From The Principal – Mercy Day

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Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy, devoted her life to the poor, sick and uneducated. On 24 September 1827, she opened the House of Mercy on Baggot Street Dublin, to provide shelter and to educate disadvantaged women and children. Catherine showed great dedication to living out the Gospel values and through her legacy continues to make a positive difference in the lives of so many people today.

What is Mercy Day?

Mercy Day is when we pay tribute to the hard work, commitment and devotion of the Sisters and people of Mercy. This year we celebrated what has been achieved over the past 80 years here at Santa Maria College. Mercy Day is a celebration of our charism and rich heritage and a time to reflect on how fortunate we are to have so many facilities and opportunities compared to many girls around the world.

Mercy is an expression of our love for those in our community who are marginalised. It is living out the Gospel values, which promote the dignity and worth of all human beings. To be a person of Mercy means to be ready to be kind and forgiving to everyone. It means welcoming others, looking out for others in need and, where possible, doing something about it. It can be easy to get caught up in the many demands of day-to-day living and to lose sight of the great needs of others globally and locally but as Catherine McAuley said,

“The poor need our help today, not next week.” 

We support the marginalised throughout the year at the College, by raising awareness, fundraising and advocacy, through our many service and social justice groups.

Mercy Day is a community-building day, commencing with a celebration of the Eucharist uniting us all in faith and reminding us of the reason for our existence as a Catholic School in the Mercy tradition. This is followed by a range of fundraising activities which over the past three years has been donated to support the ongoing work of Sr Denise Coghlan in Cambodia. Over these three years, Santa Maria College has raised over $45,000.


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Staff Reaching Across The Globe

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Chairperson Alan November with Melissa Marshall

Staff member Melissa Marshall, Head of Digital Learning and Technology & Commerce, presented at the Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston earlier this year. We asked her about the conference.

Tell us about the conference you presented at?
I presented at a conference called Building Learning Communities, which is held in Boston, USA every year. BLC is in its 19th year and is chaired by Alan November, an eminent thinker in the areas of planning across curriculum, staff development, new school design, community building and leadership development. He wrote a book called Empowering Students with Technology and its contents inspired me early on. BLC draws presenters of big-picture ideas from leading universities and think tanks alongside classroom practitioners so that we can discuss and share together. This is a wonderful way to get amazing things happening in education.

What did you present on and why did you choose this topic?
The topics I presented on are very dear to me: Gamification, and Enhanced Learning Programs that teach design thinking.

Both of these threads have been evident throughout my career. Gamification is the process of bringing the same motivational aspects of playing games into the classroom – it is not necessarily playing more games. I often watched my students persevere hard in the face of setbacks when gaming, only to baulk at obstacles to their learning in the classroom. This led to wondering: what elements of games translate to a learning experience, and can they increase engagement? I commenced a Masters in ICT in Education to find out, and gamification was my final project.

Design thinking is a process developed by Stanford University to guide thinkers through a process to make their world a better place. When students design something that matters to them and to others, this allows them many future-focused skills: empathy, collaboration, agency, technical knowledge and purpose. At Santa Maria College, we have Enhanced Learning Programs that build this capacity in our girls, and Explore8 in Year 8 is built around innovation and design thinking. I was honoured to present this workshop on behalf of my colleagues here at school.  It was certainly received very well by the attendees and I was able to introduce them to how we tackle design thinking in our corner of the world.

What key things did you take away from the conference?
A conference like this reminds us that we are part of a global community of learners, and we are all learning, all of the time. Many teachers and educational stakeholders around the world can see what schools can be – not the factory model of years gone by. While the future is uncertain, we have wonderful ideas and the ability to carry them out. The purpose of a school must be to develop human potential, not to rank it. In the end, we need to do what is right and good for our students.


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Handing Over the Reins

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The 2019 Student Leadership Committee has now been announced. Students were commissioned in their new roles last Thursday at a ceremony in front of their families and peers. Head Girl elect, Emma Robinson, talks about the handover process and looks towards 2019 below.

2019 will be the Year of Hospitality at Santa Maria. I believe Hospitality is a fitting Mercy value for the year, as it places emphasis on welcoming others, particularly those we don’t know and also creates a more loving community. A key focus for myself and the incoming Student Leadership Council will be ensuring each girl feels genuinely included and welcomed, as well as strengthening school spirit and familiarity amongst all Year groups.

The handover process from the 2018 graduating leaders to the 2019 incoming leaders was invaluable, with this year’s leaders sharing personal experience and advice to take on board heading into our new roles. We began with the Commissioning Ceremony, where during the Act of Commitment, we pledged: to use our leadership skills and talents to benefit others, to be a positive role model demonstrating genuine concern, care and thoughtfulness, to encourage a high level of participation in all College activities, to show initiative and encourage others to reach their full potential, and to encourage and build community spirit.

The Commissioning Ceremony was followed by a handover afternoon where we were given guidance and insight into the responsibilities and formalities of our roles. We then spent one on one time with the 2018 leader we are taking over from. A standout message for me was that we are not yet fully qualified or experts in our position, but that our leadership is a learning experience where we will learn the skills needed over time, in an authentic way, moulding the role to ourselves and not the other way around. Finally, the leadership training afternoon for all leaders across all years, provided the opportunity for the members of each of the portfolio committees to get to know one another and begin conversations about what next year could look like.

Next year, I look forward to working with each girl, both leaders and those who are not, to continue to create a school environment where we, as students, are motivated to get involved and try our best.

Emma Robinson, 2019 Head Girl Elect

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2018 Head Girl, Claire Ryan handing over the leadership to 2019 Head Girl Emma Robinson

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