‘In Principal’

‘In Principal’ 2019

We Need To Talk About… 7 March 2019

When Maree Crabbe ventured fearlessly into the contentious topic of pornography at a community session for parents, just over a week ago, she used the phrase: ‘it’s time we talked about …’ Whilst she was referring explicitly to pornography at the time, she also emphasised that the way in which parents talk with their children about weighty subjects makes such a difference. Further, she implored parents in the room to regulate their children’s technology use, an echo of #stymie founder Rachel Downie who advocates for the use of the internet management system, Family Zone, in and out of school.

As I have indicated in previous newsletters, pornography is considered the most significant sex educator for many young people (more than 90% of boys aged 13 to 16 had seen online porn before smartphones even existed). Given that the nature of contemporary pornography is graphic, aggressive in nature, and typically constructs women negatively and in a derogatory manner, it is a subject that warrants discussion, warrants filtering from private devices we purchase and pay for, and it will not go away simply through our will for it to do so. Just because it is tough to talk about does not grant us permission to ignore it, or rely solely upon schools to take full responsibility.

Whilst there are moments in a session with Maree Crabbe that are akin to a root-canal filling with or without anaesthetic, she speaks with great knowledge and wisdom. Pertinently, she speaks with concern for females whose construction in the world of ubiquitous pornography renders them helpless, as victims, and as hapless targets for male predators. Before you shudder in the same way I did when I saw the word pornography as core to the program at last year’s Alliance of Girls’ Schools Conference, be reassured that all effective parenting, now and before us, is based upon good relationships and an understanding of those teachable moments when we do need to talk about that which we find uncomfortable, or difficult. Further, venturing into conversations around respect, consent, critically literate approaches to technology use; and gender equality, all lay the groundwork for a positive sense of self – especially when these values and ideas are modelled consistently within the family home.

I thank those Fairholme parents who bravely joined others from across the region to hear Maree’s insights and wisdom. In being there, or for others who have wandered onto Maree’s website www.itstimewetalked.com, you have taken strong strides towards empowering both yourself and your children within this difficult space. We do need to keep communication lines open with our children; we do need to model respect in our relationships with all; we do need to utilise everyday examples in media as springboards for discussion; and we do need to consider our children’s access to technology. It is time we talked …. about things that matter, about our values and about gender, remembering that we are collectively seeking to raise confident, resilient and strong women.

For all parents who are keen to be active in the monitoring of their daughter/s privately owned technology, and thus to enable those conversations where teachable moments lurk, I have included, again, information regarding the internet management system: Family Zone.

  • Fairholme is using Family Zone to manage internet access by students while their laptops are at school.
  • Fairholme College wants students to be protected on the internet, no matter what device they are on or what source of internet they are using. Therefore we have arranged for parents to have access to the Family Zone’s Mobile Zone app to manage internet access on College-supplied laptops when students take them home and also for use on privately owned devices (such as mobile phones).
  • The school is covering the cost and has already installed the Mobile Zone app on all college supplied laptops. However you do still need to create a Family Zone account if you wish to manage your daughter’s laptops when connected to the internet at home – *an annual fee may apply.
  • If you would like to upgrade your Family Zone account, to cover privately owned devices and/or other children in your home, please contact their friendly Support Team on 1300 398 326 or refer to Fairholme’s Cyber Safety Hub

Peering Into The Future, Now21 February 2019

I could never have imagined that my first taste of avocado as a ten year old, would foreshadow a penchant for its creamy fruit. I remember my mother spreading its greenish-yellow flesh onto buttered toast and me falling for the taste, instantaneously. My father was appalled. At that time he had no avocado palate. Of course none of us could have imagined the prime place of smashed avocado on every café menu across the country from the dawn of the twenty-first century. Neither could I have possibly envisaged that I would spend part of December of 2018 reading a book entitled The Land Before Avocado. Thanks, Richard Glover, for providing a captivating view of my past and hence a humbled view of the present and its future. The avocado boom was an impending trend that passed my crystal-balling abilities. Yet the future is always a tantalising space; we like to speculate about it, imagine it, and, if we are brave enough – we attempt to predict its path.

It is an oft-asked question, ‘What’s the future of education?’ It’s the billion-dollar question really, and, if I could possibly provide an erudite response, I would. Alas, I suspect the future is already amongst us, the technologies and approaches we dreamed of just a year ago are with us and before us. Last Tuesday, I strolled through the Greta Centre and watched as our Year 10 cohort engaged in their Specialist Elective … STIMulated for those girls dabbling in the technologies of virtual reality, 3D printers and innovative, entrepreneurial problem-solving. Somewhere off campus, girls were undertaking their first taste of avionics. Others were working with the Mater Hospital for a serious foray into the practical application of health science, whilst some dedicated fitness fanatics began a certificate in that discipline. My list of the specialist electives is not exhaustive but, significantly, what struck me was that I had that unique sense of strolling through the future, whilst being very much within the present. As Ashleigh Brilliant reminds, the trouble with education is that the future is not what it used to be.

And it’s not. Although I was born long before smashed avocado was a diet staple, I see it as a tasty metaphor for the pop-up shop, app development, on-line culture this young generation inhabits. Through these mechanisms, I get to peer into, and journey through, the future. Don’t imagine for a moment that this techno-rich culture defines adolescents’ world in an absolute sense. It doesn’t. Having watched the Equestrian Team in action on Saturday and the Laura Geitz Netballers on Sunday, I’m appeased and heartened that there are other elements that drive their worlds – sport, music, reading, conversing … the list meanders onwards.

