Update, 16 July 2020

Welcome to my Week 1 Update.

A strange journey

I hope that, like me, you had an opportunity to relax over the recent School break. I managed to spend time in the middle week doing what I love to do most – reading and spending time with my family.

Towards the end of last term, a staff member said to me: “Well, that wasn’t too bad.” I got the distinct feeling that there was a factitious note in there somewhere. However, there is some truth in what was said.

We can all be proud of what we achieved last term. Many parents supervised their children during the period of off-campus learning as well as, in many cases, maintaining a commitment to their own work. Their success was admirable.

Like me, I imagine you experienced small moments which buoyed you. Adversity can bring opportunity, and I observed staff and students exploring new ways of thinking on a daily basis.

There is no question that the next few weeks will be challenging for us all. It is unlikely to be either comfortable or joyous, but we have all proven we can move through difficult times while still caring for others and ourselves. I hope you will look for, and cherish, the small moments that matter and that enrich your life and those of people around you at this point in time. As Rev’d Hans Christiansen, Senior Chaplain, said at the wonderful Staff Eucharist held on Monday, we are on a strange journey.

As we commence this journey, I asked key staff at the School to provide advice about coping strategies for parents and for students. Their responses are included below and in the COVID-19 Resource Hub.

The Hub also includes contact details for our Psychological and Counselling Services, and for services which can provide support if you need extra help.

One of the most popular sections in the COVID-19 Resource Hub during first period of off-campus learning was our Top Five lists. We’ve added some new lists this week, with more to follow in the future. You’ll see my Top Five books that I read during the break listed there.

There is no question that the next few weeks will be challenging for us all. It is unlikely to be either comfortable or joyous, but we have all proven we can move through difficult times while still caring for others and ourselves. I hope you will look for, and cherish, the small moments that matter and that enrich your life and those of people around you at this point in time.

Strategies for dealing with our situation

The health and wellbeing of those in our School community, and beyond, continues to be our highest priority. In addition to the support provided by Classroom teachers and House Tutors, families may find aspects of the following articles helpful over the upcoming weeks:

Having compassion for yourself

Barbara Jones, Head of Counselling and Psychological Services, has written excellent article which outlines a set of strategies for dealing with Lockdown 2.0. In particular, she provides advice about how self-compassion might help. This involves:

  1. making time to check in with how you are feeling
  2. remembering that you’re not alone in how you feel
  3. treating yourself the same way you would treat a good friend

You can read the article here.

A reminder that contact details for Melbourne Grammar School’s Counselling and Psychological Services are available here.

Self-compassion and adolescents

Barbara Jones also advises that self-compassion has been investigated in adolescents (Marsh et al. 2018) and the results are consistent with those found in the adult literature. Self-compassion is a protective factor positively correlated with adolescents’ sense of wellbeing and negatively related to symptoms of psychological distress. When considering gender differences, it was found that boys reported higher total self-compassion scores than girls (Muris et al. 2019).

There is a useful resource about self-compassion for adolescents here.

Practicing the Benedictine, spiritual discipline of stability

In welcoming the School community back for Term III, Rev’d Hans Christiansen, Senior Chaplain reflects on how learnings from the Benedictine Order may help us navigate our way through lockdown 2.0. You can read the article here.

Navigating uncertain times

A Staff Eucharist is held at the start of each Term. In his sermon (Matthew 6, verses 25-34) at the Term III Staff Eucharist, Rev’d Malcolm Woolrich, Wadhurst Chaplain, explored how we might be able to act wisely and rationally in an irrational world. You can read his sermon here.

Additional Support for Medical and Emergency Services Personnel and Children at Risk

Recognising the vital role that medical professionals and emergency services personnel play in combatting the current health crisis and caring for us all, the School will continue to provide on-campus supervision for children of parents in these roles.

If you are a healthcare provider, work in the emergency services or a carer of a Child at Risk, and need on campus supervision for your child, please contact your Head of Campus:

For Grimwade House students (Prep – Year 6), please complete the application form here, and contact the Head of Grimwade House, Royce Helm rahelm@mgs.vic.edu.au for further information

For Wadhurst students (Years 7 & 8), please contact Greg Caldwell, Head of Wadhurst gjcaldwell@mgs.vic.edu.au

For Senior School students (Years 9 – 12), please contact Ben Hanisch, Deputy Headmaster and Head of Senior School bphanisch@mgs.vic.edu.au

The service will be available during normal school hours. It will operate according to the advice provided by the Victorian Department of Health. I thank our staff involved in providing this important service.

School Fees

As I have previously advised, dispatch of Term III Fee statements to parents is being withheld until Council has had an opportunity to properly review the current situation and its implications. We will keep you well informed.

A reminder that, if you wish to discuss the need for further financial support, please contact the Director of Finance & Administration, John Jesson, on +61 3 9865 7538 or dfa@mgs.vic.edu.au. Evaluation of applications for financial support will include means testing and other formal financial assessment parameters as appropriate.

Thank you for your ongoing patience and understanding.

With my warmest wishes,

Philip Grutzner
Headmaster