‘In Principal’

‘In Principal’ 2017

Steering Girls into the Future 23 November 2017

I find the final Year 12 Assembly beautiful and difficult. It’s the combination of the piper leading our tartan-clad Year 12s into the Hall to the tune of Highland Cathedral; the poignancy of the Chamber Choir singing the Irish blessing; John Sessarago’s cleverly woven screen images; the tears; but it’s the words – always the words of the students and parents who speak – that affects me the most. From the heart goes to the heart as they say, and their words are invariably heartfelt. They capture the significance of a journey that may have been a few years’ long or, in the case of some, 15 or more years’ long.

So often I want to beseech parents to be patient – just wait until the final Year 12 Assembly, I want to say, and you will understand that the Fairholme journey is worth the challenges; the disappointments and the successes. Everything happens in its own season. I marvel at the connectedness of the girls whose exit from the Assembly Hall led to the immediate formation of a circle, a circle of 108 and a raucous final rendition of the jump’n’jive. I am touched deeply, and to the core, by the tears of students and staff and parents who feel the wrench of these girls’ departure and the need to redefine themselves and Fairholme, without them. There is never a promise of a perfect future, or a straight path but for every Fairholme girl there is a platform of hope, determination and an expectation of success: success defined by hard work, perseverance and the will to attempt the difficult, not just the easy.

I am always grateful that this time is followed by Mrs Eldridge’s Kindy to Year 3 Musical where I regain a sense of joy as I watch the Fairholme cycle repeat itself. A number of departing Seniors would have, at some point, taken to the stage in a ‘Mrs Eldridge-inspired’ musical; or perhaps they were the sound and lighting or backstage girls – collectively working towards a finished product. Or perhaps they were once like the enthusiastic Middle School girls who galloped through the G block corridors at lunchtime on Friday as part of a Year 9-inspired ‘Great Race’. Researchers tell us over and over again that connectedness is a fundamental part of wellbeing, we need it in order to be able to learn at our best.

Carol Wilson, mother of Laura (2008), Anna (2012) and Eliza (2017), reminisced on the special though sometimes bumpy journey of being part of the Fairholme family. It’s a family, she said, so there will invariably be some challenges to contend with along the way – decisions that aren’t always clear but not insurmountable, in the long run. She also used the perfect analogy of her own fear as a grandmother wondering how her granddaughter, learning to walk, would negotiate the three steps at her home in Quilpie. She wondered about purchasing one of the gates or barriers from the plethora of safety gadgets that take up space in baby shops and departments to protect her. I shouldn’t have worried, she said, she negotiated them all by herself. Wise words.

As our Year 12s steer their way into post-Fairholme life, may they be strong enough, well-equipped enough, and sufficiently connected to one another to negotiate that which is to follow, without the need for artificial gates, barriers and safety equipment. May parents have sufficient resolve to ‘stop picking them up’ when the struggle to stand on one’s own two feet is needed for learning, growth and independence. I pray these girls are robust enough to withstand disappointment, able to sustain effort when it would be easier not to, and may they be buoyed by the love, care and interest that went with them, remains with them, on their final walk out of Fairholme: may the Lord protect their coming in and their going out, always.

Thank you to our departing parents for the privilege of walking part of the journey with your daughters. We now look forward to 2018 and I wish you one and all a blessed Christmas, a restorative holiday, and safe travels wherever you may roam. As always, we pray for rainfall where it is needed most.

ARDENS SED VIRENS | Burning Yet Flourishing 10 November 2017

Those of us fortunate enough to hear Fairholme ‘old’ girl, Libby Munro speak with impressive eloquence and insight at ‘Presenting Fairholme’ on Friday evening came to understand a practical interpretation of our College motto: ardens sed virens – burning yet flourishing, possibly for the first time. Thirty-four year old Munro is an actress, an emerging screen writer and someone who understands that nothing of value is achieved by simply having passion – you have to act on it. You have to, in her words, ‘[not] get it right, [but] get it written’. You have to relinquish perfectionism in the quest for action. Not only do you have to act on your dreams and passions but you also have to ‘burn’ for them, if you are to achieve moments of flourishing.

To succeed, to flourish, you must burn – whether it is ‘the midnight oil’ for
your studies, or your past self so that you can recreate yourself into the
person you wish to be, whether it is physically burning to train and
become stronger for health or for sport…. You must burn, ladies.
(Munro, 2017)

Flourishing is the end point of goal-setting, action and sheer hard work. Nothing of value is achieved through simply imagining, dreaming or wishing. Neither is it achieved through a sense of entitlement. The seemingly effortless performance of a floor routine at a gymnastics tournament is the product of cumulative ‘burning’; similarly, the academic award at a presentation evening is rarely just about someone being ‘smart’ but also about persistence and consistency of effort, and so, too, the exquisite sound of a stage orchestra or choir performance is not merely about being musically talented. I love Geoffrey Rush’s take on this: ‘it took me a lifetime of work to become an overnight success’. Libby herself says that she entered NIDA as an actress with passion but without the skills she possesses today – she has achieved those skills not simply by some genetic luck but through persistence on a daily basis over many, many years.

So how do we, as parents, allow our children to burn and to flourish? Perhaps we first have to understand that flourishing is not an automatic outcome of hard work. Or perhaps we have to redefine flourishing, so that it is not just tied to a measurable, quantitative outcome. Sometimes the flourishing bit is about self-efficacy, knowing that they have simply done their best. And when our children do that, we need to celebrate their efforts, not push them towards an unrealistic expectation of more and more and more. Those words, ‘Couldn’t you have done better than that?’ are not always helpful. Further, we have to allow our children to ‘burn’ a little, or a lot. We also have to step back and understand that the burning needs to be on their terms, not ours. Whilst as parents we often burn with them, we have to avoid burning for them, or absorbing the tough stuff of their efforts. The vicarious flourish doesn’t look very attractive at any time, and especially not when our children are becoming young adults.

Mitchell, author of the article ‘Parenting Teenage Girls In The Age of a New Normal’ reminds us that we can’t control the achievements of our daughters through worry or because of fearing that they might fail. Failure is part of life, part of learning and part of ‘burning’ – you don’t actually get to flourish without it. As a seventeen-year-old university student I experienced my first ever academic failure – an Anatomy oral where I was so intimidated by the lecturer that I ridiculously identified every origin and insertion of muscles in the right scapula when I was in fact holding the left one (aren’t you relieved I didn’t pursue medicine or physiotherapy?). Gosh I made sure that mistake, that failure, was rectified. The serratus anterior, deltoid, trapezius, supraspinatus, biceps, infraspinatus ... are etched indelibly into my memory for posterity. Of course, it took me time to realise that failures or setbacks aren’t just tied to measurable outcomes, achievement standards or awards. They occur every time you struggle to learn new concepts, master new skills or apply knowledge, and that struggle is important, normal and fundamental to learning.

But we need space to process that struggle, lest our shame denies it, or we deflect it through blaming others or, even worse, our parents absorb it for us. I am sure my parents never knew that I failed that Anatomy oral. I kept that humiliation to myself but I also acted on it, did something about it and accepted responsibility. I remember borrowing a ‘box of bones’ from Max Kenny, the dentist I worked for part time and rote learning anatomy. I harassed my cousin Jon, who was studying Medicine, to become my occasional tutor, and the ‘burning’ paid off. It might seem a trite example but all these years later, the memory is strong, and the actual and metaphoric learning, real.

Thank you, Libby, for reminding us all, at an occasion where it sometimes seems that awards have been earned all too easily, that flourishing does not occur without burning, and sometimes it is the missing out and the challenges that define us and refine us. In her words:

Fame is fleeting. It is the challenges you have faced and how you chose to
overcome them that makes life interesting. Just like travel – a whole lot of life
is schlepping, dragging that suitcase, standing in lines, sleeping on trains, losing
your damn passport. But, just like travel, when you look back on life it is the
challenges you face that made it interesting, that you remember, that make
a great story. You have to fight for it, you have to take the road less travelled
even if you get lost. Because what a great story that will make.

References

Mitchell, M. (2017). ‘Parenting advice: How to raise teenage girls’ › Herald Sun. September 2, 2017.

