20 March 2015
(originally published in the Queenwood newsletter)
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES, CONTRIBUTION, BALANCED EDUCATION, SERVICE, GLOBAL OUTLOOK, LEARNING FOR LEARNING'S SAKE AND INDEPENDENCE
At the end of Week Eight, I feel slightly less overwhelmed than at the end of Week Five, which is the date when I last wrote in this forum. One fact, however, remains true: I still feel that I am looking at the school with a reasonably fresh pair of eyes. If I had to narrow down what I have so far identified as the typical traits and characteristics of our students, it would probably boil down to something like this:
There is a definite sense of steeliness and determination about the girls, which completely defies any stereotype of private girls’ schools being a breeding ground for precious princesses. The girls I have met so far are defined by a sense of purpose, a very independent approach to work and extracurricular pursuits, a truly global and international outlook on life, a genuine interest in learning for learning’s sake and a very generous willingness to contribute to a wide range of activities and service projects and to volunteer their time and skills.
There are so many examples I could give for each of these traits. I was lucky enough to be present at the Head of the River, and I enjoyed the competitive spirit, the sporting attitude in victory and defeat, the community spirit so generously displayed by girls and parents and the skill of the rowers themselves. The participation rate at these events is highly impressive.
The global outlook on life is so amply represented in many big school projects: the long-standing commitment to Cambodia; the genuine interest of the Prefects in acknowledging the original landowners of Australia and investing time and resources in indigenous communities; the focus on Sydney’s young homeless people and the dedication of the Year 12 IB girls to initiate an Art Auction to support this cause as part of their CAS programme.
My IB Theory of Knowledge class continues to be a source of constant delight. Their independent and intelligent approach to learning is a pleasure to behold, and our discussions are always lively and reflect their awareness of current topics and universal questions. One recent topic was the use of stereotypes and whether these aid or hinder our understanding of history and human sciences. I was very pleased to discover on this occasion that the worst stereotype they could come up with was that Australians eat shrimps on a stick at a BBQ and that the stereotype of the humourless German was unknown to them. These discussions are great fun as well as educational, as they exemplify my belief in debating for the sake of it and learning to play with arguments and counter arguments to support or reject various knowledge claims.
Talking of Debating: it was a great pleasure for me to attend a couple of debates in the past two weeks where Year 10 and 11 girls debated on topics such as whether countries should be sanctioned for breaching human rights or whether sports clubs should be penalised for the behaviour of their players off-field. These cerebral activities can sometimes slip under the radar, but they are no less important for the girls’ development than the more prominent sporting achievements.
I was equally pleased to attend a concert last week, with 21 items, which showcased an impressive range of musical talent from a huge number of performers. The eclectic mix of music added to the charm of this event: where else can you hear a Taylor Swift song wedged between a Mozart sonata and a Bach concerto? The musical fun will continue until the end of term, with rehearsals for House Music in full swing. The House Music Festival itself, with a phenomenal 100% student participation rate, will take place on the final day of term for students only, but parents are warmly invited to the Preview Concert.
And finally a note on independence. I am always very pleased when girls pop into my office to raise a concern, make a complaint, offer praise, suggest improvement or try to initiate something new. Please do continue to encourage them on this path and discourage them from over-using you, their parents, to make these calls on their behalf. Your daughter should always feel safe in the knowledge that she will be listened to, and we will always be happy to be made aware of their views.