May 19, 2017

St Cyprian’s School – Principal’s Newsletter

Dear St Cyprian’s School Parents, Girls and Staff

I hope all moms had a good Mother’s Day and were spoilt and appreciated by your wonderful children. It is the day that we do reflect on the blessings of being a mother and celebrations, little or big, become over time the golden threads of one’s memory banks.


Thank you to all of you who responded to my letter asking that you did not encourage or facilitate your daughters leaving school early to hang around the Cape Town Stadium for most of the day prior to the concert. Once the message became clear to our girls that we were not closing early and not allowing people to be excused, they settled well into a normal day’s work. Thank you too for ensuring that they attended school the next day, tired or not. Many “soft”, but important lessons were learnt here!

Today we celebrated Africa Day – an intentional reminder to us of the beauty, the diversity, the possibility and the challenges of our continent. In a time where the background refrain is a negative and worrying one, it was good to once again listen to Thabo Mbeki’s rousing speech “I am an African”. Although we may land up in many corners of the world at some stage of our lives, the call of Africa is a strong and special one.


It is that time of year again – the time when exams are looming, the winter sports season is in full swing, the final Matric Exams are coming closer and anxiety starts to rise. My appeal to parents is to keep the waters calm, provide the background support needed and encourage a regular timetable of revision. If our joint focus is a positive one with a message around striving, working hard but being open to the fact that exams are meant to challenge, we enable our girls to keep a perspective. We need to help them reframe and rename their ideas around “failure”. Mistakes are not failures, they are learning opportunities; mistakes can be identified and corrected and provide a road map for future successes. The habit of analysis and reflection, the use of metacognition (thinking about one’s thinking), the acceptance of their own roles in not achieving the marks they hoped for are some of the things that feed into the development of a sense of self-efficacy. When we have an external locus of control, the world will seem an unpredictable and unsafe place. If we can help our girls develop an internal locus of control, we help them build the toolkit they need for problem solving, resilience and better self-management.I wish all our students success in their learning and in their exam writing.

TV Series: “13 Reasons Why
Currently a Netflix series, “13 Reasons Why”, is trending amongst young people, including some of our own girls. The series revolves around 17-year-old Hannah Baker, who takes her own life and leaves behind audio recordings for 13 people – the people she says were responsible in some way for her decision to take her own life. Each tape recounts painful events in which one or more of the 13 individuals played a role.The following is adapted from a document issued by the National Association of School Psychologists in the USA, and is worth reading by all parents:“Producers for the show say they hope the series can help those who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide. However, the series, which many teenagers are binge-watching without adult guidance and support, is raising concerns from suicide prevention experts about the potential risks posed by the sensationalised treatment of youth suicide. The series graphically depicts a suicide death and addresses in wrenching detail a number of difficult topics, such as bullying, rape, drunk driving, and slut-shaming. The series also highlights the consequences of teenagers witnessing assaults and bullying (i.e., bystanders) and not taking action to address the situation (e.g., not speaking out against the incident, not telling an adult about the incident).

We do not recommend that vulnerable youth, especially those who have any degree of suicidal ideation, watch this series. Its powerful storytelling may lead impressionable viewers to romanticise the choices made by the characters and/or develop revenge fantasies. They may easily identify with the experiences portrayed and recognize both the intentional and unintentional effects on the central character. Unfortunately, adult characters in the show, including the second school counsellor who inadequately addresses Hannah’s pleas for help, do not inspire a sense of trust or ability to help. Hannah’s parents are also unaware of the events that led to her suicide death.

While many young people are resilient and capable of differentiating between a TV drama and real life, it is vital that parents take the time to engage their children in thoughtful conversations about the show. Doing so presents an opportunity to help them process the issues addressed, consider the consequences of certain choices, and reinforce the message that suicide is not a solution to problems and that help is available.

This is particularly important for adolescents who are isolated, struggling, or vulnerable to suggestive images and storylines.

What the series does accurately convey is that there is no single cause of suicide. Indeed, there are likely as many different pathways to suicide as there are suicide deaths. However, the series does not emphasize that common among most suicide deaths is the presence of treatable mental illnesses. Suicide is not the simple consequence of stressors or coping challenges, but rather, it is most typically a combined result of treatable mental illnesses and overwhelming or intolerable stressors.


1. Ask your child if they have heard or seen the series 13 Reasons Why. While we don’t recommend that they be encouraged to view the series, do tell them you want to watch it, with them or to catch up, and discuss their thoughts.

2. If they exhibit any of the warning signs above, don’t be afraid to ask if they have thought about suicide or if someone is hurting them. Raising the issue of suicide does not increase the risk or plant the idea. On the contrary, it creates the opportunity to offer help.

3. Ask your child if they think any of their friends or classmates exhibit warning signs. Talk with them about how to seek help for their friend or classmate. Guide them on how to respond when they see or hear any of the warning signs.

4. Listen to your children’s comments without judgment. Doing so requires that you fully concentrate, understand, respond, and then remember what is being said. Put your own agenda aside.

5. Get help from a school-employed or community-based mental health professional if you are concerned for your child’s safety or the safety of one of their peers.”

Acknowledgement: Adapted from National Association of School Psychologists. (2017).

13 Reasons Why Netflix series: Considerations for educators
[handout]. Bethesda, MD: Author.


On Wednesday 17 May the Grade 10, 11 and 12 Drama students attended the first day of this vibrant festival, held on SA soil for the first time. We began our day with a production of Lara Foot Newton’s KAROO MOOSE, followed by ANIMAL FARM, performed by an all-female cast.The productions were riveting and entertaining but also informative, thought-provoking, emotionally engaging and challenging, as they dealt with serious social and political issues. We were really impressed by the performances and the inventive and theatrical way in which both plays were staged.The day culminated in a workshop in which the issues raised by the plays were explored through a variety of fun theatre games.We feel privileged to have participated in this enriching experience.


“There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.”
W. Clement Stone


Saturday 20 May
12:00 HS Choir Cape Town EisteddfodTuesday 23 May
17:00-19:00 Grade 9 Parent/Teacher MeetingsWednesday 24 May
12:15 HS Music Lunch Time ConcertThursday 25 May
Ascension Day
14:00-15:30 Blood Donation Clinic

Monday 29 May
Grades 10-12 Examinations commence
Grades 8-9 Assessments commence
HS Adapted Sport timetable commences


The Grade 10 Life Sciences students completed their chicken wing dissection this week in order to analyse all the different structural tissues found in a chicken. Mammalian tissues form the basis of study for all the systems of human physiology.


We are very proud of Morganne Thom (8JDJ), Teva Shuman (7AC) and Emily Shuman (7JA) who represented St Cyprian’ School at the Western Province Chess Tournament on Saturday, 13 May.

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Photography by Chad Henning Photography