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It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Fairholme College website. This is your opportunity to peruse some of the special features of school life as a Fairholme girl, on-line. Of course we can only offer snippets of the action that typify our days – from the pursuit of excellence in academic, cultural and sporting spheres through to experiencing house spirit of gigantic proportions and importantly, the opportunity to learn humility through service.
We are proudly a college of the Presbyterian Church in Queensland, an all-girls’ day and boarding school that focuses on the growth of the individual, the enriching of the Christian heart and the nourishment of the spirit.
We have entered the second decade of the 21st century as well as our second century as a provider of quality girls’ education. We are excited about the diversity of possibilities for learning and for growing confident young women who are ready to take their place in the complex, changing world of the 21st century.
Ultimately, we have faith in the future of each and every Fairholme girl. It is our prayer that she will become a positive contributor to the communities in which she engages, that she will know God’s love for her and that she will seek to be the best that she can be in all that she does. In doing so, she will honour herself and others respectfully.
I trust that you have enjoyed your ‘virtual’ tour of Fairholme College and I welcome and encourage you to drop in, on any day and experience first-hand, all which is special about our school.
Mrs Linda Evans (Dip T., B. Ed St, M.A., M.A.C.E., M.A.C.E.L.)
Principal - email: firstname.lastname@example.org
24 April 2013 - On grit, resilience and academic tenacity…
Angela Duckworth, a University of Pennsylvania psychology professor published a test in 2007 to measure 'grit' - her term for a blend of purpose and persistence - qualities that she believes are relevant to educators and students because learning is not easy. According to Duckworth, learning is, like any other human endeavor, rife with failures, errors, missteps, and bad days (cited in Hochman, 2013).
When I think of failures, errors and missteps, I am often drawn to the skill of reading - that precious gift that underpins so much of our daily life, yet one that we take for granted, one that no doubt involved struggle we have long forgotten. In a recent article: ‘Forget test prep - students need to learn tenacity, self-control’, the author Hochman describes the skills of a kindergarten teacher at Wissahickon Charter School in Philadelphia, as she teaches resilience and reading, simultaneously. The teacher encourages her students when reading a text for the first time to ‘attack those words’. Further to this, she enquires of her students - ‘how did you solve the problem when you got stuck on a tricky word?’
Her choice of language matters. Implicit in her instruction and her question, are the notions that struggle and problem-solving are positive and crucial components of the learning process. Presenting difficult work is not the issue, the method used, is. Tony Ryan, educator and occasional ‘thinker in residence’ at Fairholme, places enormous value on teaching the metacognitive skills of problem-solving from an early age. He encourages students to develop a ‘green’ (positive) approach, rather than a ‘red’ (negative) approach to the resolution of difficult learning, and to silent self-talk. 'How can I solve this, this time?' 'If I try a different approach, I might be able to solve the problem.' 'How can I see this problem through a green lens, rather than a red one?' Wissahickon's Middle School Director, Rebecca Benarroch, believes that teachers build kids' resilience moment by moment.
Research into the development of resilience has more recently been cited in the literature of poverty, focused on children who deal daily with multiple dysfunction and adversity. Yet the skills of resilience, grit and academic tenacity belong with all learners, including Fairholme learners. To be an effective learner is to expect to be confused, to try and not succeed, to take risks, to engage with others in head-scratching and not knowing (McWilliam, 2005).
Yet researchers point to Western affluence where over-interest, the immediacy of communication and efforts to bubble wrap children restricts them from healthy opportunities for growth and psychological development. 'Children need families and communities who are watching, but not oversimplifying, their lives.' (Ungar, 2007, p.105). There is concern about students who have been too cushioned, and therefore need more experience with 'successful failure' - Hochman (2013) uses the example of Mariandl Hufford, director of the ‘Centre for the Advancement of Girls’ at the Agnes Irwin School, to illustrate this.