Perseverance Outweighs Talent 27 October 2017

It’s Sunday and I am sitting in the Cameron Room of the Homestead along with a number of Old Girls and staff as we enjoy brunch and a FOGA Artists’ Panel that includes Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox, Grace Dewar, Sue Lostroh and Sandy Pottinger. The session begins with Mary Jane and Emma Scanlon, Emma Johnston, Lilly Marsden and Grace Gallagher performing their stirring rendition of ‘True Blue’. It’s foggy, misty and a little bit cold – perfect ingredients to enjoy the John Williamson remix as well as the wisdom of our FOGA artists. As the panellists speak, I’m scribbling furiously on tiny question cards that are scattered across the table, wanting desperately to hold on to the precious insights shared during their conversation with us. Yet, as I reread those scrawled notes, I’m struck by a recurring truism – perseverance outweighs talent.

In similar words – ‘put your head down and get on with it, even if it’s tough’. These are words of my childhood, my father still trots them out from time to time, and these four accomplished artists are palpable examples of perseverance, a will to keep going, despite disappointment, and a belief that it is dedication and passion that overtake talent, every time. I keep wondering how that notion can be extrapolated into the world of our current students, our girls who exist in a world of too muchness, expendability and immediacy. What do we adults do to encourage perseverance over expedience? How do we model resilience in the face of disappointment? I wonder. Because these four women’s stories of success are all peppered with setbacks, knockbacks and obstacles. Amidst their thorns are their successes, made sweeter by the hard work required to achieve them. ‘We’re all lucky, you’re all lucky,’ was one comment, ‘don’t take it for granted.’

We were lucky last week to share such a diverse range of events. Yes, it rained – but a sense of community poured. It was palpable. From those who assisted with the set up for Facets of Fairholme last weekend, to Fashion Week events, the delight of our inaugural Art Exhibition through to the Spring Fair, FOGA Church service and Facets Brunch, it was impossible not to enjoy a sense of community. So many parents and friends of the College – past and present, staff, students – past and present, contributed in big and small ways. Collectively, it created a synergy to relish and enjoy. Thank you to our army of volunteers, sponsors, organisers and participants. Margaret Cameron would have been impressed, I’m sure.

Highlights for me always occur throughout the Spring Fair weekend, including after the BIG events have passed, when the Church service gives time for quiet reflection, when Old Girls gather for the sheer delight of one another’s company and Gwenyth Chappell brings together a choir of Old Girls – Bella Voce – to add another layer of musicality to the Church Service. I’m still enjoying their performance of ‘For the Beauty of the Earth’. Really, there simply are too many people to acknowledge individually for all that has transpired in the past week – do know that your efforts and contributions have made such a difference. How fortunate our community is to have your involvement. Thank you for your dedication and talent; we have been blessed by both.

What we experience often at Fairholme are opportunities for the development of 21st century skills, skills; from any century, really. Mr Peacock and I attended a Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority conference in Brisbane this week where principals and curriculum leaders from every school in Queensland were present. One of the segments focused on the responsibility of schools to explicitly teach skills for the 21st century; those that underpin syllabi but aren’t assessed as such. A literature review scan conducted by QCAA identified the following skills as pivotal to young people’s future success: Critical thinking, Creative thinking, Communication, Collaboration, Personal and social skills and ICT skills. A series of short videos were shared in the segment which showcased some Queensland talent in the form of Li Cunxin, Artistic Director, Queensland Ballet and 2014 Queensland Australian of the Year; Taj Pabari, CEO of Fiftysix Creations, and 2017 Queensland Young Australian of the Year; and Nicholas Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, Co-founders of Orange Sky Laundry, and 2016 Young Australians of the Year. These segments emphasised the significance of well-developed skills for the 21st century, where collaboration, communication and personal and social skills are so important. These segments also emphasised again those simple but prophetic words form the Facets Art Panel, the ones I scribbled on tiny question cards for posterity, for reflection: perseverance triumphs over talent, every time.

Employment markets have undergone seismic shifts over the last few decades, with the jobs that were once the bedrock of the global economy disappearing, replaced by a flood of new and highly adaptive roles – entrepreneurs, project managers, creative directors and more. These roles require an emerging skillset that’s becoming as critical as literacy and numeracy — one that centres on 21st century skills such as critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving (2012 as cited in 21st century skills for senior education: An analysis of educational trends )

As we look to our next century, it is important that we are mindful of those universal 21st Century skills so fundamental to success in an unwritten future.

References

21st century skills for senior education: An analysis of educational trends  ›

QCCA Presentation by Li Cunxin ›

QCCA Presentation by Dr Karen Martin ›

QCCA Presentation about ‘Orange Sky Laundry’ ›

Much Ado about That 12 October 2017

I have a serious confession to make. I did not watch either the AFL or NRL football Grand Finals this year. This is the first time ever, that I can remember. And it was MY ‘date identification’ error, not my husband’s. Ouch. Instead, I found myself with plum tickets to a production of Much Ado About Nothing at the pop-up Globe Theatre in Melbourne.

In retrospect, I should have twigged that something major was happening when I was so readily able, on short notice, to reserve prime seats to an outstanding performance of this Shakespearean classic.

Oops - sometimes it pays to refer to a calendar, yet, I do admit that I discovered that sometimes it doesn’t matter after all. Ironically, the production finished at about the same time as the AFL Grand Final and proximity meant that theatre goers merged with the sea of euphoric Richmond supporters and despondent Adelaide Crows supporters. The difference in mood was palpable: paradox in motion.

For once, I watched on objectively, bemused by the uniformed attire of spectators and fascinated by conversations, facial expressions and body language. Winning and losing matters a great deal, it would seem. Some of us manage both better than others. Rewind to the first week of the holidays and I found myself clutching a clipboard and a bundle of Netball bibs - as a pseudo Netball coach on tour in New Zealand. In the gyms of schools in Christchurch, Dunedin, and Queenstown, Fairholme Netballers all learned some lessons in Netball excellence, along with an opportunity to lose gracefully.

This opportunity to take a loss metaphorically on the chin was realised early, when the coach of the Silver Ferns was spotted on the sideline at St Hilda’s in Dunedin - watching her daughter on court. This school fielded a formidable team, and it was no surprise to us to discover that they were the recent winners of the South Island Netball competition. Three of the four games played during the week were not close at all but that did not stop our Fairholme players from above-expectation effort and determination. We enjoyed ourselves, and we lost by score, not by on-court approach.

The same could be said about North Queensland’s Gavin Cooper’s post-match grand final address. He was a winner in his words and in his approach. There is no doubt that he and his teammates were hurting, both physically and emotionally, in the unique despair of losing the match you have worked towards for a lifetime. Yet Cooper chose to lose with good grace. Cooper chose, in the buzz-word language of eduspeak: a growth mindset over a deficit one. Cooper chose to see the positives in a torrid, high stakes experience and he emerged very much as a winner, because of it. I think ahead to some high-stakes Fairholme moments that will occur in fourth term - the selection of prefects and the allocation of awards.

Inevitably, at such times there is the separation of some students from others. There will be elation and disappointment. There will be those deemed to have won and those deemed to have lost - if we choose to view the scenario that way. And we do choose our outlook and our response, always.

Yet, there will be students and parents who have decided the allocation of such positions and awards, already - long before the process of voting, allocation of criteria, discussion and ratification takes place within the school.

Perhaps at such times we would benefit from remembering Cooper’s choice to be a winner at a time of deep disappointment, or being reminded that life can be richer without being part of a grand-final experience: Much Ado About Nothing was a pertinent reminder to me of that. And the girls who travelled to New Zealand - Touch and Netball players alike, learned those maxims, incidentally. They displayed the most admirable attitude whether winning or losing their matches; parents, you would have been so impressed.

This was Fairholme at its best …100 per cent - plus effort, enjoyment, and the ability to accept success or setback with good grace.That nearly one hundred girls spent part of their holidays with staff - to New Zealand for sport, or the Whitsundays as part of the Eco trip, or spending their first weekend of holidays supporting children with disabilities at the Sony Camp - attests to a healthy school culture.

It indicates a committed staff, and students who embrace opportunity and challenge with enthusiasm, respect and enjoyment. Great moments of learning occur amidst great opportunities, and those opportunities are not always about winning. Lurking on the other side of discomfort and uncomfortableness, is growth. And thus there should be, from my perspective, Much [more] Ado About That!

Pay It Forward 14 September 2017

At the New Farm Community Centre in Brisbane there is a blackboard beside their coffee van with the prices of available coffee. From memory, a flat white costs $4, as does a cappuccino, but, more importantly, for $2 you can purchase a ‘pay it forward’ coffee. It’s not a new idea; philanthropists all over the world have practised this philosophy for centuries. Margaret Cameron, in selling the Homestead to the Presbyterian Church of Queensland, as well as donating money for the express purpose of creating a school for girls, demonstrated the ‘pay it forward’ concept.

