At Saint Stephen’s College, ensuring the wellbeing of our students is at the core of what we do. It is about building quality relationships, nurturing the hopes and dreams of students, and providing a safe and supportive environment where individuals can flourish. More specifically, the Pastoral Care program provides students with the opportunity to discuss issues relating to their own lives and the lives of others in the wider community, to learn new skills, to develop a greater sense of self and others, to establish friends and to have some fun.
Tools to Succeed
Pastoral Care is increasingly important today, especially given the growing challenges our young people face, chief among them the role technology plays in their lives and in particular social networking platforms. Also, in an era where clinical depression amongst young people is increasing, focusing on students’ wellbeing is vital.
Skills such as resilience and conflict resolution, and opportunities for serving others, all key components of the Pastoral Care program at Saint Stephen’s College, equip our students with the tools to help them be happy, and to succeed both in the classroom and beyond.
Topics addressed in the dedicated Pastoral Care lessons include body image, self-esteem and identity, decision-making, resilience, sexuality education, nutrition, self-respect, healthy habits, risk-taking behaviours, leadership, drug education, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, relationships and personal safety among others.
Pastoral Care programs and delivery
Given the real world and contemporary nature of the topics explored in Pastoral Care, online safety has become a significant focus in these lessons. Former Queensland Police Officer and Detective Brett Lee speaks to our students about the risks of the online world, drawing on his experience of over 16 years in which he spent thousands of hours using the Internet to view the cyber world through the eyes of a young person and was ultimately involved in the arrest and prosecution of hundreds of online criminals and predators. Brett also presents valuable information to our parents about how to keep up with what young people are doing online and how to keep them safe. This is but one way we work with parents to ensure our students are developing as well-rounded, confident and self-assured young people who are able to achieve to the best of their potential.
Connecting with Others
Pastoral Care lessons also focus on citizenship and motivating students to be more interested in, and responsible for, what is going on in the community, be it local, national or global. In addition, another highlight for many of the students is the Better Buddy Program, in which the secondary and primary students buddy up to engage in fun activities for the purpose of getting to know one another, and building meaningful and authentic relationships.
Other Specific Programs
Other specific programs which help support the individual growth of our students include the Seasons of Growth program. This program helps students cope with change, loss and grief associated with death, family breakdown, or any other form of separation. Another program that is offered is the Secret Agent Society which supports students who find it difficult to understand their own emotions and those of others, and consequently have trouble making friends, and assists these students in expressing their feelings in appropriate ways.
Integral to Pastoral Care at Saint Stephen’s College are the Tutors (secondary) and the classroom teachers (primary) who see the students every day and are the first port of call for students. These staff members get to know the students very well over the course of the year, and make genuine connections with them and their parents. Students in Years 9-12 have the same Tutor for two years in a row, and therefore, a very strong bond is developed over this time.
Further, students are supported by a Pastoral Care team including the Junior College Pastoral Care Leader, the Senior Heads of Year, the College Counsellor, the College Chaplain and the Head of Learning Enhancement, all of whom are overseen by the Dean of Students. The Pastoral Care team, and other key staff, also focus strongly on the transition of students from Year 6 into Year 7, as well as the transition of new students to the College, both of which are crucial times in the development of our young people and at a time when they experience much change.
Pastoral Care is more than just about the dedicated lessons and particular staff members. Perhaps even more important are the incidental moments that contribute to the wellbeing and success of our students. It is the lessons learnt on the sporting field about teamwork; it is the scripture passages explored in Chapel; it is the fun moments shared on camp balanced by the moments when students are challenged to self-reflect; it is the philosophies teachers embed in their teaching practices, the concepts they teach and the very behaviour they role model; it is the way new students are welcomed into the College; it is the follow through when a student is facing a problem; it can be as seemingly insignificant as a conversation shared between a student and staff member in the school yard.