested that if we record our laughter and listen to it, it makes us laugh in about 90% of cases.

Research evidences that laughter has a huge impact on our physical and mental health. It strengthens our immune system, reduces the impact of pain through the release of endorphins and helps to soften the impact of stress. It can inspire us towards a brighter tomorrow, keep us grounded and balanced and also importantly, it can help us forgive each other when things don’t work as they should and we are hurt. It goes without saying that all of this is beneficial to our relationships and happiness, knowing, valuing and caring for each other, as a Community.

Like all strengths, it’s also true that humour has to be used in the right balance and context, so that it is not a shadow-strength or negative in its purpose. It should never hurt or become ‘weaponized’- created at someone else’s expense. As we indicate to students, the age-old excuse of ‘It was just a joke’ is never acceptable as misused humour can result in someone feeling harassed, bullied or excluded.

Unfortunately, the world of comedy does not always set the best example. Even if I think back to those great films I watched and loved as a child- Abbott and Costello (Who’s on First?), Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis (really showing my age!). Though I didn’t really get it at the time, the humour was often based on the misfortune of one of the characters, and the ability of the stronger character to manipulate the situation, asserting control or superiority in some way.

Sometimes it’s hard to tone down the humour in us when it’s one of our top strengths, especially when we are adolescents. It can become a shadow strength. But it’s interesting to note that the strength that can sometimes make a learning environment challenging can also be one of the most important of strengths that enables our young people to navigate Challenge, make connections and fruitful networks, resolve conflict, find hope and support each other, towards flourishing. As a result, it is not a strength we want to see disappear, but it is one we need to learn to use more knowingly as we journey through adolescence, in the best context, for the learning of every person around us. This helps us develop the Choice to be the best leaders and learners of the world we can be.

Week 2: HONESTY

Our Week 2 strength is Honesty, and when we are honest, we speak the truth. We present ourselves in a genuine way, without pretending to be someone else, and we take responsibility for our feelings and actions, acting consistently with our values.

At St Michael’s such values also underpin the Mission and Vision that is Community, Challenge and Choice; making choices that reflect the values of the Lasallian ethos. It goes without saying that when we try to respond with honesty and integrity, this influences our relationships and our state of wellbeing in a positive direction; we are trusted.

Sometimes we can find honesty hard in challenging situations. Even the apostles found honesty tricky as we know that when Jesus was on trial for his life, his friend Peter denied knowing him, despite previously indicating he would never do this. “I don’t know him, I never knew him, I never saw him before.”

In my Religion class this week, we are discussing conscience and decision making. As it is a Religion Class with Italian language and culture content, we have been reflecting on Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio- the Disney version, and the messaging and symbolism of the story. I wondered as I sat preparing this curriculum, of an evening in my family room at home, why Collodi chose to represent Pinocchio’s conscience as a cricket, and as I sat reflecting, noticed the loud and constant chirping of the crickets outside. I don’t always hear them- or perhaps I don’t always listen for them! Pinocchio, as we know, had some trouble navigating temptation and when he didn’t listen to Jiminy cricket’s advice, things didn’t end well.

In encouraging honesty in our children, available literature indicates, amongst other advice that like most aspects of parenting, role modelling is important, perhaps even discussing the ‘white lies’ we might tell to protect their childhood at a stage when they are old enough to understand. Celebrating honesty in difficult situations is also a plus, even when it may not be what we want to hear. The way we respond to the honesty of our children can highlight that honesty nurtures trust; an important feature of all meaningful relationships.
Honesty allows us to be at peace with ourselves, and this is so important to our wellbeing and to our relationships with other people. When we are honest in our actions this also have a positive knock-on effect on our community and world around us. It can help us to know, value and care for each other, as our Vision and Mission at St Michael’s would suggest.
Have a great Week 3 ahead, hopefully with lots of honest, belly laughs!

Tonia Carfora, Year 7-9 Wellbeing Initiatives Leader