You get the occasional teacher complaining about missing classes (we, the notable and enthusiastic exception!), but there is plenty of evidence that our many guest speakers and class outings have positive effects on our students’ lives, academic and otherwise. Our Commissioner of Guidance, Gordon Weldon, naturally leads the way in organising these events, but our Religion teacher, Mr. Lonergan, is a close second. Just recently, their time-consuming efforts at organisation paid big dividends in terms of the students’ careers and wellbeing.
Above, you see highlights from SuperGeneration’s excellent Study Skills Seminars with our 5th and 6th Years and our TYs outing to a special Careers Fair, just a couple examples of Mr. Weldon’s never-ending push to get our students on that career path that will enable them to take care of you in your golden years! But it is not all about points and PAYE: we really do emphasise the ‘whole child’ at St. Conleth’s, with Mr. Weldon also leading our Wellbeing Department and Mr. Lonergan leading initiatives from the Religion side. His latest coup was inviting in Elevate Industries’ Jason Maupin, who humoured, inspired, uplifted, and even hugged, our Fifth Years at a special assembly, themed ‘Take Off Your Mask’. The stories he told of the changes in his life may very well prove to be life-changing for those fortunate enough to be present!
Do you remember when retreats involved a lot of hushed voices, hastily drawn symbolic etchings, vague expressions of well-being and the occasional chorus of ‘Kumbaya’? Well how about climbing, fire-starting, faith-leaping, archery, hockey and sing-alongs? Yes, we believe that the Sixth Year Retreat to Ovoca House in Avoca has been a change for the better.
Never before have we heard a 100% approval rating from the students involved and it was not just because our excellent hosts at Irish Scripture Union kept them moving with fun-filled and challenging activities: the boys and girls did do proper, traditional retreat stiff too, such as goal-setting, reflection, scripture reading and bouts of outrageous silence. It was just that the whole overnight trip was so well-planned and well implemented, it satisfied both the needs and the wants of those involved. A big thank-you to Mr. Gallagher for organising, Ms. Killen and Mr. Lonergan for taking part so enthusiastically, and Mr. Latvis for teaching the hockey girls the proper method of body-checking!
The Video Highlights (Edited, Hopefully Thoroughly Enough, for a General Audience)
Fire and Fun
Listen to The Commish!
Commissioner (and Guidance Counsellor) Gordon Weldon is still doing the last bits of custom-fitting on the Class of 2022 (you just wait till you see their Final Destinations!) but he is also continuing to shepherd the Class of 2023 and has even started with the youngsters of 2024, at the Higher Options convention at the RDS. Our ‘2022s’ are currently starting degrees in Engineering, Law, Medicine, Nursing and Basket-Weaving at institurions up-and-down Ireland and across Europe. The 2023s have begun to at least think about their anticipated/dreaded CAO listing and the 2024s are still in that benign state of changing their life plans every few minutes based on the quality of the complementaries handed out at the RDS stalls. That’s three groups of 50+ students looking for guidance, but they, and we, have unflappable faith in The Commish!
Yes, cue the classic 1980 Queen soundtrack song whenever Mr. Weldon is around because he is definitely our otherworldly superhero! Is there anything which our Guidance Counsellor ‘Flash’ Gordon can’t do? In the midst of CAO meltdowns and UCAS panics, he brought the girls out for some GAA training and Hugo Lennon for some tossing of the ole’ shot-put!
St. Conleth’s welcomes Andrii Vygdorchyk of Ukraine with a coffee morning organised by Ms. Killen and Mr. Toal. Andrii will be joining Fifth Year and taking a full part in the academic and social life of the school. Andrii is a guest of Andrei and Sergei O’Brien and their parents.
Someone to Talk To
All our students already know what a good listener and advisor is our Guidance Counsellor Gordon Weldon: now, so do our staff, after he organized a Staff Health & Wellbeing Workshop with Gemma O’Shaughnessy and launched our Student and Staff Wellbeing corner. A very busy man… about to get busier!
