Earlier this month, we farewelled the Class of 2021 with graduation rituals that are familiar traditions at Loreto Normanhurst (LN). Of course, there was much that was unfamiliar about the ceremonies this year, socially-distanced or virtual as they were. Nevertheless, as I listened to the reflections spoken by Year 12 leaders, I was struck by one recurring sentiment in particular. Even as they acknowledged the challenges of 2021, students returned again and again to their gratitude. They were grateful for family and friends, dedicated teachers, House communities, connections sustained during remote learning, and the chance to return onsite and graduate alongside their peers.
The uniquely ‘Loreto’ approach to gratitude – guided by an Ignatian spirituality of mindfulness, active presence and contemplation – has indeed been an anchoring influence for Loreto Normanhurst of late.
We have been grateful for the technologies, resources and proud tradition that connected us as a learning community and kept our students engaged across our FACE Curriculum (Faith, Academic, Community, Extra-curricular). Our Pastoral and Mission teams expertly modified our Spirituality and wellbeing programs, which included daily midday gong reflections and a mid-lockdown ‘In-Spiro’ pop-up wellbeing day based on the advice of Loreto Mandeville Hall Toorak. Teaching staff adapted classwork to make the most of home and school learning environments. We saw garden planters built using found materials from home in an ‘Upcycle’ Design project, a Year 9 Religion cook-off explaining political tensions in Jerusalem and a diverse range of outstanding Year 12 major works displayed at our virtual HSC Showcase.
Conducting constant evaluation in partnership with families helped us refine our remote learning processes. Feedback from students, staff and parents led to the implementation of a weekly, self-directed ‘Asynchronous Learning’ day and the introduction of our Continuous Reporting style of feedback and reflection.
Ongoing association with our wider Loreto network was a source of immeasurable support. We were thrilled, for instance, to launch the Normo Network online alumnae hub, and to cheer on Loreto alumnae in Tokyo while hosting a fun LN Community Olympics challenge of our own.
We also paid special attention to fostering continued camaraderie and closeness in LN Boarding. Boarding staff communicated regularly with families and held virtual dinners, trivia nights and frequent one-on-one check-ins with students. Some families in remote areas faced unique access and resourcing challenges, so our Boarding team worked hard to support students based on individual needs. A few Year 12 boarders had to travel to nearby towns to complete their online HSC Trials, and we enjoyed hearing them report back to our Academic Care Managers and Boarding Deans on the drive home.
When our whole student body returned on site in late October after many months apart, the grounds were filled with palpable gratitude. On that first day, students wrote messages of thanks on the backs of tiny Loreto girls, which were placed in ‘open circles’ throughout our gardens. Above all else, it was friendship, family and their teachers for which our students expressed their gratitude.
Ultimately, it has been this strength of community and sense of connectedness that has brought us through the uncertainties of 2021. I too, express my gratitude to our students, staff, families and alumnae for their unfailing felicity, grit and compassion this year.
Author: Ms Marina Ugonotti, Principal, Loreto Normanhurst