In the past fortnight, the Fathers’ Long Lunch and the Foundation Golf Day have been built upon this concept – community events, with an underpinning philosophy of paying a favour forward: assisting girls to access their education at Fairholme and reducing the financial stress of their families – even just a little. Whilst at one level the enjoyment of community has been practised, a more benevolent charter has also been demonstrated. Thank you to all who have supported these events.

As we glance ahead at our full Term 4 calendar, our Spring Fair, our inaugural Art Exhibition – Facets of Fairholme – and our Fashion week celebrations are beacons on the horizon. Here is our opportunity to gather together and celebrate our College, our students and our broader community’s talents and, in doing so, raise funds for charities, the P&F and our College. Again, these events pay forward to the future, as well as consolidate our enjoyment of one another’s company. The Spring Fair is one of the few mandated weekend events for our students and we do also appreciate parental support of the significant events that are associated with it. The purchase of a ride wristband, or tickets in the Boarder Support Cent Sale or buying a piece of art may seem about self but underpinning that is also the discourses of community and paying forward to our future students.

The Fourth Quarter

I often refer to Term 3 as the championship quarter, a throwback to a childhood diet of AFL finals, yet there are some striking parallels, nonetheless. It feels hard to keep going, the end looks unattainable, and the thought of fronting up for another quarter can seem an insurmountable burden. Yet somehow Spring emerges every year and Christmas feels almost tangible. This, to me, is always an interesting phase in the school year. How do we respond when the finish line is sight? Do we slow down or pick up pace; do we write the scripted ending before it happens; or do we find the reserves to push even harder than before? I hope it’s the latter, particularly for our soon to be school leavers – a great lesson learned in life if they are able to finish well despite the glittering attraction of the finish.

Congratulations to those who have managed the premiership quarter with aplomb; particularly to those involved in the musical, sporting and debating finals; QCS exams and everything else associated with our wintery months. What impresses me is the ability of some to juggle magnificently whilst no doubt pedalling furiously at times, under the surface. I look forward to the term ahead and its culminating events: celebrations of our Year 12 leaders; Presentation Evening and Presentation Morning; our Spring Fair … and the list wends onwards. May the holiday break give us the fortitude to finish well and the reserves to push hard when energy is most required. Wishing all safe travels, time with family and falling rain in the areas of greatest need.

The Quest for Connection… 31 August 2017

If there is one thematic thread that has emerged with clarity from the strategic planning process we are working through, it’s about the need we all have for connection: real connection. I guess I was hoping for a more revelatory finding - but there you have it, the most obvious is not always the most obvious!

Ironically, as I write this article I’m sitting at a computer and I’ve just trawled news sites for stimulus, an idea that might make a connection with you, the reader (hoping there is at least one reader out there). I add, that whilst I was largely unsuccessful in my quest, I did manage to waste a lot of time: welcome to the pitfalls of social media. Social media is a powerful magnet. It draws us in, often unwittingly, and gives us a sense of connection, albeit superficial.

Newspaper journalist, Richard Glover, asks in his recent article, ‘Is there any retreat from the narcissism of our age?’, perhaps with tongue a little in cheek; the seemingly unchecked seepage of technology into our lives, the merging of reality with unreality and what he identifies as ‘humanity’s final chapter’ (Glover, 2017). I smiled at his description of an Australian friend of his, living in London, who has reset her GPS to an Australian voice to provide ‘a comforting sense of home’. He went on to state that he was ‘torn between admiration for the patriotic impulse and a desire to throw away all [his] devices and live in the woods as a hermit on a diet of worms and road kill. More to the point, [he] wanted to whisper, ‘She’s not real, you know.’ Yes, Glover may be deemed to be overstating the relationship between on- and off-line relationships but there is some truth in his observations too, isn’t there!

We are losing real connections because of our unconscious absorption with the on-line world. We are in a world typified by transience, fake news, false connections and an obsession with ‘friends’, ‘likes’, comments and shares as a form of validation for who we are. We are, according to psychologist, Sherry Turkle, in danger of being ‘alone together’. Or, in other words, we are more connected than ever before, whilst lonelier than ever before. We are simultaneously publisher and critic, and thus privacy has been exchanged for publicity. Our challenge is to engage in meaningful, interpersonal conversation and to feel connected at a deeper level.

Reflecting on the past fortnight I’ve been fortunate to have multiple opportunities to connect at a deeper level. I’ve taught Year 10 English; I’ve been part of a staff reunion lunch; served breakfast at Rosie’s; attended the family worship service; watched Netball, Touch and Basketball matches; shared dinner and conversation with principal colleagues in Brisbane; joined a Bond University gathering at Helen and Joe Wagner’s home and coached a school Netball team – these very human enterprises have been the highlights. In our quest for connectivity it is vital that we seek real opportunities for human interaction lest we begin to find the on-line world as our common world.

Conversation, service, volunteering: these are the cornerstone aspects of a connected community. With that in mind, we seek out your support for Facets of Fairholme – our inaugural Art Exhibition; the Spring Fair; the Foundation Golf Day; Fathers’ Long Lunch; as a homestay parent or P&F attendee. A quick email to communications@fairholme.qld.edu.au will link you with people and, hence, a stronger sense of connectivity. Why not take action to do so?

References

Glover, R. (2017). ‘Is there any retreat from the narcissism of our age?’ › The Sydney Morning Herald. July 7 2017.

Rocker, J. (2015). The Importance of ‘Face Time’ In the Social Media Age ›

On The Importance of Musicals 18 August 2017

As I write this, it’s production week for Oliver – the Musical. There is excitement, fatigue and anticipation – simultaneously. No doubt, for some parents there have been the terse words and eye rolling which accompanies such creative tension. After all, you wouldn’t understand what is involved in a musical would you? (Yes, I am well aware of the talents and music histories of many parents but of course your children might not rate that as relevant to them).

I know that as I watch both casts perform their version of Oliver the Musical, I will sit in awe and marvel yet again at the talents of our young people and the teachers and adults who have supported, led and crafted this extravaganza. And it is an extravaganza. It is crafted. It is creative and impressive. It is often the experience that a departing student will identify as the most significant in their learning – and it’s not just about the music, or the acting. It’s about the full experience – being part of a team, one that involves two schools, not just one. It is about seeing a product evolve from a small idea to a big polished performance. It is about learning at so many levels – perhaps from missing out on a coveted part, to receiving feedback about one’s performance on stage or in the concert pit – or about the precision required in backstage work. It’s also about juggling long hours with everything else involved in a regular school day.

There’s neurochemistry at work to in the music experience too. Stacy Horn in her article ‘Ode to Joy’ reminds us that, ‘music is awash with neurochemical rewards for working up the courage to sing.’ Horn explains the ‘singer’s high’ and surge of endorphins along with the lowering of cortisol result in a reduction in stress (though I’m sure in the lead-up to four performances this might not be immediately obvious to parents or our teachers leading the show). So for four days those involved in the show will be experiencing heightened feelings of ‘euphoria and contentment’ (Horn, 2013). Inevitably, this will lead to a dip in mood in the week or weeks to follow – a normal neurological response, though the brunt of this might bite a little for those close to the action.

Additionally, there may be the push from some students to mark the occasion through celebration – post-Musical. I remind that such occasions, riding on the back of heightened excitement, can fuel poor decision-making. It is parents, not schools, that endorse or support such celebrations and, despite the pressure your daughter may exert, it is a time to be clear in expectations and to draw parameters for behaviour. A musical should not equate with entitlement to make poor choices which invariably have repercussions and oft unpredictable ripple effects. Again, this is not an activity sanctioned by the school.

We know that our children do want us to be strong supporters and decision-makers. An article that I have shared before that reminds us that being a teenager is tough, no matter what we might be led to believe, and that despite how we feel at times, our role of parents matters most is ‘The Letter Your Teenager Can’t Write You’ penned by Gretchen Schmelzer. It continues to hit a chord with me, both as educator and parent. Adolescents need to take risks. They need to define themselves separately from their parents, lest they never become independent adults. Some do this more cautiously than others. Some more respectfully. Some more healthily. Musicals provide fabulous opportunities for risk-taking, healthily. See The letter your teenager can’t write you ›

So here’s to a celebration of music, musicality and all that musicals entail. I pay tribute to all of the students involved, and especially to the staff whose regular life has been recalibrated for months in the lead-in – I know that collectively you will provide us with an outstanding experience, an Oliver to remember. Thank you to parents for your support that has allowed your daughter or daughters to grow, learn, and take risks – of the healthiest variety. They couldn’t have done so without your interest and the value you place on the aesthetic and cultural dimension of life.