St. Conleth’s takes bullying very seriously. This past week we welcomed the professionals of Bully 4u, an organisation who deal with all kinds of bullying issues, to come into the school to give a series of workshops to our students. The sessions were interactive, with role play and audio visual presentations and covered such topics as: the concept of bullying; the role of the bystander; empowering students to deal with a bully; and the unique features of cyber bullying. And, with Covid waning, the sessions were held in person: these things are always more effective face-to-face. Kevin Deering and the other counsellors were brilliant, and very impressed with the eager participation of our students. There will also be a Parental Workshop to be held remotely on Tuesday, the 29th of March from 7:00 – 8:20. Principal ODualing will be in touch with a reminder closer to the time.
Choices, Choices, Choices!
Junior School Principal Brian Nolan reports on one of the many bridges between St. Conleth’s Junior and Senior Schools.
This week our Sixth Form Transition Action Plan saw Phase 1 of our ‘Making Informed Choices’ session take place. Students heard from our resident experts Ms. Killen, Ms. Crowley and Mr. Latvis about all things Modern (and Ancient) Languages. The enthralled crowd peppered the teachers with questions related to French, Spanish, Latin and Classics and were left with a lot to consider before making their choices next month. A follow up session in March will focus on STEAM subjects. The Senior School teachers were very impressed with the maturity of the Sixth Formers and the quality of the questions: seems like we have more true scholars on the way!
Gordon, Well Done!
The busiest of a busy St. Conleth’s staff crew must be Gordon Weldon, our Guidance Counsellor: everybody wants a piece of him! Besides guiding all our Sixth Years through the whole daunting CAO (an UCAS and SAT and…) process, he also provides the other (and more important) type of guidance: making sure the students’ ‘heads are in the right places’: a job made all the more important and demanding in these post-plague days.
Mr. Weldon’s office has always been an oasis of peace and calm in our hectic corner of the world: and, now, thanks to the two professionally installed murals, it also looks like one! Mei kindly modelled the two vibrant scenes for us: one detailling the STEM step-by-step route to security, and the other a halcyon vision of the dreaming spires of the humanities’ yearning for truth and justice. Whichever route you choose, Mr. Weldon will be there to help you… and somehow also find time to perform some much needed Parking Lot PTSD counselling for the staff!
Study. Eat. Play.
The routine is returning and isn’t it glorious? No, not the fear, suspicion and condescension of the plague days, but the more normal routines of everyday life. And, as with many things, the kids are way ahead of us! Now, the actual relaxation of rules is dependent upon the glacial movements of the Department… but our students (and staff) have already shown some spring in their step, and not just because of the addition of another bank holiday. Below, we see the students work in Afterschool Study (sign up on Easypayments!), eat together in the canteen like truly evolved social animals (order through the Cashless Canteen Account!), listen to a DCU presentation (get that CAO sorted!) and take constitutionals in the Herbo (clean up after your Coton de Tulear!)- one covid contingency we will gladly continue!
DCU makes its pitch!
Welcome Back Meme
Humans Eat Together
The Herbo will remain as an adjunct classroom!
Episode I: The Mock Exams
Every great work needs its prequel! Just see (or click) below for the full timetable for this year’s Junior and Leaving Certificate Mock Exams, which begin on Tuesday, the 8th of February, for Sixth Years and on Friday, the 11th, for Third Years. Students should certainly familiarise themselves with the Exam Guidelines, which are based on the real State Examination Rules, and will soon be emphasised by Exam Secretary, Ms. NíAonghusa. Good luck!
First Years daily enjoy Chef Mark and Emerson’s canteen concoctions but occasionally they do have to earn it! Below we see them feasting on the daily delights, and each other’s company, but also sitting the CAT-4 tests with Guidance Guru Mr. Weldon which, upon completion, provide a useful snapshot of each child’s abilities and interests. Yes, First Year is a lot of fun, but formative assessment has its place… as well as Thursday’s burgers and chips!
Of Faith… and Fun!
