… from the newsletter notes of Head Teacher John Boyce
Pastoral is a word that refers to the lives of shepherds, so “pastoral care” is a metaphor derived from the lives of shepherds in a pre-industrial world, and the need to protect and care for a small flock of sheep. The flock was at the centre of the shepherd’s existence. He needed to be aware of the eccentricities of each animal, and to train and protect each of them; feeding, caring for, knowing them by name and being willing to face dangers for the good of the flock.
That is a lot more than looking after the things that go wrong on a daily basis. However, without the relationships and trust built up over months of regular contact, this all-embracing care is impossible.
In a Catholic school pastoral care is not separate from other aspects of school life. All of our staff take responsibility for looking after kids. They do that when they teach, coach, direct, do duty-and during whanau time. The role is not just about the student being “happy”. It is much more important than that.
Pastoral care is about helping each student become the person God created them to be: the best, most gifted, fulfilled adult/citizen/parent that they can be. That is our goal. We know that we cannot do that on our own, so that is the reason we try so hard to work along with parents whenever we can. That is why we work hard to develop relationships with employers, leaders, education providers and all the rest of our community.
That principle flows over into everything else we do. For instance, sometimes parents ask why we don’t stream classes. There are many good educational reasons: but an important pastoral consideration is that children change and grow. A student who is labelled as slow in, say, English-and placed in a very basic year 9 course-may never get out of that situation because they will have missed so much other students have done. And learners do change with growing maturity or an inspiring teacher!
Cardinal Hume saw these deeper implications for the Catholic school:
Education, in its broadest sense, is concerned with life long inner growth, with achieving of personal wholeness and integrity, with the development to the utmost of personal gifts and creativity. It is one of the teachers’ tasks to help develop their pupils’ ability to form relationships and to be part of a living and loving community. That part of the teacher’s job is highly skilled, vitally important and sometimes lost sight of. One of the secrets here is to recognise that a school is not an institution, but a community.
We take pride in this depth of the pastoral care of our students, and the Student Services faculty works at the heart of our school. Under the guidance of faculty head Mike Rose, the faculty oversees staff training in behavioural management and pastoral care of students, supporting students through counselling, reading and special needs.
They support the whanau teachers, and gather data on students to make sure their needs are addressed. They look after careers counselling and vocational training courses, our peer mediation programme and peer support-where senior students give their time to help other students.
In some schools pastoral care is delegated to a group of deans. At Garin every teacher has an important role in helping to foster all facets of our students.
As a Catholic school we recognise the “whole person” of each student-and we try to acknowledge all the needs (and gifts) of students.
In fact pastoral care involves all the things young people need to help them grow into confident, skilled and positive people with the very best chance of having a happy adult life: we try to wrap all of our supports around a student who needs our help.
That’s a huge task-so how do we go about it?
The Garin whanau teacher is the most important person in the pastoral care of your student. That is the person who is responsible for getting to know each student in terms of all aspects of their pastoral care; that is the person parents normally contact first with a concern. Staff meet in groups every Tuesday to discuss the strengths of the students in their whanau classes, to look for patterns of absences or lateness, to discuss work levels, and changes in attitude and behaviour, and to make sure we are moving forward with each student in need.
One of the things our Board did last year was to appoint DRS Suellen Boyce as Pastoral Chaplain to look after the spiritual needs of our students-and particularly the pastoral care of our girls.
We have our own systems for course selection and careers advice, reading support and special needs, vocational education, chaplaincy, and all the rest.
And we have our support agencies: we have very good relationships with our Public Health Nurse, counselling services in the community, training organisations, vocational education providers, and all the other support groups in our community.
Pastoral Care is a cornerstone of Garin College-and we put a lot of time and energy into making sure we do everything possible to look after each of our students.