“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
And what is the school’s role in enabling both strength and courage in the face of an increasingly complex world?
As a school, we aim to do what we can to prepare our students for long term success – far beyond temporary indicators like NAPLAN and the Higher School Certificate.
While concentrating on the creation of engaging and well focussed daily lessons, a school dedicated to the future of its students must keep an eye on where these same students will go after school, and what they will need to be able to do to be successful and competitive.
“In a world of rapid change, young people need the right mix of skills to thrive. Access to information is increasing, and memorizing facts is less important today than in the past. Although academic skills remain important, they are not sufficient to foster thoughtful, productive, and engaged citizens. Young people everywhere need to develop a greater breadth of skills to evaluate and apply knowledge in ways that meet the new demands of our changing social and economic landscape. Skills like communication, teamwork, critical thinking, and flexibility have always been important for work and life. But they will be even more crucial for future generations.” Stanford Social innovation Review.
This means that sometimes lessons and the classroom will look very different to those experienced by our students’ parents and grandparents. It means that students will often be out of the “normal” classroom, working in teams, viewing and making visual presentations, exploring their world and this can be quite disconcerting to an adult who has an idea of what education should look like from their own experiences.
This can be quite alarming for some parents.
Obtaining knowledge, is no longer the sole key to succeeding in the workplace. Personal attributes and the ability to keep personal matters in order are becoming more and more important. Students need to be able to manage their lives and function as responsible members of society.
This means that our students must be prepared to deal with setbacks, difficulties and even (temporary) failure if they wish to be successful.
The paradox that you need to have failed to be successful has never been more true than today.
That means that we need to give our students the opportunity to grow into a world that will not always be kind, will not always immediately recognise their skills, will not always be fair and will not always lay out a red carpet for them.
How can a graduate who has never “done it hard” survive when parents and teachers are not there to rescue them?
How much damage to a young person’s future is done when he/she has never had to accept responsibility for his/her actions?
Some may have noted the newsletter that John Collier, Headmaster of St Andrews Cathedral School, sent to parents and was then picked up by the media. His example of parents who refuse to allow their children to learn to be responsible for their actions included: A middle school parent once told him that 13 staff members who had observed his daughter committing an offence were all lying, as his daughter said she was innocent.”It is very hard to make progress with this level of unreality,” he wrote, adding that parents needed to avoid working themselves up over single incidents involving their children.
Terms like “Helicopter” parenting” and the more recent “Lawnmower” parenting have been developed to describe parents whose desire for their children to have a perfect life becomes an obsession that actually damages the child’s opportunity for future success.
Unfortunately, this attitude can not only damage the child but also damage the critically important relationship between the family and the school.
Angry or defensive parents can seek to blame individual teachers and the school for any incident that might cause their child some discomfort.
And this is where the principal and his team have to act. We have a responsibility under WHS legislation to make our school a place where staff are safe. And that means that we cannot allow parents, guardians, carers etc to behave in a manner that not only sets a bad example to their child but compromises the capacity of the teacher and school to do its job.
Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it Proverbs 22:6
If any parent is in doubt as to who they need to speak to if they have an issue with the school or what the school accepts as appropriate behaviour, I suggest that they look at our online guide to parent contact and behaviour.
Mr Terry Muldoon
Principal, St Columba Anglican School