Rapid changes in technology, and our society as a whole, have made the currents students’ attitudes sometimes seem very foreign to those of us of previous generations, even for such relatively young teachers at ourselves! We remember the tantalising promise of ‘We will watch a filmstrip in class if you are good…’ being met with barely suppressed yelps of intense excitement, and glared silent warnings at the messers that might derail this rare break from the routine… even if the filmstrip was akin to the one memorably mocked on the Simpsons: Meat and You: Partners in Freedom. Nowadays, the visually sated kids react with a bored shrug if you promise a YouTube video. Whatever.
Retreats, the same. Yes, we did think the Kumbaya sing-along sessions were a bit cringy, but we got to go somewhere and do something different! And maybe, just maybe learn something about ourselves. Nowadays: groans. Well, the young men and women at An Tobar Nua may have just changed that. Our First Years will soon be enjoying a day of faith and fun with this dynamic group, just as Second and Third Years did in recent weeks, and the reviews have been rave. Our Religion Department, namely Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Lonergan, have found the perfect antidote to students with low energy levels and, perhaps, a lack of a faith-filled background: a retreat that is large parts fun and ‘generally’ applicable, yet also true to our Christian ethos and mission. And only one verse of ‘Kumbaya’!
Wish We Could Turn Back Time…
…to the good old days. When we would spend a good portion of Philosophy class admiring a classmate’s precarious coloured pencil structure. Ah yes, life gets more complicated as you age, even when you are still at school. Last week the Fifth and Sixth Years ‘enjoyed’ Study Seminars which gave the students practical tips on how to get through the whole ‘Leaving Certificate/CAO/Growing Up’ thing that awaits us all.
'And then you get married and get to watch forty minutes of Netflix on a Friday night... if you're lucky!'
'We don't want life to ever get more complicated than this!'
To be fair, there is a pretty nice reward at the end: you get to do what you want to do, and the seminars presented by the professionals from The Super Generation certainly pointed them in the right direction (Fact Sheet). But it all is a bit more stressful than being in First Year, where your biggest worries are getting a primo spot on the canteen line and, yes, maintaining your precarious coloured pencil structure in Philosophy class. Well done, Inez!
For the last year or so, most of us have had much less ‘to do’, at least, of the fun kind of ‘doing’, but that does not mean our minds and spirits have been dwelling in an oasis of rest and calm. In fact, anxiety seems to be one of the most harmful side effects of the reaction to Covid 19. Thank goodness, we are all slowly getting back to school and work, and the best part of that is access to St. Conleth’s very own guru of Mindfulness and cool: Mr. Julien Porzadny. Here, he reflects on what he and his followers have been up to. It just might keep up us sane till we can hear the dulcet tones and calming words of the man himself!
For the Féilte exhibition of 2020, I was invited by the Teaching Council to create a showcase on “Mindfulness in school”. Andrea Ryan and myself created a little video (and presentation) talking about our experience of bringing mindfulness in our schools. I am very happy to see that, after being added to the time-table five years ago, Mindfulness classes are now an integrated part of St Conleth’s college.
Even though we are physical apart, the online weekly well-being classes are still being held. Every week we meetup to practice, share and reconnect with each other and ourselves. The Junior Cycle students are following the .breath course while the Senior Cycle students the .b course and the 5th forms of the Junior school also got the opportunity to avail of the Paw b course before we moved to the remote teaching. These three courses are from the Mindfulness in Schools Project.
In our last classes before the February mid-break we changed things up a little. Students shared some “nourishing” activities that they were doing during lockdown to lift up their mood. I then gathered them and created a little poster you can all get ideas from if you would like. In our final class we played a little Mindfulness Kahoot. If you are eager to play it, here is the link to it. You can access it until the 28th of March.
Finally, as mentioned in its Framework for teachers’ learning, the Teaching council “recognises the importance of care of self so as to be able to care for others and, in that context, teachers’ well-being is vital if they are to effectively lead learning, and support and facilitate students in this endeavour.” Keeping this in mind, it is now time to move on to bringing mindfulness to the staff of St Conleth’s college.
