Last week I attended a branch meeting of the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA). It was a time of reflection as well as sharing, listening to the challenges and opportunities that our schools are facing, each in their various ways. Much discussion was about the notion of character and resilience. At the beginning of this week, I received an email from a parent that I wish to share with you. A testimonial of the character and resilience we wish to imbue in our young boys and girls, and reaffirms for me the faith and hope that I have in our young people, staff and parents within our community.
This is the first time in 4 years at the school I have seen the need to send you a message about the behaviour displayed at sport. It is not an email of complaint, I am sure you get many of those disguised as “feedback”.
On Saturday 14th, St John’s played a match that should make the school, themselves, coaching staff and their parents proud. In the face of adversity, which came in the form of downright dirty, dangerous and cynical play from the opposition, St John’s entire squad showed the character of outstanding young men in the making. This is not about the other team, I am not making a complaint because to do so would take away from the courage and teamwork of St John’s. Time and again St John’s kept their composure, supported each other and showed that maturity and skill is the way to play. While the score showed 0:0, St John’s won in every aspect that matters.
I wanted you to know that their coach has been simply brilliant in the way he has instilled character and belief in the squad. Without a doubt, he has been the best coach of any sport my child has been involved with while at the school.
A leading psychologist, Andrew Fuller’s point of view on the question: “How can schools increase resilience?” “Compassion and love”, he argued, “are our oldest medicines. Add to this hope and connectedness and we have the four most powerful ingredients of healing.” As a College with a clear Christian intent, we say “Yes” to that! Fuller argues that schools should adopt a CPR approach. People thrive when they:
C= Connect with one another
P= Protect one another
R= Respect one another
It is essential to learn resilient behaviours because our children are living in a time of huge opportunity, but also a time of huge anxiety. According to Fuller’s research, repeated patterns are manifesting amongst young people. They experience:
1. Bullying – which is a major barrier to learning and thriving in schools. Surprisingly perhaps, Fuller argues that bullying peaks in Years 3 and 4, then “declines as students mature”. Online bullying peaks in Years 9 and 10.
2. Disengagement from School – impacts most heavily in Years 9 and 10, with almost one in four students reportedly feeling disengaged in these years.
3. Low sense of self-worth – this feeling of shame and disempowerment impacts both genders but is more powerfully experienced in our young women. This begins to emerge in upper Primary and has its peak by Year 10.
4. Attitudes to violence – there is an alarming trend that shows one in three boys and one in five girls endorse violence to resolve interpersonal problems by Years 9 and 10. Our school sadly, cannot seal itself from the impact of these experiences.
All of these things, to some extent, impact our life here at St John’s. As much as we would like to think otherwise, we live in a highly connected and highly (over)shared world and the feelings that students share, surpass the gated communities we establish for ourselves. The things young people share with one another influences thinking and habits of the mind. We need to work as a community to support a resilient mindset amongst our students. There are good habits we can all adopt.
According to Andrew Fuller: “There is one overriding principle that all resilient schools, families and communities have. They all follow the golden rule: treat other people as you would like to be treated”. Kindness, compassion, forgiveness and gratitude are not simply qualities for being a “nice person”. They help us to enhance our learning capacity. They make us better learners as well as better people. Surely this is the aim of any school, especially one that stands in the name of Jesus. I hope to invite Andrew Fuller to St John’s when the opportunity arises. However in the meantime, if you want to read more of his research, visit: www.andrewfuller.com.au
So much of what we are seeking to do at St John’s is informed by our understanding of how to develop resilient minds and hearts. We cannot remove all challenges from our children, much as we wish we could. However, we can walk with them through the challenges and learn to live gratefully.
In this final newsletter of the term, I thank you all for your support and encouragement during these past months of firsts for me and next term begins the rites of passage for our Class of 2019. So much has been achieved. Thank you for staying in touch with the College.
Mrs Maria McIvor