References

Clift, S. M. and Hancox, G. (2001), ‘The perceived benefits of singing: findings from preliminary surveys of a university college choral society’, Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, 121:4, pp. 248–256.

Horn, S. (2013), “Ode to Joy,” Stacy Horn Essay adapted from Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness While Singing with Others, Algonquin Books.

Schmelzer, G. (2015). The letter your teenager can’t write you ›

The Value Of A Rested Mind 4 August 2017

“Sleep, especially deep sleep, is like a balm for the brain.”

(Shashank Joshi, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences - Stanford University.)

South Australian sleep researcher, Dr Sarah Blunden describes sleep as ‘the foundation of all physical and mental health.’ Whilst this may sound like a radical statement to some, Blunden states that it’s ‘actually true.’ Yet, if sleep is such a vital health pillar, then why are so many of us doing it so badly? Why is it, for example, that despite our understanding of the adverse effects of technology use and sleep, we still check our phones; attach ourselves to Instagram; or read ourselves to sleep via a screen of some description? Journalist, Madonna King points to research indicating that 45 per cent of teens aged 14 to 16 regularly send texts after 3am, and 75 per cent, do so after midnight. Some send more than 100 texts a night. The average sits at 34. King warns that it is not the sending of texts that is at the heart of the problem, rather it is the anticipation of the reply – both of which place the brain in a state of heightened stimulation, referred to as “infomania”. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a 2017 syndrome, particularly amongst adolescent girls. (King, 2017)

Thus, all over the globe, sleep deprived adolescents arrive at school each morning unready to learn: desperately tired, irritable and unreceptive. The same could be said of adults too, those who are drawn to the lure of the blue-lit screen or too attuned to the sound of texts and emails filling their inboxes overnight. “Today’s teens are maturing in an era of ubiquitous electronic media, and they are fervent participants,” (Richter, 2015). Rebecca Sparrow – writer and media journalist is becoming an expert in adolescent trends, and she informed her audiences at Fairholme last weekend that the mere presence of a mobile phone within a study space, leads to an eighty percent reduction in retention of learning. No doubt, the presence of a phone close to our bed, has a similar detrimental effect upon our sleep. Can we survive without 24/7 connectivity? Of course we can.

Ironically, we equate health with exercise and a good diet, forgetting that the pillar of sleep intertwines inextricably with the other two pillars and we rely on all three for our wellbeing. We do know that between nine to ten hours sleep is the recommended quotient of sleep required for adolescents – that is nine to ten hours with a consistent bed time and a consistent rising time. Technology use, it is suggested by researchers, should cease ninety minutes before bed time. Adolescents who crave autonomy, need to develop their skills of self-regulation in relation to health and well-being choices. They typically do so in relation to exercise and diet but sleep, the silent partner in overall health, needs to be treated more respectfully by us all. Learning and long term health crave to be optimised through sleep that is uninterrupted by technology and consistent in pattern. Thus it’s time to be truthful about our screens, and deliberate in our exclusion of those screens from our sleeping and learning spaces. To do so is vital to sustained good health.

CLAIM THE DATE: *If your sleep patterns, or those of your daughter’s are of interest to you – then join us in Greta Junior (Junior School Library) from 7pm on Tuesday 8 August to hear local psychologist and educator, Beris Ludwig talk on the benefits of sleep and the power of the rested mind. This is Beris’ area of current doctoral study.

References

Cain, N., Gradisar, M. (2010); ‘Electronic media use and sleep in school-aged children and adolescents: a review.’ Sleep Medicine, 11, 735-742.

Johnson, C. (2016); How technology use messes with your sleep and what you can do about it ›

King, M. (2017); ‘Today’s teens are struggling to fit enough sleep into their busy lives.’ › The Sydney Morning Herald. 29 March, 2017.

Richter, R. (2015); Among teens, sleep deprivation an epidemic › Stanford Medicine News Centre. 8 October 2015.

‘100 Years…’ 21 July 2017

I write this on the eve of our 100th year of operation as Fairholme College, on the day that we unveil Grant Lehmann’s imposing sculptures and I can’t help but cast my thoughts back to Mrs Margaret Cameron – the ultimate benefactor and visionary. No doubt she would shudder at the thought of girls sitting on her homestead veranda – smart phone in pocket, lap top on lap but I have no doubt, she would be heartened beyond words, to know that her Fairholme lives on in so many. That her vision for quality education for girls is an enduring cornerstone of Fairholme’s purpose.

We seem to have been moving towards this moment for months, and before we know it, we will be entering the second century of the College’s operations. In the midst of our strategic planning for the next five years, it seems easy to seek ‘more of the same’; ‘a total revamp of operations’; or to throw up our hands in despair and say, the future is too murky, too difficult to imagine – what’s the point in planning or risking change? Yet we need to think of Margaret Cameron who too, no doubt, was grappling with an uncertain future. She did what so few married women of that time [or any time] did: she gifted her property in an act of benevolence and hopefulness. Amidst the chaos of World War 1, at a time when more schools were closing, than opening, she took a courageous step in supporting the purchase of her home, to become a girls’ school.

Last Monday night, Fairholme also took a courageous step in its future planning by inviting its wider community in to scratch the written script; unsettle the certainties; and develop answers about the way forward. Perhaps we recorded more questions than answers; were drawn, at times, to the present, rather than the future; but we did so, under the guidance of current Year 12 students and recent graduates of the College. How impressive these young women are and were. The process mattered a great deal. The engagement of a diversity of voices mattered a great deal. I am grateful to all who gave their time towards imagining Fairholme forward into the next century of operation.

The pages of ideas are being compiled, and now begins the task of drawing out threads, themes and gems of wisdom. The Board of Directors will meet in the next week to pour over those ideas and the leadership team will then be tasked with operationalising those key ideas. We won’t meet the immediate needs of every member of the school community but we will give due attention to those main elements of strategy that will underpin our movement forward. Thank you to all who have participated in this forward movement through your engagement in focus groups; P&F discussions with Dr Malcolm Davies; the Town Meeting; or simply through completion of the survey.

The College has expanded and embraced the modern ways,
Yet holds to old traditions, and the centre of it stays
In the Homestead where it started, built so long ago,
The doorway calling softly – take ten steps with one to grow.
(Janine Haig 2016)

‘With Honour [They] Serve’ 12 June 2017

There has been such grief, outrage and sadness for the family, friends and colleagues of Brett Forte – but with it has come an opportunity to express our gratitude to Police Officers across Australia who, too often, endure far more negative feedback than positive; whose daily work is to protect and serve communities; and whose weight of responsibility is, unfortunately, taken for granted.

Police RibbonTragedy brings its own lessons: opportunities to challenge perceptions and to take time to be grateful for others.

When Fairholme staff and students pinned Police ribbons to lapels and offered a donation to Brett’s family, it was the smallest of gesture amidst the enormity of what has occurred. Collectively, however, it provided an opportunity for our school community to pause, even just for a moment, and to be thankful for those who ‘serve with honour’: our Police. What a tragedy it is that it took a tragedy for such reflection to take place.

We offer out heartfelt sympathies to members of the Fairholme family who have been deeply affected by Senior Sergeant Brett Forte’s death. Further, we acknowledge and honour all of our local Police especially, for their daily work that provides both service to and safety for our community.

TRUE NORTH

‘You cannot be everything to everyone. If you decide to go north, you cannot go south at the same time.’ Jeroen De Flander

You would have received email correspondence from me, last Friday, inviting you to be part of strategising our strategic plan. The work of consultant, Dr Malcolm Davies, will culminate in a ‘Town Meeting’ on the first evening of Term 3: Monday, 10 July at 7pm – 9pm in our Assembly Hall. As mentioned, the purpose of the ‘Town Meeting’ is to draw together staff, current parents, senior students, Fairholme Old Girls and community members to consider our future five years. A group of Year 12 students will facilitate discussion around four key questions and a member of staff will scribe the conversation.

We do hope that you are able to be part of this important and deeply interesting process. Should we be flooded with interested parents, and I hope that we are, Malcolm will use a random selection method to ensure diversity of groupings: day/boarding/middle/junior/senior school parents. Please email communications@fairholme.qld.edu.au with your interest.