It is therefore with great pleasure that, following our next mid-term, I will be inviting the staff of St Conleth’s to join a five week online introduction to Mindfulness course. In our next academic year, a more in-depth 8 week MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) course will also be offered on a voluntary basis. I cannot thank enough Ms Sheppard, our principal, our vice-principal and our guidance councillor for the trust they put in me to lead these two courses.
Sometime people think that Mindfulness is synonymous of relaxation or that it will help us fix all our problems. Mindfulness may or may not help with these. However, what the practice of Mindfulness does is that it allows us to create a space where we can find our own wisdom, where we can trust ourselves a little more, where we can better respond to life challenges. And personally, I really like to sound of it.
Until next time, I shall now leave you with a quote I enjoy from Austrian neurologist Viktor Frankl: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. Between stimulus and response there is a space; In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”.
What Does He See in your Future?
Our new Guidance Counsellor, Mr. Gordon Weldon, has hit the ground running at St. Conleth’s, and he has not let any of the Covid restrictions inhibit the various services which he provides for our students, of both the personal and the academic/career-related kind. Mr. Weldon has an uncanny talent for connecting with the students and it is due not to any smoke-filled crystal ball but a wealth of experience and hours of hard work sifting through, organising and deploying the vast array of guidance tools, both digital and physical, which are out there. At the centre of Mr. Weldon’s work is the St. Conleths College Guidance Counselling Website, which keeps the students and their parents up-to-date with everything from the latest CAO news to the availability of free revision courses to tips on maintaining wellbeing during a stressful exam period.
Fifth Years realise TY is over at their Study Skills Seminar.
First Years determine their future with the CAT-4s... or, at least, get an idea!
Sixth Years realise that there is still time... at their Study Skills seminar.
But there is also a lot going on in person. Mr. Weldon meets all the Fifth and Sixth Years for course and career advice and is always available for the more personal kind of counselling. And he also knows when to bring in the outside special forces: just in the last few weeks, Fifth and Sixth Years have had separate inspirational and practical seminars on study skills; TYs have gauged their career aptitudes and interests with the Cambridge Profile Tests and enjoyed a careers seminar; and First Years have taken their first steps off the standardised testing process with the CAT-4s. Mr. Weldon is keeping busy so that St. Conleth’s students will stay busy themselves, in their chosen courses and careers, when they leave the doors of No. 28 Clyde Road!
Did I See You at Ascot?
We have been a bit preoccupied with the impending release of our St. Conleth’s 80th Anniversary Quinquennial, but now that the printing presses are rolling, we intend on catching up with a few stories which we had stashed beneath the typewriter. One such story concerns one of the Past Pupil authors featured in that weighty tome: Philip McDonald, a solicitor and a gentleman (not often twinned, even at Slaughter and May) and general bon vivant from the Class of 2010 (a fine vintage).
[metaslider id=26502 cssclass=””]
Philip dropped in a few weeks back at the invitation of Development and Guidance Guru John Carvill and he delighted the assembled Fifth and Sixth Years with a.rollicking account of his adventures since graduation and some more serious advice about the trials and tribulations of the Leaving Certificate. Having, we believe, scored a total of 590 (out of 600, back then), Philip was in a good position to offer advice, and having negotiated the UCAS system to gain entrance into Law at Cambridge, he also had some valuable pointers regarding studying abroad. Check pout the pics above and stay tuned for the Quinquennial and Philip’s article on ‘A Conlethian Christianity’.
Return of the Kings
You know we can’t resist a LOTR reference, but the ‘kings’ in this case do not (yet) possess any sovereign kingdoms but they did certainly royally rock the Leaving Certificate in 2019 and now they have returned to spill their secrets to the Class of 2020. Tomás Clancy, Hugh Downes, Pearse Roberts and (Queen) Maggie Tighe were not necessarily our highest point-scorers (there were many!) but they all did extremely well and had gained acceptance into the course of their choice. Perhaps most importantly, they were also willing to tear themselves away from Freshers’ Week hedonism for a couple of hours!
