On Strowan // Issue 6 // September 2020
"While we are all facing disappointments, frustrations and anxieties, we do have a choice in how we respond to these."
The end of Term 3 has been particularly busy with the wrap up of winter sports and some cultural activities. St Andrew’s College has had more than our fair share of representation in finals over the last two weeks, which is testimony to the passion and commitment of both students and staff involved. With much uncertainty in the wider context, COVID-19, political and economic implications, it is great that students have been able to focus on their studies and co-curricular activities. While there has been some disruption to usual events, the level of competition and participation has been as busy as ever and there has been much gratification in students achieving so well.
Last week I participated in a two-hour online Microsoft Teams meeting with a group of eight school principals, four New Zealand and four Australian. We had planned our annual ‘retreat’ to be hosted in Christchurch, however of course we had to be satisfied with an online, truncated alternative. Three of the principals involved are heads of large independent Melbourne schools. These schools have lost six months of face-to-face learning time in 2020 and it was sobering to hear of the challenges they are facing and the impact on their students. A wise piece of advice from one principal was to focus on what you can control. While we are all facing disappointments, frustrations and anxieties, we do have a choice in how we respond to these. Many of our students are setting a great example, grateful they are able to be physically at school, preparing for examinations, using their time wisely, enjoying their co-curricular sports and cultural activities, feeling gratitude for what they can still enjoy rather than feeling angry or sad at imposed restrictions. ‘Focus on what you can control’ is wise advice indeed in uncertain times.
Last week the Board held their sixth meeting for the year. We were interested to hear from Roger Dennis who has three children at St Andrew’s. Roger, a consultant in foresight, innovation, and large scale change, presented an interesting macro-level context for the challenges we will all experience over the next few years. Agility, resilience, and innovation feature as critical areas of focus for all employees and businesses in this volatile environment and schools are no different. Our fundamental responsibility, is to grow good young people as clearly stated in our mission statement: “Together, building better people, for life.” In these challenging times our world-view should be grounded in realistic optimism, where we fully understand the changing forces at play, while at the same time we must empower our young people with a sense of hope, self belief, and agency.
At St Andrew’s we have much to be optimistic about. Our indicative school roll for 2021 is larger than ever, with an extra Year 9 class anticipated; staff are positive, focused, and energetic in their encouragement and support of students and their learning; student achievement data indicates most are well on track to meet their 2020 goals; students are displaying attributes such as resilience, self regulation, leadership, initiative, and positivity; co-curricular success is widespread and indicative of positive student engagement.
Despite this I know staff, students, and parents are all dealing with extra stress and hence I hope wherever possible the upcoming break will provide some time for renewal before the busy final term of 2020.