As we know, the only certainty about the future rests in its uncertainties – so we want vibrant discussion to propel us forward and to best prepare our girls for the world beyond 2017. Fortunately, we do this from our bedrock foundation value: Christ-centred faith which gives us hope:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the
reason for the hope that you have. But to do this with gentleness and respect,
keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your
good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
1 Peter 3:15–16

‘Oh, To Be Perfect!’ 26 May 2017

Perfection is a concept that can create dissonant feelings in adolescent girls – on the one hand, perfection may seem like the ultimate life goal, providing motivation to strive for high achievement in all areas of life; and yet at the same time, perfection is often experienced as terrifyingly unreachable, burdensome and may leave girls feeling paralysed due to their fear of failing to achieve it. (Vann, 2017).

An ode to the twenty-first century could include the words perfectionism, celebrities and self-made fame. Given the ‘editability’ of reality, the perfect state has never been closer to our fingertips. Yet the dissonance between perception and reality has also never been wider.

What you see is not necessarily what you get. The picture-perfect Instagram post can be a clever mask for a gaping void or a yawning need for accolades, or it can be simply a polished construction – a revision of reality. It’s the world of fake news, post truth and a yearning for … perfection.

Just recently, some parents introduced me to their daughter and, as a sideline comment within the conversation, said, ‘She’s a bit of a perfectionist.’ Part of me hesitated. I wanted to ask, ‘Do you want her to hear you say that? Do you really want to reinforce this trait or is it just a throwaway line?’ I hoped the latter was true but am always aware that the more we hear a comment about ourselves, the more we tend to absorb it.

Perhaps this girl could have been better represented as an optimalist; someone who seeks to do her best and gain the best from any situation, no matter how challenging. They are not synonymous terms and they yield vastly different mindsets.

Perfectionism is a complex psychological state – at worst it is a mindset that equates achievement with self-worth and anything less than perfect as failure. It’s a mindset that forms comments like these around achievement like: ‘I only got this because the standards mustn’t have been high enough’, or ‘I didn’t do that well’. Optimalism, conversely, is a beautiful blend of optimism and positivity. It favours Dweck’s growth mindset, or the stuff of resilient self-talk: ‘It was hard but I was so pleased to have had a go,’ or ‘I know I can do better next time.’

Oh to be perfect

Thus, as parents, we need to be attuned to the responses we share with our children: the raised eyebrow over a B+ instead of an A; the car conversation following a one-point loss on the netball court; or the slumped shoulders when our daughter doesn’t achieve an accolade we expected or anticipated. Perfectionism isn’t about high standards, or striving for excellence. It is about setting the bar beyond achievability and even worse, measuring oneself in the negative against that unachievable point of ‘perfect’.

Oh to be perfect

Yet, those with perfectionistic tendencies aren’t always high achievers. They can self-sabotage to justify failure; they can procrastinate to the point of inertia; they can obsessively check and recheck work or simply whip themselves into dizzy heights of anxiety over a fear of failure.

A modicum of some of these attributes probably wends its way into much of the general population but perfectionism in its extremity is a complex psychological condition. Its most detrimental form is evident in scathing self-criticism and self-loathing when the pinnacle of perfection is not reached, or in overzealous comparison to others which leaves the perfectionist believing he or she is an abject failure.

Interestingly, Nikki Gemmell in her Mother’s Day article in the Weekend Australian magazine, addressed a different form of perfectionism. She writes, somewhat poignantly of her impressions that she was never ‘perfect enough’ in her mother’s eyes. She wasn’t ‘like the pretty, popular girls in [her] class … her mother wished that [Nikki] didn’t have to wear glasses because they made [her] look so ugly.’

Further, Gemmell writes, ‘we were broken by a desire for perfection in each other. She felt the chill of my judgement as I felt the chill of hers.’ Both my mother and I read this article on Mother’s Day and reassured one another that this has not been our relationship experience but acknowledged how easily we all can slip into forming unrealistic expectations of one another, if we aren’t careful. That is, if we are drawn too easily to images of faultlessness and flawlessness that adorn every magazine cover; or those that are carefully composed for social media consumption. We need to rejoice in our flaws, failures and foibles, we agreed, and went on to list at least a thousand, each.

In a school that sets the bar high, one that builds high expectations and praises achievements, we must also remember to acknowledge and celebrate challenge, participation and setbacks.

It is in the messy chaos of difficulty that we often find the greatest rewards, albeit with hard work, effort and a hefty dose of perseverance. So let’s avoid giving reverence to the perfectionist. All hail the new era of the optimalist. Oh to be [not] perfect!

References:
Gemmell, N. (2017). Mother’s Way. The Weekend Australian Magazine. 14 May 2017.

Perfectionism www.psychologytoday.com 

Pruett, K. (2017). Being Parents of a Perfectionist. www.psychologytoday.com  

Vann, A. (2017). ‘Perfectionism in girls’ Australasian Alliance of Girls’ School ebrief. Issue 6/2017: May 3, 2017.

‘Learning and Listening Conversations’ 12 May 2017

For the first time in nine years I am teaching an English class – solo. I’ve had the privilege of sharing a senior class with another colleague over the past eight years but this year, I decided that it was time to reacquaint myself with the full gamut of teaching a class. For some, it’s a curious thing for a principal to teach a class; for me it’s the most natural choice of all. How can a principal best understand the teaching learning process – from the classroom. Thus, as part of the role, I fronted up for parent/teacher/student interviews at the beginning of term. I felt a little like a beginning teacher.

I learned a lot about some of the students in my class, just by listening. I learned how hard some girls are working at home, of the organisational struggles of another, of the frustrations some felt trying to improve their spelling. In a short period of time I gained further insights into how some of the girls in my class learn best and how I might capitalise on that knowledge. Further, the importance of alignment within the parent/student/teacher triad in achieving the best outcomes possible was reinforced. In all classrooms we need ‘triad’ alignment in goals, expectations and dealing with learning challenges. Collectively, we share wisdom about what works best for each learner.

In the past six months or so, our Head of Teaching and Learning and Heads of Department have been working closely with education consultant, Paul Herbert, on the structure of our ‘learning and listening conversations.’ Some parents may have noted during their interviews, a shift in responsibility for explaining classwork being passed from teacher to student.

We are working towards that model, one where students lead the conversation, and, in doing so, develop greater agency in their learning and take greater responsibility for how it is understood and articulated. These are early days in the evolution, or the shift in how our interviews are structured but be prepared for a changing approach over time. We see value in discussions that move beyond the test or assignment result and are centred more on learning.

Further, we enjoy the contextual understanding that comes from visiting our Boarder families ‘at home’. Insight into the distance travelled to drive a child to a music or swimming lesson; the frustrations of internet connectivity – or lack thereof; and the challenges of distance education are important understandings for Fairholme staff, including the Principal. Just last week in visits to Blackall, Longreach and Winton there was again, opportunity to absorb a little of those worlds, to admire the resilience, optimism and work ethic that underpin the lives of our families from these areas. Thank you to our hosts for our learning and listening conversations: what a privilege.

It is not surprising to note that research by Muller and Associates (2009) into effective family, school and community partnerships finds that when children grow up in environments where parents are engaged and interested in their child’s education, and in communities that enjoy high social capital (quality, cogenerative dialogue) that children develop better cognitive and non-cognitive skills. This has a direct and positive contribution towards academic progress, participation in employment and economic well-being (p11).

Thank you to our Fairholme families, all. You are engaged and interested in your daughter’s learning, as are we, and with that collective and shared wisdom we seek to maximise opportunities for positive and fruitful learning outcomes.

References:
Muller, D. & Associates. (2009). Effective Partnerships in practice: A qualitative research project on family, school and community partnerships. Melbourne, Australia: The Family, Schools and Community Partnerships Bureau.

‘The Gift of Travel’ 27 April 2017

The trill of arigatō gozaimashita is still ringing in my ears; the taste of shabu-shabu still on my lips; and the sight of 19 Fairholmeites launched into peak-hour Tokyo train traffic still brings a smile. Travel is a gift and it does keep on giving – it gives us perspective, cultural sensitivity and an appreciation of the things we value in our own homes. I was privileged to travel with 18 others, including ten Fairholme girls from Years 9 to 12, during the recent holidays.

Under the enthusiastic and expert guidance of Friend Sensei and Goodsell Sensei we experienced the challenges of chopsticks, rice for breakfast and ‘depachika heaven’. Yes, each one of us found a new taste sensation to savour, or had the opportunity to revisit one that we have enjoyed, previously. From the delicate flavours of matcha ice-cream to a more robust bowl of soba noodles, and the opportunity to craft and cook our own okonomiyaki – we all enjoyed a full gamut of taste sensations. The girls’ willingness to embrace the diversity of tastes and textures added to the authenticity of their travel experience. That is not to say, of course, that Japanese soft-serve ice creams, vending machine drinks and chocolate didn’t slip into their diets… when in Japan….

