The students in Maria House had a challenging yet productive year with the introduction and implementation of the Teaching Family Model. The students also went on school camp to Gerringong, where they participated in a variety of challenging and fun activities.
Implementing the Model
The biggest shift not only for Dunlea Centre but also the Maria House in 2019, was the introduction and implementation of the Teaching Family Model. This has been introduced to enable students to focus on developing social skills in line with their academic achievements. It has been a steep learning curve for all of us, however the positive results are self-evident.
During the school day the girls embraced working on core social skills that are beneficial in the classroom. They progressed in leaps and bounds and moved on from quite basic skills to being able to focus on individualised and more complex skill development. This has created a much more inclusive and productive learning environment. During the year when we received guest speakers or visitors, the girls were able to demonstrate how far they had come with their social skills and consistently received positive feedback from the people they met.
The residential portion of the Maria House had a similar change and learning process. The girls became used to an environment where they were constantly using and developing social skills with their peers and the people around them. The staff were able to give the girls immediate feedback in response to the social skills that they were displaying, which meant that the girls improved dramatically in the frequency and quality of the interactions they had. This has made for a more harmonious and fun environment where the girls have been doing some of the most valuable learning in the entire program.
Maria House spent four days camping in Gerringong on their school camp. One of the most challenging aspects was initially setting up tents during cyclonic weather. The girls demonstrated teamwork and perseverance skills to get all the tents up in time and make sure that everything stayed dry. They adjusted to their new surroundings really well and showed appreciation for the little creature comforts that they had despite the hardship of sleeping in a tent.
The girls participated in a variety of activities. Horse riding required the girls to follow safety rules, listen to those speaking and show sensitivity to others who were nervous to do the activity. It was a beautiful trail ride which was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Some of the more confident riders were able to live out their Melbourne Cup fantasies by trotting along some of the trail.
Treetops Adventure Park in Nowra provided us with yet more opportunities to demonstrate a range of skills such as Showing Sensitivity to Others, Following Safety Rules, Accepting Decisions of Authority, Taking Risks Appropriately, Showing Respect, Setting Goals and Positive Statements about Self and Others. Whilst some students were comfortable charging through the death defying course at breakneck speed, others took a more leisurely approach which provided a good challenge for everybody.
Granties Maze was a fun adventure for all. The girls were required to navigate a large maze while gathering clues to answer questions. This was a hot and challenging activity, but the girls rose to the occasion magnificently. They felt that the challenge was definitely worthwhile once they received their ice cream as their reward! The skill of Showing Appreciation was very quick to appear unbidden.
The Maria House had two successful graduates in 2019. Both of them completed the program successfully after extended stays. They were both able to reach the Progress Level of achievement for students in the Teaching Family Model, which is testament to their level of engagement and perseverance in taking on and working with the new system and feedback from the staff around them. One of the students has moved on to complete her Year 10 ROSA in another school whilst the other student successfully completed her Year 10 ROSA at Dunlea Centre and has moved on to further education opportunities.
The staff and young people enjoyed a fantastic festive feast towards the end of Term 4, which was a massive hit and enjoyed by all. Together we cooked up a traditional Christmas feast with a selection of meats and veggies and some of the best gravy that ever did exist. There was also meringue and chocolate crackles for dessert. The girls were able to exchange gifts which gave an opportunity for everybody to demonstrate their skill of Showing Appreciation, which they were able to do without prompting.
It is on occasions like this that the benefit of the Teaching Family Model is evident for all to see.