Home' Independence : Independence Vol 40 No 2 Oct 2015 Contents 24 INDEPENDENCE VOL 40 NO 2 OCTOBER 2015
have set up a sewing class and teach
our students skills and share other
knowledge with them, too. Recently
we invited local elders from the Valley
land councils to the College to talk to
students; 47 elders came together (a
remarkable occurrence in itself) and
spoke to students about behaviours
befitting a proud Aboriginal person.
All of these occasions, big and small,
help build a sense of belonging for our
students, a sense of place.
For me as Principal, helping to create
a sense of belonging means supporting
students beyond the College grounds –
including at police stations or in court or
at juvenile justice centres. Sometimes,
helping students define their sense of
place means providing opportunities for
them to explore beyond this place.
At the end of each term we offer
activities the students may never have
done before – paddle boarding, rock
climbing, going on a three-day trek
up-river. We take them to Coffs Harbour
only an hour and a bit away, but
most of our students have never been
there. We take them to see their first
movie in a cinema at Port Macquarie.
We support their efforts to give back to
the wider community: last year students
undertook a 17 km walk to raise funds
for Westmead Children’s Hospital.
Unfortunately these opportunities are
not fully funded by governments, and
too much of my time is spent writing
grant applications. Taking students on
individual learning pathways that are
built upon multiple successes, one small
step after another, costs a lot more than
governments can realistically provide.
It demands intense commitment from
staff, who must constantly adapt to the
unique circumstances of each student.
Fortunately for me and the students,
we have such a dedicated staff. Their
authentic contribution is a large part
of why we all have a strong sense of
belonging at MVC.
five on Thursdays and Fridays, with
later starts on those two days as well.
The timetable is also structured to
ensure that intensive, sit-down learning
is relieved by physical education or
something that has a practical or
creative component. Back to back,
mentally draining classes are often the
cause of students’ frustrations, which
in turn may lead to students finding
themselves in the behavioural bad books
and excluded from education.
We work with students to help them
keep improving their personal bests, in
all aspects of life and in their academic
studies, and we actively look for
opportunities for them to experience
success so that their confidence
continues to grow. For example, we hold
our Year 12 graduation in September,
before students sit the HSC, because we
recognise the milestone of qualifying to
sit. Many of our students are the first
in their family to reach Year 12 or even
attend school regularly so, regardless of
their exam results, these students are
demonstrating outstanding commitment
and extraordinary achievement that is
worthy of celebration. In 2014 we had
nine students sit their HSC exams, one
of whom gave birth to her first child
only four days later.
We have found that one of the most
important things we do is behave as
active members of the community,
meeting the community’s needs rather
than just expecting the community
to support us. For example, we don’t
have typical opening and closing times.
The College remains open until I leave
at night; not just our own students,
but students from primary schools
in the area know they can come into
my office and grab a box of cereal for
dinner. We don’t close during term
breaks, as many students or children
from the area come to College anyway,
so we are available to offer food and
course opportunities for our students.
There are always people here; even of a
Christmas morning we host a BBQ for
We have other BBQ days for the
community, when students can bring a
friend or an aunty or uncle to share the
meal, have a photo taken (as they don’t
have family photos) or even teach their
guest how to use a computer or print a
T-shirt. That is incredibly powerful.
The elders are welcomed to share
women’s and men’s business with the
students. Some of the women elders
WOODWORKING is a positive start to the week for
many Macleay Vocational College students.
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