Hufford remembers when her own daughter, now 23, came home sobbing because she'd received a 'horrible' grade on a Spanish test. The score? An 80 out of 100. 'Sweetie, this is OK,' Hufford remembers telling her. 'You can survive an 80.' It's a message she tries to deliver to Agnes Irwin's female students. Hufford asks: 'How do we create a space where it's safe for girls to try things and risk things, to speak their minds, and if they fail, if they run up against disappointment, how do we help them adapt, move on, and learn?' How do we model resilience, grit, and academic tenacity in our own lives, so that our daughters who watch us so carefully, who follow our responses and example so closely, can learn to fail successfully, honorably, and with the optimism to rise and persist again, and again, and again, and again.
Hochman, A. (2013) ‘Forget test prep - students need to learn tenacity, self-control.’ The Inquirer. April 11 2013.
McWilliam, E. (2005) Bassett Oration (Australian College of Educators) ‘Schooling the Yuk/Wow Generation.’
Ungar, M. (2007). ‘Too Safe For Their Own Good - how risk and responsibility help teens thrive.’ Australia: Allen & Unwin.
21 March 2013 - A perspective to hold
It is Saturday and I find myself driving to the western suburbs of Brisbane. It is the Brisbane branch of the Fairholme Old Girls’ Association's annual luncheon. I feel a sense of anticipation and one of enormous privilege. Each year, I am delighted to join with these strong, independent women whose Fairholme friendships and memories span decades; women who prefer letters and thank you cards to emails and text messages, and women who value the practice of the RSVP. I admire their ease with social protocols, their respect for their school and their deep love of one another. Their spirit and camaraderie warm my heart.
I love their stories too - each rich with detail, perhaps embellished in the years, but full of enjoyment and delight. Some things about students, teachers, boarding and school life simply don’t change over time - despite a new world order filled with iPads, iPods, smart phones, wifi, email, and text messages. These ‘old’ girls still recall the sting of disappointing a teacher they respected, or the unexpected kindness of one of their peers, good meals and not so good dining room meals, or the harmless stretching of some truths to earn a moment more of boarding house leave. They refer to themselves as being ‘one of Miss Tassie’s girls’ or ‘one of Miss Shaw’s girls’ and they can recount stories that are important to pass on - even when things have changed, their stories will remain. It is these intangibles that fascinate me, as do the tangibles they bring to share.
They bring precious memorabilia to pass on to Fairholme’s future students - hand-written letters with details of a past that matters a great deal to them, and thus to us. There are sepia photographs with perfect quilled script on the back, badges and pockets, Art assignments, Speech Day book prizes and report cards - each with its own unique history. Their gifts are from the heart - and the parting with this special part of their own past is not always easy.
My drive back to Toowoomba gives me time for reflection about the many things that remain the same at Fairholme - decades onward; Christ-centred faith, collaboration, enjoyment, respect and the seeking of excellence (familiar values?). You can see it in evidence in these ‘old girls’ whose connection with one another and enjoyment of each other are precious gifts of their education. Sometimes … I am handed perspective to pick up, take hold of, and admire - today is such a day.
Linda Evans | Principal
7 March 2013 - We become what we repeatedly do
'We become what we repeatedly do.' (Sean Covey)
I sometimes muse that the two best habits my mother instilled in me, during childhood, were a love of reading and a love of water (drinking). Sound absurd? I point out that my enjoyment of water as a drink was born long before PUMP and Mount Franklin marketers were clever enough to bottle their product and sell it for exorbitant prices.
Whilst there was probably a financial motivation involved in our childhood drink of choice, my mother also steered us away from raspberry cordial and soft drink so simply, by her own example. I have memory after memory of arriving home from school to see my mother sitting on a stool in the kitchen, reading - she invariably had a glass of water nearby.
She was modelling behaviour - though unconsciously so. If I were brave enough to share this article with her, she would blush with embarrassment. Yet that is the truth of it. Her daily ritual was one I observed over and over again throughout childhood - and no doubt, if I could teleport to Sydney, I could catch her out in this ritual - still.