[metaslider id=26243 cssclass=””]
Tomás is now happily lambasting any sufficiently ‘unwoken’ ones still lurking in the medieval recesses of TCD where he is pursuing a degree in History and Politics; Hugh is conversing with the higher beings in Theoretical Physics on the other side of the same campus (but light years away); Pearse is exploring a broader spectrum of Science at UCD with his usual humble excellence and impeccable manners; and Maggie has chosen the noblest pursuit of all: mixing Classics, Music and English at UCC. To be honest, the ‘secrets’ which were spilled turned out to be just good common sense but the assembled Sixth Years did seem to receive a real boost in their confidence listening to those who were now on ‘the other side’ but who had so recently been in their shoes (and stylish purple Performance Space chairs). Mr. Carvill was once again the guiding Guidance spirit and he also arranged for a three hour professionally delivers study seminar to get the Sixth Years off on the right foot and into the world of ‘mind maps.’ Where will all this lead the Class of 2020? Hopefully to results as good as the Class of 2019. Below you see a graphic, courtesy of Ronan ‘Mr. St. Conleth’s, Jr.’ O’Kelly, which clearly sets out how well our graduates do compared to the rest of the nation. So, Sixth Years, who will be the returning kings next year?
Of Points and Plans
There is nothing wrong with a bit of friendly competition, especially when the end result is a shared victory. On Leaving Certificate Results Day, in a sense everyone is a winner as everyone gets that piece of paper which serves as a key in unlocking their future. Obviously, there is always a range of results and myriad paths forward. We congratulate all of the Class of 2019 for working to the best of their abilities and responding so well to the guidance of their teachers. We particularly congratulate Hugh Downes and Ian O’Neill, who both managed to garnish the full quota of 625 points on offer and finish in a draw atop the class and the nation. These perfect scholars, but also perfect gentlemen, will be headed where they want to go come September, as will the rest of our recent graduates and we wish them all well at university and beyond. Stay tuned as we await news of offers and acceptances and a more detailed breakdown of results.
Negotiating the Minefield
Anyone with teenagers can attest to the difficulties involved in discussing the ‘big’ issues in life, and the preponderance of social media, if anything, has made it more difficult. The Senior School Parents Association has decided to do their part in helping all our parents (including themselves!) by welcoming Dr. Siobhan O’Higgins to give a seminar on ‘Consent’ on Thursday, March 28th at 7:30. All are welcome and encouraged to attend! The following is the PA’s own promotional information.
Parents Seminar on Consent: March 28th2019 7.30pm
Dr. Siobhan O’Higgins, part of Active Consent Programme team based in the School of Psychology NUI Galway on the 28thMarch at 7.30pm will address some of the issues on consent. (Link to Dr. O’Higgin’s biography.)
Supporting our children to safely navigate the world as teenagers and to emerge as happy and healthy young adults has never been a straightforward task. However in the contemporary world, concern may rise as we learn more about the possible negative effects of social media and how the internet generally may effect expectations and assumptions.
The seminar will include:
aims of the programme
experiences to date
the background to the Active Consent programme (our research data with 3rdlevel students, importance of comprehensive Relationships Sexual Education, and the issue of consent)
Please note also that next day, on March 29th Dr O’Higgins will present a Student’s Talk, which will be complementary to the Parent’s Seminar.
Students from TY and 5thyear will take part in a Smart Consent workshop that will examine understandings/definitions of consent and the ‘grey areas’ which do tend to confuse real life situations.
This is a very important seminar for parents and students, and we look forward to full attendance.
Let Us Eat Cake!
To be honest, for all the lawyers, doctors and engineers we churn out of this place, it is not like many of these past pupils often drop any complementaries into the staffroom for their old teachers, like a coupon for colenoscopy or a voucher for a discount on divorce proceedings. Now, the culinary arts boys, they look after you! Michael Li graced the school with his presence for six years and now he graces us with delectable confectionaries: the latest being an absolute divine cheesecake!
