19 February 2015
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Opening School Mass and Academic Assembly
It was lovely last week to have two opportunities to gather the school community and celebrate our achievements. The Academic Assembly recognised those students whose 2014 reports indicated that they had worked extremely hard to show growth and improvement.
At our Opening School Mass on Friday, we were privileged to hear from 2014 Dux Anna Urokohara (at right). Anna received a tremendous ATAR of 99.6. This placed her in the top 0.04 per cent of the state. Anna’s reflection on her year demonstrated that hard work and dedication were the key to her success. She noted that among her peers, it was the students who knew their limitations and worked collaboratively to overcome them who achieved the results they hoped for. We also acknowledged our other academic high achievers and commissioned our senior student leaders (click on photos below).
Our prayers during Mass included a reflection on gratitude, noting that psychologists tell us that pausing to remember the things we are grateful for is one of the most powerful drivers of personal wellbeing. As Catholics, our Eucharistic gatherings are all about pausing in gratitude to a God who loves us and wants what is best for us.
What sort of feedback do you give your child?
Carol Dweck’s mindset theory notes that the feedback that we give the young people we love has a profound effect on their perceptions of their ability. If we praise their supposed ‘talent’ with phrases such as ‘you learned that so quickly, you’re so smart’ or ‘look at that test score, you’re so good at maths’ or ‘gee you’re such a natural at sport’, we imply that these skills are a somehow ingrained that one either does or does not have the ability. This builds a ‘fixed mindset’ that can stop young people shooting for higher goals, or attempting problems that they perceive as difficult, because they do not want to lose the reputation they have gained.
By contrast, if we encourage young people (and adults) by praising the effort they have shown, we can spur them on to greater things, because we reinforce that improvement is always possible. Next time you see your child doing something amazing, praise the way they worked hard to reach the goal ('I noticed how hard you studied for that, and it paid off.'), or how you noticed that they learnt from earlier failures ('I can see the way you’re taking advice from the coach/teacher to improve your skills…I love that.'). Here’s a little clip that demonstrates the power of this type of feedback.
It’s been lovely seeing so many parents in and around the College supporting students and teachers in our Saturday sport competitions. We can all appreciate the significant dimension that brings to our school community, not just in promoting healthy lifestyles for our adolescents, but also in building community and reinforcing the values of community life. As parents and guardians, your presence is not merely about being supporting the growth of your own child, it also sends a gentle but powerful message of endorsement to the notion that we are greater, kinder, more patient and forgiving when we take the time to share our lives with others. At one extreme, we often don’t know which parents in our community are struggling with life, and simply appreciate a few moments conversation with another adult about some relatively inane topic. But perhaps more simply, our quiet introductions and conversations open our own lives, and those of our children to greater possibilities. Our service to each other in this small way cannot be underestimated as we continue to build links and relationships that matter.
It’s boot camp time!
We began the journey towards Easter this week with Ash Wednesday. Our Christian community refers to this period of time as Lent and sets it aside from our usual life to pause and consider the areas of our life that need attention and improvement. If you like, it’s a spiritual boot camp, where we identify ways that we can be more loving, kind, forgiving and hope-filled, and then, with God’s help, set about this transformation. Lent is about making ourselves a bit uncomfortable, knowing that this will help us improve. Sometimes we give up things that have become addictions (chocolate, alcohol, swearing…) so that we can ‘take-up’ things that would be better in their place (a few moments meditation, a daily walk, an effort to be more gracious to someone). What have you set for your boot camp exercise this Lent?
Loving God, inspire us to be courageous in changing our hearts and actions this Lent, so that we can continue to grow into the best version of ourselves, loving, joyful, kind and forgiving. Amen.
Peace and blessings,