We are what we repeatedly do and we are what we repeatedly observe. I wonder what habits and rituals our children are learning from us; things more significant than drinking water and reading, no doubt. What lessons do we teach our children about how to deal with conflict, what to do when faced with disappointment, what to do in a crisis?
When I draw deeply from a childhood and adolescence that have long passed, I am grateful for deeper things learned beyond a love of reading and drinking water - no doubt you are too. I wonder what our own children are repeating in their own daily practices, through that which we model - and often so unconsciously.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
21 February 2013 - Blue Ribbon Experiences
A chance conversation with a Fairholme dad on the sideline of Touch selection trials a weekend or two ago, has stayed with me. He was sharing an encounter at a friend's home in England. His friend's primary school son returned home from school after Athletics day, proudly clutching three blue ribbons. When congratulated on achieving three firsts, the boy’s mother cautioned somewhat apologetically, 'Everyone came first, all of the students received blue ribbons.'
Sometimes I peer nervously into a future where children never learn to come second, or last - a world where blowing out candles on birthday cakes has become a breach of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines for Early Childhood Centres. I ponder on the effect of children who are so removed from missing out on their heart’s desires, or so protected from potential harm that they may leave school never having experienced a setback. Perhaps it is possible to navigate adult life without distress, disappointment or disillusionment? Perhaps it is possible to manufacture experiences so closely as to ensure that our children never feel pain or loss? Perhaps - perhaps not.
How heartening therefore, to watch our Laura Geitz Netballers in action on Sunday. They entered the grand final with a perfect record - undefeated in seven games - and the knowledge that they had fought back on a few occasions when they had been down at half-time. They were poised to win. They played hard, skilfully and with focus. Their sportsmanship was the stuff of praiseworthy newsletter articles. At fulltime they had lost by two goals, to a team they had beaten by seven, in a previous round. Disappointing. Difficult. Distressing, even.
Next time, next game, next opportunity, what wonderful learning they will take with them onto the Netball court. They know the meaning of playing harder, playing stronger and with even more focus. I admit to wishing them on to a win, and feeling some of their disappointment at the end of the match. Reflecting on the way home, I was reminded of the significance and importance of learning to lose with dignity. I even remembered the first time Taringa State School defeated the Ironside Primary School Netball team, and how the Goal Attack dealt with that loss! I was pleased to see how well our Fairholme Laura Geitz Netballers displayed dignity in losing - a blue ribbon lesson, after all.
So here’s to many such blue ribbon lessons in the future - particularly pertinent as we look forward to our Interhouse Swimming Carnivals this week.
Noember 2 2012 - “TOO SAFE FOR THEIR OWN GOOD - how risk and responsibility help teens thrive”
For 12 years of my schooling I walked to and from school, accompanied only by friends. I crossed relatively busy suburban streets, wore a rain coat in thunderstorms and genuinely enjoyed the opportunity to debrief the day with Alison or Andree or Louise or Nanette. I didn’t carry a phone, just a bag of text books that grew gradually heavier as I moved up the schooling ranks. My mother didn’t know when to expect me home because conversations could be unpredictable in length; she just knew that I would be home, eventually.
There didn’t seem to be the same level of urgency or immediacy about communication to and from home. Nostalgically, I look back on that time as precious, because there was time. My family’s one black telephone sat perched on our bookshelf in the lounge room and conversations were available to all listening ears. We had one typewriter (quite novel really) and one television - also black and white. It sounds like the olden days, doesn’t it!
Yet, to me there is something enticing about the freedom that I had to make decisions, the responsibility that I had to get to and from school myself - from the age of five. Small problems were often solved in our lengthy daily conversation. Times tables were learned, spelling tested and exam preparation often occurred on those rambling twenty to thirty minute meanderings, enroute school. Somehow that time gave perspective; it gave privacy and created difference between the school space and the home space. Life had boundaries and distinctions.