It was all arranged after Careers Guidance Counsellor Ann Ryan welcomed in the Technological University’s Mike J O’ Connor. He told the Fifth Years all about the re-christened DIT’s Culinary Arts courses and presented Jimmy Crowe with the college’s anniversary book. Past Pupils Tony Barry and Jack Andrews, as well as Michael, are currently thriving at TU. And the following week, the lovely cake arrived, courtesy of Mike and Michael! Now, lawyers, doctors and whiskey distillers, it is your turn!
[metaslider id=20752 cssclass=””]
Cool Sounds for Sound Minds!
Our report is a bit belated but the event in question was so important that we are still going to give you the run-down… Every school brags about their academic achievements (as we just did, regarding Maths!) and it place in the annual ‘league tables’ and so they should: academics are what schools do, and they are important to students, parents and teachers. But we like to think that at St. Conleth’s, we certainly excellent at academics but we also cater to ‘the whole child’. We provide a plethora of sports and activities to stimulate and satisfy growing bodies and minds and do our best to encourage a lifestyle which is physically, spiritually and mentally healthy. The last came to the fore a few weeks ago when School Guidance Counsellor Anne Ryan organised a visit to St. Conleth’s by up-and-coming Irish pop star and social commentator, Simon James, who gave a presentation (or performance) on ‘Mental Health, Online Safety and Cyber Bullying. We have run many ‘mental health’ events over the years, but this one was different, as Simon was able to connect with his young audience, through both his music and his chat, in a way that older, more traditional presenters just could not do.
And wearing her other hat, the one for Career Guidance, Ms. Ryan continues to arrange for visits and presentations regarding third level opportunities both here and abroad. She keeps the students up-to-date with info about any Irish university Open Days, and welcomes the representatives from institutions from all over Europe. Recently we had a Dutch delegation which made presentations on all the leading universities in Holland and the opportunities there for Irish students. ‘Well-Being’ and a career path: what more could you ask?
Sixth Years Enjoy Action-Packed Retreat
Do you remember when retreats involved a lot of hushed voices, hastily drawn symbolic etchings and vague expressions of well-being? Well how about zip-lines, fire-starting, fish-gutting and sing-alongs? Yes, we believe that the Sixth Year Retreat to Ovoca House in Avoca has been a change for the better.
Never before have we heard a 100% approval rating from the students involved and it was not just because the hosts kept them moving with fun-filled and challenging activities: the boys and girls did do proper, traditional retreat stiff too, such as team-building, goal-setting and reflection. It was just that the whole overnight (x2!) trip was so well-planned and well implemented, it satisfied both the needs and the wants of those involved. A big thank-you to Ms. deBhal and Mr. Carvill for taking part so enthusiastically.
The Guidance Department at St. Conleth’s College, like a Jedi Force Ghost, just does not quit! Ms. Ryan and Mr. Carvill are run ragged looking after our students’ needs, both the personal and the academic/career-related. Here are the details of the upcoming psychometric testing for Fifth Years an below we read Ms. Ryan’s account of an important outing for our Transition Year students. Remember, our Guidance Page has more information, useful to both parents and students.
Conlethians Join 7,000 Students at 2018 Student Leaders’ Congress
Students from St. Conleth’s joined 7,000 other teenagers from around Ireland at the 3Arena last week for the 2018 Cycle Against Suicide Student Leaders’ Congress. The event, which started as a gathering of 40 students in 2012, is now the largest young people’s mental health conference in Europe. The theme for the congress was #EmpowerYourVoice. Cycle Against Suicide spreads the message tirelessly that “It’s OK not to feel OK; and it’s absolutely OK to ask for help”. There were wonderful speakers lined up from USA and Ireland: Dr. Harry Barry, Dr. Eddie Murphy & Dr. Niall Muldoon to name but a few, as well as sports, TV & music personalities, Snapchat and Instagram influencers, students and teachers who spoke about such issues as bullying, suicide and positive mental health. Motivational speaker Kevin Hines spoke of his own experience with suicide. “I live with severe mental illness, but I believe that no matter what issues we struggle with we can not just survive, we can thrive,” he said. A range of other Mental Health Organisations were exhibiting on the day. The students left the Congress with tools that will support them for many years to come.