November 6, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

A few months ago, I read Julia Baird’s best-selling book, Phosphorescence and found it to be an inspiring book to read in lockdown.

Julia painted beautiful pictures of where we find phosphorescence in the natural world and then used it as an example of our need as humans to ‘find, nurture and carry our own inner, living light’. As I was reading, I also thought of the theme of ‘GLOW’ that our 2020 School Captains developed this year and the idea that we are often drawn to those people who emanate this – people who radiate warmth, a sense of goodness and joy.

Being forced to change our daily routines and practices during lockdown certainly made me think more clearly about my own priorities and I am sure that I was not alone in doing this. I am very energised by people (and particularly young people) and I gain great satisfaction from seeing others at their best; seeing them glow. So what makes people glow?

In Phosphorescence, Julia talks about the four powerful lessons for what makes people glow and they are all integral to our philosophy of developing the whole person at CGGS. These four lessons listed below, are embedded in our diverse programs, size of school and culture of our community:

> Paying attention – the importance of being present in the moment and really experience each interaction and opportunity

> Not underestimating the soothing power of the ordinary

> Seeking awe and nature

> Things like showing kindness, practising grace, embracing friends, imperfection, being bold and having faith

In witnessing the joy of our student and staff community reunite over recent weeks, it has again reinforced to me the importance of school communities and the richness of the relationships that are formed within them. Whilst there has been great debate over many years about the relevance of schools and the possibility of moving to an online mode, this year we have experienced first-hand why this type of change would not be ideal.

School communities are where relationships and shared experiences play a pivotal role in shaping the formation of young people. We value being connected and belonging, and this is not the same in an exclusively remote environment. The experiences gained throughout this year will certainly assist us to develop more blended models of learning, but school communities cannot be replaced. Even as I write this editorial, I am hearing the excited voices of young people outside my office engaging with each other and their teachers.

In both Junior School and Senior School, initially some students were nervous about resuming school onsite, but many have returned with a greater sense of independence and confidence in themselves and have settled well. We know that they have learnt some important lessons in self-regulation and building resilience through remote experiences this year.

Our students have definitely not lost seven months of schooling. Through the two phases of remote learning, we have not only provided continuous access to programs but have also adapted to changes in the learning environment. We have continued to provide rigorous, research-informed literacy and numeracy programs and the necessary resources to enable students to develop their skills. In older students, we have also sought to develop self-regulation skills through evidence-based approaches.We are very pleased with the progress of students across all year levels and have supported individual students as needed.

Some parents have asked about the Tutoring Program that is being financed by the Victorian Government. This program has been set up to support disadvantaged students. This includes students in low SES areas and/or where they have not had continuous access to learning programs. These students may have had limited or interrupted contact with their teachers, resources, internet access and other support.

Our students were fortunate to have had continuous access to purposefully designed learning programs alongside tailored wellbeing support and therefore will not qualify for this funding.

Whilst engaged in their academic programs, we will continue to focus on the development of the whole person at CGGS. The idea of us all being the best versions of ourselves so that we can glow, is an exciting part of our purpose as educators – as is the renewed valuing of connectedness and community in our schools.

With best wishes,

Debbie Dunwoody