But, in thinking of the paradox of future dreaming, the master-planning process Fairholme is very much about imagining the future, now. It is about that heady experience I enjoyed last Tuesday during the Specialist Elective sessions – of navigating the future whilst existing in the present. Mrs Mavis Foote – a student of the College in its early years – said that Spirit was the greatest feature of Fairholme, but she also added this: ‘We left that School with a feeling that it had affected our whole lives. We were given certain principles to follow on which to base our lives. What better can a school do than to feed the present but to lay a guiding hand on the future?’ That is the essence of masterplanning – not pushing our own ‘here and now’ barrow of what we want, but, in the exquisite words of Nelson Henderson, we are planting trees, under whose shade we do not expect to sit … Thus, as we journey through our master-planning process with Brisbane firm: m3architecture, we will be laying a guiding hand into the future and planting metaphoric trees under whose shade we may not ever sit.

I am hoping that many will take up the opportunity to engage in this process and be part of our Town Meeting scheduled for 6.30pm on 23 April. On this evening M3architecture will work with us to glean an understanding of our collective vision for Fairholme’s built environment. Churchill encapsulated this in 1944 when he stated, ‘We shape our buildings, and afterwards, our buildings shape us.’ There are many ‘smashed avocado’ opportunities for the Fairholme of the future and I trust that you earmark this date and enjoy the chance to explore the fabric of our future Fairholme community.

‘Nothing we can do can change the past, but everything we do changes the future.’ Ashleigh Brilliant.

To Begin… 8 February 2019

I admit that I love the beginnings of school years: the energy that is palpable, the influx of new faces and the learning possibilities for all. I find it exciting. But I could easily swing into nervousness rather than excitement if I so chose – and it is my choice.

Beginnings bring opportunity but they also bring change and change itself is often seen as daunting. Whilst parents may embrace the start of a new school year after weeks of, ‘What are we going to do today?’ or ‘Can I?’ or ‘I’m bored’ conversations, others may not. Implicit in beginning, fear may lurk – because for some, starting at a new school is the biggest change they have ever confronted. Quite simply, starting at Fairholme is an act of bravery for some of our new students and their families. Exchanging a distance education classroom sited in your family home hundreds of kilometres from a city for the middle school at Fairholme is a significant change; leaving the security of a school where you know every single teacher, student and those students’ parents constitutes change; and so, too, sending your daughter overseas to an unknown homestay family is an act of trust. Thus, for many parents (even those who have grown weary of the ‘can’t we do something exciting today’ conversations) – the beginning of a school year can bring other change complexities and realities.

Similarly, each staff member and student who began the term at Fairholme last week could be placed somewhere on the sliding scale between anxiety and excitement. Whilst the physiological symptoms are the same – heightened heart rate, butterflies fluttering in one’s stomach, sweaty palms, restless sleep – the words we attribute to each of those emotions are very different. As we know, cognitive behaviour therapists tell us that the way we think directly links to the way we feel. When our self-talk or conversations are negatively based, invariably so too are our feelings. Change your thoughts. Change your feelings.

Recently, I asked my wise mother about how she had dealt with my three sisters and me leaving home, travelling overseas, living in different states of Australia, and her considered answer was, ‘I’ve never spent time worrying about the things I cannot change, I’ve just accepted them and got on with things.’ And she has. I envy the straightforward and resolute worldview of my mother. Like others of her vintage she has lived through a world war, a depression, recessions and personal tragedies – I value her clear perspective on things. Leigh Sales’ book Any Ordinary Day: What Happens After the Worst Day of Your Life? reminds that …. ‘to spur growth, it [the change] must be seismic; it must shake you to your core and cause you to fundamentally rethink everything you believe. The higher the level of stress caused by the event, the greater the potential for change.’ I am eternally hopeful that beginning at Fairholme does not, will not, on any measure, equate to anyone’s worst day of their life but I am cognisant that for some – travelling thousands of kilometres from another country to be here; leaving family; exchanging a classroom in a different sub-school or meeting hundreds of new students – can be daunting, confronting and, depending on the situation, life-changing.

Whilst Sales’ book speaks to tragic events, it also relates directly to the notion of beginning again after a significant change of direction, traversing the unanticipated fork in the road, or venturing into a foreign context. She explores the positives that can follow momentous change and the way in which stress can be used for good. For some of us, stress propels us forward, it provides the impetus to begin, and it can allow us to achieve at our highest level. Yet, the words and feelings that we attribute to stress often brand it erroneously. Stress can also paralyse us and render us frozen, and we have to work hard to navigate our way forward to a new perspective. Change your thoughts. Change your feelings. Look up, look ahead, and channel an optimistic perspective as you do, because ahead of us lie myriad opportunities for growth and great potential to change positively.

The energy of classrooms; the Year 12’s launch into 2019; our Boarders’ trip to Wet and Wild; the first forays into new subjects; the anticipation of a school musical, school camps on the horizon; and the selection of sports teams … so much has already begun and so much has yet to begin. May the sliding scale of excitement verses anxiety nudge its way closer to excitement on every count as we begin a new year, embrace new experiences, and look forward to the changes that can occur when we seek out opportunity and allow any stress we feel to be a propellant and not a repellent. As we begin again, or begin anew, may we remember that we have already taken the largest and most difficult step.

After all, ‘The beginning is the most important part of the work’ (Plato, The Republic).

Dr Linda Evans | EdD, MA, BEdSt, Dip T, MACE, MACEL