But there were deeper, more significant experiences than these. The contrast between the peace-filled open walkways of Hiroshima and pace of the Tokyo subway; the opportunity to reconnect with past Fairholme students from Joshi Seigakuin and Keisen; the joy of cherry blossom (Sakura) season and the beauty of the Golden Pavillion are but a few of the moments that are easily evoked in memory. We saw women clad proudly in the most exquisite kimonos, walked inside one of the world’s largest Buddha statues and saw the Torii of Miyajima which stood at low tide. The view of Tokyo from the Skytree tower and the push of people at peak hour reminded us all that we are but a dot in the population and that the world is so much bigger than our patch in Australia.

Travel engenders the need to problem-solve; things as seemingly simple as buying a train ticket, converting money from one currency to another, communicating where there is no common language, managing passport security and eating the unfamiliar. It excites the senses and unsettles the certainties, sometimes simultaneously. It is not always easy and, at times, it is upon returning home when we have the time to reflect upon, and appreciate our opportunity, that we can gain greatest insight into the gift that travel is.

As part of a travelling group, rather than a travelling family, it requires more patience, good humour and a willingness to enjoy everyone’s company. It was this strong sense of group, or team, that made this particular travel experience even finer. I am, as always, indebted to staff who invest so much of their own time into making these experiences possible – such significant planning is required to move 19 people quickly and safely in a city of 27 million. Further, I am grateful to the ten girls whose company and good manners made sharing travel so enjoyable – and, this time, the wonderful sense of humour of our traveling parents – thank you for sharing the gift of travel.

Arigatō gozaimashita - one and all, (and especially to Ichi and Ni).

‘Golden Silence’ 29 March 2017

Holidays are nudging, and the prospect of pausing from the routine of school life entices us all: the restoration of energy levels beckons. For some, it means returning home to the property and thus a short season of work; for others it’s possibly a season of sleep; and others, like me, will board a plane to Tokyo on Saturday morning. Whatever the circumstance, holidays present us with the opportunity to do our daily routine differently; including the way we use technology. For most, it means more time with our children – a blessing and, quite honestly at times, a challenge, particularly with our adolescent girls who sometimes see the world a little differently from us.

A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald entitled ‘As a parent, sometimes staying silent is the best way to show your support’ (Star, 6 March 2017) seems timely at the onset of the holiday period. Whilst the article (and it’s well worth reading, see reference details) is superficially about dealing with a daughter’s disappointments in losing a much - coveted Soccer Grand Final; the idea of silence being a golden form of communication was also a clear underlying thread. The article’s author, Nancy Star, describes her decision to not comment on the team’s unexpected loss until her daughter initiated conversation. ‘The goal of [her] silence wasn’t to prevent conversation. It was to give [her] daughter space to initiate it’, Star (2017) remarked.

Her approach was prompted by the sage counsel of another seasoned parent who had shared his wisdom with Star. As she trudged back to the car, trying not to show her own disappointment, she observed other mothers consoling their daughters and was desperate to do so too. Nonetheless, wise parent Peter’s words kept her lips tightly closed. Herewith Star’s observations:

‘A moment later I noticed her teammates walking with their parents, mothers mostly, who offered words of consolation. ‘Are you okay?’ and ‘You played well,’ and ‘There‘s always next time.’ To me the words sounded gentle and kind.

The girls did not agree. ‘No,’ they snapped, and ‘I sucked,’ and ‘There won’t be a next time.’

By the time we reached the car, every daughter except mine was crying and the mums were, understandably, annoyed and lashing back. ‘Why are you yelling at me?’ and ‘Being upset is no excuse for being rude.’

Silence can be golden, as can silent empathy. Sometimes the last word is never the last word. It becomes a competition to have the final say, to be right, and to ensure that our daughters also know that we are right. Conversely, those with determined daughters will have experienced the reverse scenario too: it’s not a good platform for a successful shared holiday. Perhaps the practice of silence presents a good opportunity for us all.

Here’s to holidays and an enjoyable change from the routine of school; to moments of silence; to technology-free dinner conversations and reverence to the fact that we have two ears and just one mouth. I know that the students travelling to Japan along with Mrs Friend, Mr Goodsell, Mr Zarb, Mr Evans and I will be enjoying their change of routine; technology-free meals and an opportunity to quietly absorb a very different culture. May we all return to Term 2 refreshed, energy levels restored, and with a readiness for the activities ahead.

Wishing you each and all safe travels and the blessings of Easter.

References:
Star, N. (2017). ‘As a parent, sometimes staying silent is the best way to show your support.’ Sydney Morning Herald. 6 March 2017. www.smh.com.au ›

‘The Power Of Choice’ 23 March 2017

Our parenting decisions count, they count especially in those difficult situations when it is important that we don’t just take the path of least resistance. Our challenge, Joanne Fedler wrote in 2012 is to raise socially conscious children in a materialistic world that is neither their fault, nor of their making. She stressed that “what everyone else is doing” is not always what we want them to be doing and thus there are occasions where we need to tackle the hard conversations, to set boundaries and to find safeguard mechanisms that allow our children to be social but sensible.

I read with despair, today’s much telegraphed story about a fifteen year old girl from Sydney who was raped at a party by a boy of the same age. She was unconscious, too drunk to know, until later, when a film of the rape taken by another boy was distributed to fifty of his closest friends. We can climb our moral high horse and rail against males; girls who drink too much and parents who enable that opportunity – perhaps we can do that with absolute confidence in the moral infallibility of our children, perhaps not. However, we can also all pause and reflect upon our responsibilities to continue to converse with our girls. We can use this as a teachable moment.

Alcohol, sexual activity and parties are not new concepts, though as parents we sometimes think that they are. We bury our heads in the quicksand of denial and think, not my daughter – that happens to someone else’s daughter. This did happen to someone else’s daughter: a fifteen year old girl whose life will never be the same again. Similarly, the boy who committed the rape, the boy who filmed the action, and the boys who accepted the footage also face life that won’t be the same, ever again. One choice, and in this case one appalling choice, can alter the course of life and there is no platitude, court action or rewrite of the moment that can change their reality. Local lawyer, Adair Donaldson has presented on multiple occasions to our Fairholme students around the potential impact of one poor choice.

Journalist Graham Richardson in his article ‘Incident reflects badly on parents’ (‘The Australian’, p.9, 22 March 2017) reflects on the gravity of an incident which two decades ago would have been hushed away by the parties involved, seen as a shameful occurrence, or whispered about in muted tones. In 2017 this incident has been distributed via the web; indelibly and permanently etched somewhere in cyberspace memory and hence the memory of thousands and thousands. Richardson doesn’t miss us in his article. He reminds us, somewhat pointedly, that as adults and parents we are very quick to finger point away from ourselves – we despair over the negligent parents who allow their children to roam the streets unattended in ‘those’ suburbs; we shake our heads in pious judgement at the problems of Indigenous youth in some communities, yet often fail to look in our own backyards, metaphorically speaking, at the things that we do, or don’t do, that enable situations as occurred in Sydney to happen to us, or those we know.

Creating a risk-free environment for our children simply isn’t possible. Adolescents by nature seek to define themselves separately from their parents; align with their peer group over adults; and take risks. In doing so, they make mistakes and poor choices and as parents we can choose those times as teachable moments or we can cover them up, apportion blame elsewhere and minimise the effect of those choices. Sometimes however that’s just not possible. Such is this case. For the students, and hence parents involved there is no turning time backwards. I am sure they wish they could. I can only imagine the turmoil, the distress, and the recriminations; none of which change what happened. Aspersions against the schools of these students have been cast, no doubt some members of the public have taken great delight in doing so. Mud does stick and the actions of a few, affect so many.

The power of choice

I am reminded of the Stanford University rape case - where perpetrator and victim had the course of their lives irrevocably shaped and damaged through events that transpired following a ‘Frat’ party in January 2015. “Just twenty minutes of action,” as Brock Turner’s father offensively and unfortunately described his son’s sexual assault of an unconscious woman. The victim wrote an open letter describing the impact of Turner’s actions. At the time, Chicago Tribune journalist, Rex Huppke, wrote that he was saving the victim’s impact statement to share with his sons when they were old enough to understand what rape is so that he could emphasise that it is ‘only cowards [who] blame rape on alcohol or promiscuity.’ I trust that he will also remind his sons, when they are of age, that alcohol does not strip women naked, it does not drag them across bitumen roads nor does it commit the crime of rape. People do that. People make those choices. People perpetuate the myth also, that a drunken woman [or man] deserves whatever she [or he] gets.