The twenty-first century is a different time and place. I can skype my daughter in London daily, if I so choose (I don’t). I can text my son before he walks into an exam and he can text me as he exits, if I so choose (I don’t). I can download a book that is recommended during a conference presentation as the presenter speaks, I can buy on-line at midnight and teleconference with colleagues across the globe. I am connected, wired and attached in a way I never was, as an adolescent. It has its benefits and its pitfalls - and I’m not sure that I can ever re-gather that feeling of space and place and time, again.
Author Michael Ungar’s book ‘Too Safe For Their Own Good - how risk and responsibility help teens thrive’ provides a pertinent reminder that too much connectivity and too much protection may restrict our children’s opportunity to grow, develop and thrive. Our over-interest, the immediacy of our communication and our efforts to bubble wrap cannot protect our children from risk itself. In fact, to do so is to restrict them from healthy opportunities for growth and psychological development. “Our children need families and communities who are watching, but not oversimplifying, their lives.” (Ungar, 2007, p.105).
Ungar reminds that children who have been properly encouraged, given lots of support and who take calculated risks are often the most successful in their adult lives - they:
To take risks is a normal, healthy part of children’s growth and development. Literature around resilience points to the importance of adversity (be it real or constructed) to elicit plasticity of response or adaptation to change. Ungar’s book reminded me of the importance of taking a step back, looking for healthy risk-taking habits that provide opportunity for problem solving and the development of resilience. Perhaps we would all benefit from occasionally abandoning our mobile phones, walking more often, and allowing spaces and places for our children to grow into thriving, independent and competent individuals who have learned to fail, to lose, to miss out, and to retain dignity and perspective in the process.
Ungar, M. (2007. Too Safe For Their Own Good - how risk and responsibility help teens thrive. Australia: Allen & Unwin.
October 2012 - Bike Safety… Sun Safety… Swim Safety… Cybersafety
Cybersafety ultimately depends on an individual’s behaviours - not simply on a set of school policies or family rules.
The holidays saw me at a conference, sitting in a crowded room, listening to yet another expert on cyber safety. I admit to some restlessness. An inclination to think - I have heard this all before. And I have. And I need to - because cyber safety is a constant consideration for each one of us. Judith Slocombe presented contemporary research which indicates the fundamental importance of supporting respectful cyber behaviour. From her work with the Allanah and Madeline Foundation, Judith seeks to support a noble but core right of all children: “The right to a safe and happy childhood.” The pending question for me, was - Who is responsible for this safe and happy childhood? The school? The parent? The individual? All three, I believe.
As parents we are deeply aware of the way in which our children communicate. Probably far more attuned to their communication habits, than to our own. We expect respect. (Hopefully) we model respect in the way we communicate, after all we are their most influential teachers, aren't we? At times we rephrase their sentences, reword their demands and offer feedback. We find too, that in the twenty first century there is some reciprocity, our children are inclined to offer us feedback too.
How does this philosophy extend to their cyber communication? Do you offer feedback, expect respectful communication? Do you rephrase their words when they are disrespectful, do you put guidelines in place, or, do you shrug your shoulders and say: "it's not my world, so I just leave her to it." Are you convinced that she is working on her English assignment at midnight and leave her to her computer? Do you have unfiltered access to wifi, unlimited internet or do you pay your daughter’s mobile phone bill without checking its usage?
We were reminded at the session with Judith Slocombe that as parents we think, discuss and enact strategies related to bike safety, road safety and pool safety and yet we don't always extend that same care to cyber safety. Sometimes we step back timidly. We excuse ourselves by saying it’s their time, their technological world, their choice. We accept their advice that they HAVE to have unlimited access to their laptop so that they can study, or write assignments, that they would be socially immobile without their mobile phone. The presenter urged us not to be complacent.
