School wraps students and families in its web of support

A sign at the entry to the College’s student services centre

The Woy Woy campus of Brisbane Water Secondary College is officially a ‘positive education’ school which is giving students, teachers and families the tools and tenacity to thrive, even during a pandemic.

Woy Woy is the college’s senior campus and usually accommodates over 700 students from years 10 through to 12.

Head Teacher of Wellbeing, Linda Langmaid, said: “We have been working hard with the kids to teach them that it is a good thing to ask for help and say I am not coping right now.

“We all need to learn that we can do this together.

“Our kids have faced all types of adversity but they are strong and they cope amazingly.”

Langmaid said the school regularly uses many “positive education” techniques.

“A philosophy we teach kids is to concentrate on what is going well in their life and we teach them how to create positive emotions in their lives and this is a prime time when they need to practice that,” she said.

“It is not a technique where we say life is always going to be perfect but it teaches them how to climb out when they are feeling sad or feel defeated.

“We teach them about neuroplasticity and that we can change the way our brain works.

“It is about creating positive habits and in times like this it can be as simple as making sure you get out of bed, have breakfast, have a shower, get out of your pajamas and follow a routine for the day.

“We talk a lot about gratitude and being thankful, about kindness, about noting what goes well in your day about trying to train our brains into looking for the good.”

Langmaid said the school has acknowledged that the extended lockdown is a huge challenge for the students and the adults in their lives.

“We have to acknowledge that it has all sorts of impacts in all sorts of different ways.

“We are very fortunate in that our principal, Rebecca Cooper, has put all sorts of resources into supporting the children.

“We have got about 12 staff members who are in touch with children at home.

“We each have a case load of students that we call at least every couple of days.

“We have sent out technology for families, computers and wifi dongles and we are sending out hampers on a Friday for families who are struggling.

“There is so much innovation going on in terms of online lessons where everybody has learned many different new ways of presenting things in ways to engage the kids so they keep learning all the time.

“We are just finding all sorts of challenges that we have never thought about and we have to craft our support individually for every case we come across because the needs change from child to child.”

The Year 12 students will be doing their trial HSC exams online.

“The situation is changing daily and unfortunately none of us has a crystal ball but what I do know is there is a network, a spider web of support that comes through the school and I know it is the same at the junior campus as well.

“I can’t be the eyes and ears for every child but I have emails filtering through to me from teachers all the time.

“For example, a teacher noticed that one child who was always on the zoom wasn’t there today so the teacher asked me to check on them – our teachers know their kids which is a key to a great school.

Staff are rallying around families who have lost their income with grocery gift vouchers for hampers but also around each other and
getting creative with those connections.

“We have a staff morning tea online on a Thursday so last week one of the PE teachers ran a fitness class for everyone so we model for the kids that we must stay connected – we are still at school, it is

“We have an assembly online every week so the kids in each year get to see each other.

“They go into breakout rooms and talk to their team leader who runs a trivia session or some sort game.”

Langmaid’s message to the whole school community, including parents, is that in such a “close-knit school community it is OK to ask for help, in fact it is great to ask for help because we are modelling to our children that it is a good thing to do.

“We are still all at school but it is just in a different place.”

Case study – Positive approach to lockdown learning

Year 10 Brisbane Water Secondary College student, Ethan Hill, firmly believes that he is lucky to be in lockdown.

Ethan hasn’t yet decided whether he wants to go to TAFE or university after his HSC to study sport and recreation instruction but, for now, he is focusing on enjoying the benefits of online schooling.

Ethan enjoys doing school work from home

“To be honest I am coping pretty well with lockdown; I enjoy online schooling – I find that I get through my work easier, I am more focused and I have spare time to do whatever I want like go for a walk or go to the beach,” he says.

An only child, Ethan lives with his mum, dad and grandmother in Woy Woy.

“The downside is I’m not with friends but my grandmother lives with us so if I catch COVID it would be pretty awful, so I have to be very careful.”

Ethan says he is staying in contact with his friends but describes it as “a different type of connection, it is not the same as actually hanging out with them.

“Partially it does suck but, especially looking at the rest of the world, I guess we are pretty lucky even if it is not perfect.”

Ethan praises his teachers: “All our teachers have been really supportive.

“We occasionally have zoom meetings to see the rest of our classmates and we started to do year 10 assembly and daily check-ins.

“The other part of the work is virtual through google classroom and we can work at our own pace in our own time,” he says.

Jackie Pearson