In the tragic case that crept its way onto page nine of ‘The Australia’ today – we see that it is newsworthy but, by its placement, not considered essential news. Whilst page nine might not reach a plethora of readers, the social media frenzy will. Yet this is news that is important to note, because for those families affected, life has turned into an unexpected and frightening chapter. Here is a teachable moment for us, an opportunity to share this story and the consequences with our children – to discuss the way that choice can affect outcomes in life, sometimes irrevocably.

So what can we do in practical terms when we face the dilemma of parties and gatherings? A wise parent in America has created a social trend through his own creativity. He and his children have shaped a choice option – a code his children can use when they find themselves in a difficult or unsafe social situation that they cannot navigate out of. His children send a one word text code to their father and he replies with a text, ‘Please be out the front in fifteen minutes, something has happened at home and I need to pick you up, urgently.” It is a ‘save face’ mechanism where his children can opt out of a difficult situation, with dignity. Clearly, it is not a fail-safe mechanism that can put in use multiple times but it is indicative of a respectful joint understanding between parent and child. The idea has been adopted by thousands of American parents.

A tragic situation in Sydney has occurred. Sadly, it’s not a new story, or a new situation but social media adds its own new cruel and dangerous twist. The ripple effects will be felt by many, for a lifetime. As parents who care, we therefore need to tackle the hard conversations, set boundaries, and find safeguard mechanisms that allow our children to be social but sensible. We also need to exercise and demonstrate wise choices in our own lives and thus support our own daughters and sons, to do the same. There is no easy or magic formula to ‘teaching about choices,’ alas I wish there were. I admit, however, that this story hit a deep chord for me as a parent, a teacher and a principal – I hope for those who had time to read these reflections, that there are some threads of relevance for you too.

References:
Huppke, R. (2016) What my sons will learn from Brock Turner’s rape case at Stanford. Chicago Tribune www.chicagotribune.com ›

Osborne, S. (2016) Stanford University rape case: Victim’s letter in full. The Independent www.independent.co.uk ›

Richardson, G. (2017). ‘Incident reflects badly on parents’. The Australian. 22 March 2017, p.9.

‘Language Matters’ 17 March 2017

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.”

(Carrol, 1872, p.124 in Astington & Baird, 2005, p.4)

It can be argued that language matters and that it shapes thought. Dr Malcolm Davies, consultant from ‘Learning at Work’ who has begun to work with Fairholme in the development of its next strategic plan, would concur. As this newsletter goes to print he will have worked with staff, leadership team members, the Board of Directors, P&F, alumni and some small student groups – all in order to get an initial sense of Fairholme. There is more consultation to come.

He will be engaged with our school community often in the next few months, as he provokes, challenges and ultimately guides our planning into the next five years of Fairholme. As a participant in a number of the sessions that have been run, I know that for Malcolm, the language we use to describe our school matters a great deal. When we describe our school in print, each word matters because its meaning is often value-laden and can be interpreted or misinterpreted differently by each reader. We can, just like Humpty Dumpty, choose what it means and we also seek some universal understandings about Fairholme now – and into the future: a Future of uncertainties and possibilities.

Similarly, in our everyday responses to the situations that confront, or even affront us - we choose the language and intonation to shape and construct our response. We choose the glass half-empty or the glass half-full, as the cliché goes. In responding to the meaning of a conversation, an email, or a text, we choose to climb rapidly up the ladder of inference, or we don’t. The choice is ours. When we focus on the negative we subscribe in psychological terms to negative filtering (Brausen, 2014). When we do so, we are akin to the elite athlete who performs at an outstanding level and receives a plethora of positive feedback from teammates, coaches and fans but who focuses, almost obsessively, on the one piece of information that is slightly critical.

Words have power

In an age where the 20 to 30-something year olds have been coined as ‘the snowflake generation’ it is time to consider the way we enable, entitle or empower our children. How do we encourage them to choose words carefully and robustly, particularly their internal dialogue? Because if we don’t, if we soothe and smooth too much, we might find ourselves in a situation where life’s reality is filtered to such a point that, as at Glasgow’s Strathclyde University, where ‘students of forensic science are warned at the beginning of some lectures that sensitive images involving blood patterns, crime scenes and bodies etc will be in the presentation’ (Utley, 2017). In simple terms, we need, as do our children, a more resilient worldview and an ability to filter and reframe that which is confronting.

On a daily basis we are surrounded by people who choose (or don’t choose) their language carefully, not just in an explicit sense but also through their implicit self-talk. The soft whisper inside our head in a difficult situation that directs us to speak out or to remain silent, matters. The choices we make in our own self-talk when confronted with disappointment or, worse than that, a shameful situation – matter a great deal. The way we speak to others and, importantly, the way we speak to ourselves directs us unerringly to perspective of life, and inevitably to our sense of self. It is why, on last week’s assembly I reminded the senior girls as they enter their first significant period of formal assessment for the year, of the words of Australian Hockey player – Nikki Hudson. Nikki, along with her Hockeyroo team mates worked from the mantra of John F Kennedy: ‘We do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard’ and extrapolated them to an individual phrase: ‘I choose to do this because it’s hard, not because it’s easy.’

The language we use does matter. It affects the way we think, feel, and ultimately perceive our world. Importantly, our self-talk is the starting point for that perception. May our Fairholme girls become masters of positive filtering, of perseverance and resilient thinking that pushes them onwards when situations are difficult, challenging and confronting: ‘I choose to do this because it’s hard, not because it’s easy.’ Or … ‘I choose to do this because it is the right thing to do, the kind thing to do, the appropriate thing to do.’

Like Humpty Dumpty, they do, as do we, have the agency to make such choices - on a daily basis.

References:
Brausen, B. (2014). Seeing the Glass Half Full. Premier Sports Psychology www.premiersportpsychology.com ›

Clark, D. (2015). Your Negative Self-talk has Power. Choose Your Words Carefully. Speech transcript. www.iwillnevergiveup.com ›

Why Language Matters for Theory of Mind. (2005) Edited by Janet Wilde Astington, Department of Human Development and Applied Psychology, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada, and Jodie A. Baird, Department of Psychology, Villanova University, USA books.google.com.au ›

Utley, T. (2017). The most maddening thing about Generation Snowflake? They’re too bone idle to go out and buy the milk. Daily Mail. Australia. www.dailymail.co.uk ›

‘To Skip’ 3 March 2017

Skipping as a form of exercise and means of movement is as old as the Bible. It is mentioned in several places: for instance, Songs of Solomon says, “Behold he comes leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.” (Goldberg, 2011).

The whole school picnic cemented in my mind, the value of time without technology. On our inaugural whole school picnic morning we were treated to live music by some talented Fairholme girls, an artist in residence - thank you Leisl Mott, beautifully packed hampers and… skipping. Against the backdrop of the Spring Bluff there was a sense of a time warp, or perhaps Fairholme’s own Picnic at Hanging Rock. Fortunately, there were no missing students in wafty white dresses, and soon after midday as we headed back on our fleet of six buses; everyone, it seemed, was quite chuffed by the experience.

There was enlightenment and epiphany - ‘chill-out time’ is underrated. This notion was reinforced during a recent listening tour conducted by National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell, who discovered (not surprisingly) that ‘above all else’, children crave ‘chill-out time’ with their families. She found that children, just like us, feel too rushed and that there is simply too much on (Bita, 2016). Many picnic-goers commented that they could easily have spent another hour whiling away the time, as kids bushwalked, egg and spoon races took place and skipping for all ages drew its own enthusiastic crowds.

Some objective moments when I stood back and watched the 300-plus Fairholmites relaxing, conversing, sharing food and skipping… I noted that few phones were visible and most of those had become cameras, used to capture the novel moments of picnicking. Only the most hardened phoneophiles rigidly attached themselves to social media. It was easy to be transported back to childhood where a picnic was a much anticipated family treat, and to feel the most delicious sense of community: to simply cherish the chill-out. Who could not enjoy watching kids run freely, older girls turning the rope for younger ones, and groups gathered around our singers? There are some special moments as part of a school, and this was one. So simple (just joking Marita and cooking, baking, packing teams), so uncomplicated, and such a good reminder to put away our iPhones, iPads and other devices in order to enjoy some stillness, the company of others and perhaps a good dose of skipping.

It’s interesting to note that, parallel to this, there has been an upsurge of handball, hopscotch and skipping that has percolated its way into the Daisy Culpin courtyard after hours for our Boarder girls, as well as within the Junior School. In an act of back to the future, it seems that our girls are discovering and rediscovering the simplicity of play. Mike Lanza, the founder of a global ‘Playborhood’ movement is championing the power of screen-free play as a means of ‘cooped-up kids’ having the opportunity “to learn leadership skills, social skills, and about social justice, through making the rules of play and adjudicating any associated disputes” (Bita, 2015).