Whilst she does not expect us to control the cyber world she does expect us to be interested, engaged and not too ready to accept the truth (often partial or filtered) of our children when they insist that they are studying, or completing their homework. She does expect us to set parameters and to support the school in expecting respect both in person and in the cyber world. I am surprised when parents are disinterested in their daughter’s cyberactivity, or want to abrogate responsibility entirely to the school.
I rejoice in conversations with parents who share the concerns, demonstrate active interest in their daughter’s communication whether ‘real’ or ‘cyber’, and who believe fundamentally in respectful behaviour. I encourage the grappling with the hows, the active efforts to insist on the polite - on or off line. Whilst we ultimately want our girls to self-regulate their behaviour, we also need to remember the power of our own modelling of behaviours - including clear expectations about respect. Michael Carr-Greg reminds us that “we have an obligation to make healthy choices that will guide our daughters, to make them feel safe, valued and trusted and, above all, that you know where they are, who they are with and what they are doing. They need boundaries and rules if they are to learn right from wrong.”
Next time you are dismissive about your daughter’s cyber habits, think again - just like bike safety, sun safety and swim safety - there is a place for cyber safety and a responsibility that we all bear in modelling, expecting and reinforcing respectful communication; both in the real, and in the virtual world. Ultimately, self-regulation lies at the crux - since on-line behaviours begin and end with the individual. What is happening, when no-one else is in the room?
Slocombe, M (2012) Children’s Well-being and Safety. Address given at the Australian Boarding Schools Conference. Gold Coast. October.
Towns, S. (2012) WEB 2.0: A Cultural Revolution. Independence. volume 37 no 2 October
September 2012 - On The Sideline
I have had the pleasure of watching some Fairholme Netballers in action over the past two weekends. The process of standing on the sideline has both its merits and its disadvantages, doesn’t it? I find myself pre-empting umpires’ decisions and forgetting that onlookers invariably have a different picture from those in the thick of the action. It is a salutary lesson for me to remember, when I do find myself making too many calls about the rules, that it is not me with the whistle in my hand.
Parenting too falls into the realm of onlooking at times, doesn’t it? I farewelled my daughter at the Brisbane Airport a few weeks ago, as she headed for London on a two-year working visa, with all the optimism of a 22 year old. I had that shattering feeling of having to stand back and watch her go, knowing that I am an onlooker, not a direct participant in what unfolds for her in London. One has to have faith that my husband and I have done our job well enough as parents… It’s not always so easy to take that step back onto the edge, the edge that sometimes feels like a precipice.
I think especially of our Year 12 parents at this time of the year as they traverse the sideline, supporting a daughter ready to take on the world. Last week many of our Year 12s completed the QCS tests and many mothers joined their daughters at the break between exams with the provision of a beautiful spread of food. In many ways these mums joined their daughters from the sideline - as their greatest supporters and greatest fans but also as onlookers. It can be both a pleasure and a torment to be a bystander.
Perhaps yours is a daughter who is overconfident, whose goals are too lofty but she has successfully sold them to you anyway, or perhaps your daughter is one who feels adrift and directionless, or perhaps your daughter may be organised, focused and have it all ‘under control’, or maybe none of the above. Nonetheless it is a time of high anticipation, often high anxiety, and it is a time of preparing to let go, to stand enthusiastically on the sideline - with knowledge of the rules, but without a whistle in hand.
Nancy Samalin, US Parent Educator and author of ‘Love and Anger: The Parental Dilemma’, says this:
It isn’t easy to see the formerly loving child who once curled in our laps turn into a surly stranger who cannot spare us a kind word. One mother was taken aback when she called, as her daughter was going out the door, “Have a good time,” and her daughter angrily replied, “Stop telling me what to do.”
As I read this I muse on the oft-quoted words of King Solomon: “This too shall pass.” They are the words we had engraved on our daughter’s silver cuff, a parting gift for her before she headed overseas, and a reminder that we must savour the best - it too shall pass, and endure the worst - it too shall pass.
