Welcome to Term 2
I warmly welcome all students and families to Term 2, including seven new students to the school.
We have also welcomed a number of new staff who are very excited to be at CGGS:
> Ms Felicity Carroll – JS & SS Digital Literacy Coordinator
> Dr Sue Mason – Years 7 and 8 Science Teacher and Tutor
> Ms Emily Hui – Year 7 Mathematics Teacher
> Ms Kim Yeomans – JS Library Teacher
> Ms Ellie Zarfarty – Year 2 Teacher (Ms Meagan Wilson is taking the class until 17 May 2019)
In addition, we were delighted to learn over the holidays that old grammarian, Dr Evelyn Chan is the recipient of the Emerging Women in Leadership Award 2019. Evelyn is a paediatrician and CEO of Smileyscope, a virtual reality experience that is transforming kids’ medical procedures by helping to distract young patients and overcome their fear of needles and other procedures. This innovative approach has been shared on a number of free to air news reports in recent weeks. Evelyn is also a Rhodes scholar.
Making Caring Common – Why caring for others is important.
Almost two months ago the world witnessed unconditional care in action.
Upon receiving the horrific news of the Christchurch massacre, the immediacy of New Zealand’s Prime Minister’s response has come to symbolise the power of restorative empathy and care. Jacinda Ardern’s call to her nation, for all people to be the best that they can be and to offer the depth of their own humanity to those who grieve, shone like a beacon during their darkest of days. Jacinda Ardern, in offering her own humanity, modelled her gift to care with empathic understanding. While at the same time she unapologetically called out those who cannot show tolerance to be unwelcome in a land that seeks peace, fairness and justice. New Zealand reminded the world that in caring, healing goes far deeper than words and is a sign of immense strength.
In 2014, psychologist Richard Weissbourd from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University led a study involving 10,000 secondary students aiming to ascertain how highly young people ranked concern for others over happiness and achievement. The results of the research project, Making Caring Common, were enlightening. Eighty percent of students identified self-interest over fairness; valuing achievement and happiness over caring for others, thinking their beliefs would mirror what their parents valued most for them. Conversely, 96% of parents said that above all they wanted their children to be caring.
These results pointed to a disconnect in the messages which parents were overtly or subliminally imparting to their children, whilst still valuing the importance of happiness, working hard and achievement. On one hand most parents gave strong credence to their commitment to raising caring children as a top priority whereas, in reality, the message being conveyed to, and internalised by their children, was that their happiness and achievements were of most importance.
Underpinning Harvard’s research project was the principle that to be caring is the core of what it means to be human. Weissbourd argues that for the common good of any given society, the community needs people who will look beyond self interest and co-operate for the betterment of all. As a consequence, this position has implications for parents, schools and others who raise, educate and work with children.
Whilst young people have an innate capacity to care, it needs to be nurtured and practiced. Adults have the responsibility of modelling and teaching caring and kindness, to raise respectful, fair, courageous and responsible children who care about service and justice to help them to become their ‘best self’ and contributing members of their communities.
Research shows that when schools teach social and emotional skills, including caring and kindness, students develop stronger relationships with each other. They learn to develop empathy and begin considering another’s perspective. They develop a deepening sense of obligation to one another and they learn to manage their own emotions and actions. Of significance is that these enacted behaviours increase student academic performance. Behaviours such as disrespectfulness, cheating and dishonesty also decrease when students prioritise fairness and caring over achievement and happiness. Overall, when a culture of care exists in schools the whole school functions better.
By prioritising care as a value, a range of positive life outcomes can follow, including career achievements and intimate relationships. Such is this belief, a significant number of universities in the United States are re-defining what it means to achieve. They are selecting students not just on the basis of their academic results, but on how they have made meaningful contributions to others, through community service and engagement with the public good during their secondary years.
In guiding young people to balance striving for happiness and achievement with being caring and ethical, Weissbourd suggests the following:
> Give young people ongoing opportunities to practise caring and helpfulness. With repetition, caring becomes second nature. Set daily tasks with the expectation that they will be completed without always being thanked; these could be as simple as setting the table for dinner or having a specific classroom job. Tasks can be made more challenging outside the home and school as young people’s capacities increase, broadening their spheres of concern.
> Encourage young people to express gratitude to those who are unassuming, but who make worthwhile contributions to their lives. This could be saying thank you to the staff in a restaurant or the bus driver on an excursion.
> Expect children to honour their commitments to develop their sense of duty.
> Assure children that to be caring and kind does not mean that they cannot stand up for themselves and be assertive. Kindness and advocacy are not mutually exclusive.
> Counsel young people to develop the skills and courage to know how to intervene when others need significant help, for example, befriending someone who is being teased, regardless of the social cost.
> Teach empathy by expecting children to listen attentively to the perspectives of others and to be cognisant and respectful of difference – those within in their immediate circle of family and friends and those in wider forums. Encourage them to be mindful of the feelings of others so they can respond appropriately in a variety of situations.
> Model ethical and moral behaviour, accepting that no-one is perfect or has all the answers. When adults are committed to fairness and justice and engaged in acts of caring, young people are positioned to adopt these values, especially when trust and respect are part of adult-child relationships.
> Help young people deal with negative feelings, such as anger, envy or shame, reassuring them that all feelings are part of a person’s make-up and teaching them how to manage detrimental feelings productively.
One of our most recognisable attributes as a school is the very warm sense of community at CGGS. This is a part of our fabric, it is intertwined throughout our history and remains a priority in our work today. We develop this further through living our motto ‘Utilis in Ministerium’ or ‘Useful in Service’ as we provide curricular and co-curricular opportunities to students and staff to practise caring about and serving others. This is a part of our Anglican heritage.
As a school we strive to work with parents to enhance each student’s potential to be compassionate, empathetic, courageous, responsible and ethical in all their relationships. We believe the spirit of these values helps define what it means to be successful in all other areas of learning and community life, with consequent happiness.
In conclusion, may I leave you with this thought…
During your next parent-teacher conversation consider asking, ‘Is my daughter mindful of all others in her class?’, in addition to asking how well she is achieving.
With best wishes,