So here’s to skipping, picnics, and any other activities that reduce screen time, increase community time and allow us all to be more engaged and relaxed with those with whom we interact. Perhaps, after just one appearance, the Fairholme picnic could be an annual tradition… Why not?

References:
Bita, N. (2016). Kids are sponges for bad parenting The Weekend Australian. www.theaustralian.com.au ›

Bita, N. (2015). Uncage your kids and let them discover the world Nature Play Qld. 9 July 2015. www.natureplayqld.org.au ›

Goldberg, J. (2011). The Joy (And Benefits) Of Skipping The Huffington Post. www.huffingtonpost.com ›

‘Moments to Pause…’ 16 February 2017

It is no wonder that anxiety plagues the modern human. We seem hopelessly confused. We love our tools; we can’t stop creating new technologies, always disrupting our current comfort level with a new solution to a previously inconsequential problem. However, we also love to hate our tools. We blame them for our dissatisfaction. In particular, we’re conflicted about the way we’re tethered to our smartphones.
(Shapiro, 2014).

be-mindful.jpgAnd we are conflicted. A plethora of research into children’s usage of the technology found the inextricable link between parent usage and parent attitude to their children’s usage. Yes, you have guessed what I’m about to say next: our children are watching us, listening to us, and, as children do, following our example - or not. They continue to behave as adolescents do, only now it’s with an added technological layer.

So, as parents, attempting to model fantastic parenting skills at all times, we also need to modify our technological use, you know: not oversharing on social media, being careful custodians of our young children’s digital footprint until they are old enough to do the same, being respectful of others online and in person, knowing that if we want our adolescents to drive ‘unplugged’ then the least we can do, is to do the same (DeRosa, 2016). Not only do we need to demonstrate our own interest in being technology-free intermittently, we also need to pause.

Really, it is no surprise that the mindfulness movement continues to gain traction in a society where technological connectivity is the norm, not the exception. We need to pause, to know how to pause, and to enjoy those moments of pause. Pausing is, without doubt, a 21st century counter response to the snap, swipe, and send syndrome to which we all contribute.

We want our children to self-regulate their technological use but want to be able to contact them with immediacy when we need to contact them. We want them to contact us when they ‘said they would’, and panic when they don’t. And… we want (or should want) them to pause.

Next week at Fairholme there are some pause moments scheduled, albeit some noisier than one would typically associate with a recess in action. Our swimming carnivals are activities that take us all away from being plugged in; so, too, the welcome function for parents and Sunday’s picnic. I believe the Year 12 Leaders’ Induction ceremony is an opportunity for each and every Year 12 parent to celebrate, pause and self-congratulate on raising a child to the brink of adulthood. This is, without doubt, a moment to compare the anticipation of starting school to the anticipation of drawing its chapter to a close. Your presence at such events matters to your daughter/s, even if they don’t say so and even if they seem more drawn to their friends’ company than yours.

Yes, they continue to watch us and watch for us – absorbing and tucking away every word, action and reaction, for future reference. I do hope that for many, there will be an opportunity to pause and to join us on ‘the BIG weekend’ - a celebration of our community and your daughter/s - in real time, unplugged.

Being mindful doesn’t mean that we must sit contemplatively in a darkened room and meditate for 10 minutes (Dale, 2016), it is about attending to the moment we are in and being present, truly present. We owe it to one another to adopt the ability to pause, meaningfully.

References:
Dale, V. (2016). Press the pause button – how mindfulness can help reduce our own biases. www.thebigidea.co.uk ›

DeRosa, D. (2016). Practical Advice for Raising Kids in the Digital Age The Huffington Post ›

Shapiro, J. (2014) The Truth About Parenting And Smartphones www.forbes.com ›

Tsukayama, H. (2015). How we’re adjusting to parenting in the digital age www.washingtonpost.com ›

‘Janus: January at Fairholme’ 2 February 2017

And so we begin in 2017: a ‘Janus moment’ if you like, as we look forward to new beginnings, and also reflect back upon the distance travelled throughout one hundred years on this site. Last Tuesday, Fairholme students pinned their 100-year badge upon the collar of their summer uniform, a small symbol of a special year in the College’s history.

Fittingly, at the end of our Commencement Assembly for Middle and Senior School students, Year 1 to Year 12 gathered on the oval to form three concentric circles: Junior, Middle, Senior. A massive jump'n'jive followed, Old Girls Meg Hamilton and Annabelle Perrignon sang with impressive strength and stunning skill, the hundred-year cake was cut and the Heritage Trail was launched: quite the start for our year of celebration.

Sometimes in schools we are privy to the most special occasions: this was one. The Fairholme spirit was palpable. Our Seniors of 2016 who had returned for the assembly that also acknowledged their academic and vocational achievements, were drawn like a magnet to the jump'n'jive.

It was special too, as two of our significant old girls, Jocelyn Mercer and Heather Harrison, launched the opening of the Heritage Trail. They also joined in the cake cutting along with Harriet Gilshenan, Prep student and granddaughter of Old Girl and past teacher, Christine Gilshenan, along with Year 12 student representative, Phoebe Duncan, who began her schooling at Fairholme in kindergarten. Phoebe follows in the footsteps of her three older sisters, Georgina, Amelia and Cate, who graduated in 2015, 2010 and 2008, respectively. Do explore the link below to the DVD presentation creatively pieced together by Mr Sessarago.

We look forward to honouring our past through such special events as:

  • The Whole School Picnic
  • P&F Ball
  • Commemorative Assembly
  • Founders’ Day
  • Facets of Fairholme Art Exhibition

and we hope that you are able to support these occasions as they occur. Heightened participation will invariably add strength to our community and lay a robust foundation for our next one hundred years on site.

In the interim, I look forward to meeting with you at the Interhouse Swimming Carnivals, Whole School Picnic, Information Sessions, Seniors’ Induction Assembly and the Principal’s Welcome function that all occur over the Big Weekend in February.

Here’s to 2017, and the Janus paradox of looking forward to the next one hundred years whilst honouring all those who have paved the way before us.

‘2017 Welcome’ 20 January 2017

Dear Members of the Fairholme Family

Welcome to 2017: a special year in the life of the College and our community. On 17 July we mark the anniversary of one hundred years of Fairholme, on this site. This year especially, we have the opportunity to look forward to the future and back to the past, to consider our foundations and progress. It is a unique moment in the College’s history and we look forward to celebrating, reflecting and forward-casting with you. We embark upon our next phase of strategic planning - a consultative approach to engage our community, our inaugural Art Exhibition: Facets of Fairholme and a year of learning, for us all.

I especially welcome all new students and families who are beginning their Fairholme journey. May the year be rich in its challenges and rewards. Our teaching and boarding staff look forward to working with you and your child/ren throughout the year.

Since the beginning of the school year beckons, I ask that you keep a close look at the College Website or the Fairholme App for start-up details, or contact the administration office (07) 4688 4688 should you have any further queries.

Academic Achievements
By accessing our website you will note the strong academic achievements of the senior cohort of 2016. Whilst we will acknowledge the 2016 Senior cohort more formally at the Opening Assembly on Tuesday January 24, we express our pride in their accomplishments as well as appreciation of the work of our teachers and families who have journeyed with these young women. Our 2016 seniors have diverse and significant opportunities and we hold great faith in their future.

Similarly, we acknowledge the successes of our knockout Athletics team that competed at the National titles in Canberra in December. The intermediate team finished eleventh in their field. To compete at this national arena is testimony to the fine work of our Athletics coaches and we also acknowledge their commitment to the program throughout 2016. We look forward to a strong 2017 program.

Congratulations to Ellie Bowyer and Bella McLoughlin who competed at the Australian Secondary School Championships. Ellie again gained Gold in Javelin and Bella gained Bronze in the Hammer.

Year 9 student, Imogen Saunders, has achieved her best results at an Australian level in Pool Lifesaving, breaking personal best times and equalling 2nd in Under 14 Overall trophy, winning the Line Throw and coming 2nd in CPR. Furthermore, she was placed 3rd in Under 14 100m Obstacles and 3rd Under 14 100m Manikin Carry. Congratulations to coach Hayley Wolff for her work with the lifesaving team, and to Imogen for outstanding and promising results.

DrLinda Evans | EdD, MA, BEdSt, Dip T, MACE, MACEL