I report literally and not metaphorically that it was a thrill to watch three grand finals on Saturday - two wins and a loss in the mix. I am reminded (albeit from the sideline) that grand finals provide wonderful learning opportunities about focus, commitment, sportsmanship and the graciousness required in winning or losing. Thank you to all of the parents who spend so many Saturdays on the sideline watching enthusiastically, or to those boarder parents who patiently listen to phone conversation deconstruction of games throughout the season. Your presence matters, as does your interest, especially from the sideline where we so often find ourselves as parents.
August 2012 - THe Power Of Mistakes… seeking excellence rather than perfection for our children
‘I have always struggled to achieve excellence. One thing that cycling taught me is that if you achieve something without a struggle, it’s not going to be satisfying.’ Greg LeMond
On Thursday night I had the privilege of speaking with a group of Junior school parents about some of the joys and challenges of parenting in the 21st century - at a time where there may well be too much emphasis on perfection, rather than the seeking of excellence. I enjoyed the depth of discussion that spring boarded from this topic, and thought it may be relevant to share a few thoughts.
Perfection can be defined as the absence of mistakes, something measurable and quantifiable. Perfectionism is black and white with no grey area. Anything other than perfection is failure. Perfectionist children are never satisfied with almost or a good effort. If they are not the best, don’t achieve 100%, or can’t solve a problem effortlessly and immediately, then their all-or-nothing thinking dictates that they are stupid, or worthless. Cognitive psychologist Carol Dweck calls this a fixed mindset. Such a fixed mindset can lead to unrealistic expectations, underachievement and a torrid sense of failure. Often the perfectionist avoids challenges in order to minimise risk of ‘failure’.
Sadly as parents we too can suffer from fixed mindset behaviours, and thus project expectations of perfectionism onto our children. We don’t tolerate errors, we expect the best, we abhor sloppiness and perhaps forget, that, in the midst of mistakes often exists a wealth of learning opportunities. Consider that academic study, at its highest level, is a journey of mistake-making, frustration, struggle and… learning.
Perhaps as parents we need to remember that interior parent monologue from time to time that says - be mindful of the fine line between supporting your child’s dependence and her independence, you cannot remove all obstacles, you cannot smooth all pathways, you cannot ensure her A grade success in everything she does. You cannot win the race or the prize for her every time she attempts something and you may can cause harm when you attempt to do so. Your role is to model mistake-making, risk-taking and learning!
In writing about education, learning, and the nature of risk - Professor Erica McWilliam would caution that we are sanitising our learning world by removing risk. She would argue that the best learning is in fact, risky! In order to take risks, we must be prepared for setbacks and that to face those, we need the ability to try things that fall over, that confuse us and don’t work out the way we planned. According to McWilliam to learn, therefore, requires a disposition to social engagement with trial and error - to learn collectively and individually from things that go pear-shaped. Indeed, most scientific breakthroughs come not from what went right in experiments but what went wrong. To be a learner, therefore, is to expect to be confused, to try and not succeed, to take risks, to engage with others in head-scratching and not knowing (McWilliam, 2005).
Albert Einstein - could not talk until the age of four. He did not learn to read until he was nine. His teachers considered him slow, unsociable and a dreamer. He failed the entrance examinations to college but finally passed the after an additional year of preparation.
Steve Wozniak is the inventor of the Apple Computer. His mother said of him: ‘I wish he would quit fooling around in that garage and get a real job.’
Hans Christian Anderson - had difficulty in reading and writing.
Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times (but he also hit 714 home runs).
None were perfect yet they reached excellence in their field. They did so by making mistakes, taking risks, persevering and not giving up… no doubt their parents never imagined they were perfect or excellent even… they gave their children space to become…
To let go when you want to hold on takes utmost generosity and love. Only parents are capable of such painful greatness.
(Haim Ginott: 1969)
How kids learn from mistakes (author unknown)
Download Power Point Presentation from Junior School Parent Evening. (500KB PDF)
Mrs Linda Evans | Principal (and frequent mistake-maker)
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