Welcome to my blog site.
The purpose of this page is to provide the School with an opportunity to ask me a question and I will answer it for you.
If it is a question pertinent to just you I will send you a confidential response. If it is a question that many people would like to know the answer to I will post the response on this page.
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6 September 2013
125 Acres of Surprises
I am often asked what sets us apart from other schools. My response is our Pastoral Care programs and focus on educating the whole child.
Pastoral Care at St Paul’s School includes the Leadership, Employability Skills and Development Program (LEAD). This program is unique - it has been developed and written in response to considerable research by our own staff.
In his book, “Why not the best schools?”, Brian Caldwell calls on schools to have clearly defined values, beliefs and attitudes. He stresses the importance of student wellbeing as a priority and encourages schools to put in place numerous strategies to support the needs of their students. He also encourages schools to focus on the education of the “whole” student by focusing on academic achievement and providing opportunities for students to gain knowledge, skills and experiences that can be used in all areas of their lives. Furthermore, he stresses the importance of a school having a strong moral purpose and shared understandings about learning and life.
Caldwell states that effective Pastoral Care programs support student wellbeing and ensure that all students feel secure and confident so that they can learn successfully. Such programs are likely to provide an avenue for tracking the individual needs of students, leading to more personalised learning programs.
The LEAD program addresses these challenges. Every student in Years 7-12 attends six sessions of LEAD each term. The program is taught through the students’ tutor groups, strengthening the relationships and bonds that exist between the students and the staff within their House group. These relationships, along with the LEAD program, encourage and nurture students to lead a life of significance. This is a key difference between St Paul’s School and other schools.
27 August 2013
125 Acres of Surprises
St Paul’s is the only Australian School that is a member of World School
The mission of St Paul’s School is to prepare balanced global citizens with a heart for servant leadership. To be successful, our young people need to appreciate and have the skills to live and contribute positively to a global community, not just their local community.
Our International School is a powerful opportunity for our domestic students to make friends with international students and to learn about and appreciate the rich diversity of cultures that make up our global community. In addition to our fulltime international students from all four corners of the world, we regularly host study tours from our sister schools in China, Japan and Korea. These visits are reciprocated, giving our young people the opportunity to see the world in which they live.
In addition to these opportunities, St Paul’s School is the only Australian member of World School; a conglomerate of 22 schools from across the globe. Each year schools select three representatives to attend the World School forum. This year the forum is being held in Japan in October/November. Students prepare presentations to showcase their country and culture. They then spend a week preparing for a debate. The debate centres around a global environmental issue. This year the topic is Housing and Culture: Communities and Quality of Life. Students from across the globe are examining how communities have been impacted by technology and how our expectations, needs and values have changed with respect to housing.
This year our Year 11 students Vivien Balmer, Matthew Rodin and Tahmid Rahman have been selected to represent not only St Paul’s School, but also Australia at World School. They will be outstanding ambassadors and we wish them every success.
21 August 2013
125 Acres of Surprises
“Designed to fail” is a term that our Design Technology staff use regularly, and a term that is influencing other areas of teaching at St Paul’s School.
We are blessed to have an outstanding Design Technology Centre: four design labs running CAD software and the latest technology that can be found in the industry (a CNC router, laser cutter, vacuum former, 3D milling machine, 3D printer, six welding bays and an industrial spray booth, to name but a few).
The focus is on design; students are given a problem to which they are to design and create a prototype solution. The focus is not about the creation of a “perfect” product, but on solution finding, evaluation, and yes, failing. Students learn to learn from their failures. They are encouraged to take risks, try something new, and have another go if their design fails. In doing so, they not only learn about design, problem solving and manufacturing but also about resilience and persistence; the essence of true innovation. As such, it is remarkable to see what the students are able to create. Why not come in and have a look at the display we have in the Tooth Building foyer at the moment?
17 June 2013
125 Acres of Surprises
I love showing people around our Pre-Prep Facility; it is just such a beautiful building and a wonderful environment for young people to learn. Anyone who has visited can attest to this. However, I don’t just love showing people the building because it is beautiful, but because of the powerful story behind it.
At St Paul’s we have the vision to be leaders in educational thinking and practice. What that means for our students is that we are constantly challenging ourselves to do better in the classroom. Three years ago, through our Centre for Research, Innovation and Future Development we offered a research grant to any interested staff member. The purpose of the grant was to research best practice in early childhood education. The recommendation of that research was to implement a Reggio Emilia “inspired” program at St Paul’s School.
Reggio Emilia is a town in Italy. The people of that town have been running an amazing early childhood program for decades that treats young children as valuable young people, designing learning programs around their interests and passions. It is internationally renowned. However, you cannot transpose that program directly into an Australian context because, after all, this is Australia; hence Reggio Emilia “inspired”.
From there we engaged an architect to design the building and appointed staff who were trained in “Reggio”. It is just a great story, illustrating the depth of thought, research and planning that goes into what we do at St Paul’s School to be leaders in educational thinking and practice.
11 June 2013
125 Acres of Surprises
I am constantly amazed at the heart our students have for people other than themselves. We often underestimate the depth of empathy and compassion young people have for others, or perhaps as parents we don’t see it because they are being “typically adolescent”. Aside from the huge range of community service activities our students are involved in through our Service Learning Program, is the regular visit from the mobile Blood Bank.
Ivor Church, one of our ten Houses, has year-after-year taken it upon themselves to organise the Blood Bank’s visit. Each time, countless students and staff book in to donate blood. The faint-hearted aren’t put off; students put aside their fear of a needle to give of themselves so someone else might benefit greatly from their generosity. They might even be saving a life.
The Blood Bank’s next visit to St Paul’s School is on Thursday 1 August 2013.
4 June 2013
125 Acres of Surprises
For this reason, St Paul’s School offers a broad and rich range of extra-curricular activities: team sports, music ensembles, cadets, debating, drama, art, chess, mountain biking, Interact Club, Duke of Edinburgh - the list is almost endless! In the 2012 Year Book there were photos of 172 different extra-curricular groups or teams. To be part of our extra-curricular program is to be a valued member of our community.
As a parent of two children at St Paul’s School (one of whom finished last year), I can attest to how they benefited greatly from the opportunities presented to them. They have been able to express who they are, follow their passions, and be part of a community that values them as individuals.
I was in a taxi last week. I got chatting with the driver. He asked me to guess where he came from. I was a little unsure.
He told me that his mother came from Kuwait and his father from India. He has been in Australia for five years.
He told me that he wasn’t married but was planning to get married in March next year. However, he didn’t know who to; he was leaving that to his parents to decide; it was to be an arranged marriage. This led us to speculate about the cultural differences between India and Australia. Interestingly, fewer arranged marriages end in divorce than marriages in Australia. Why is that?
He made what I thought to be a profound observation on our society. He said that Australians are so consumed with teaching our children to be independent whereas in India they teach their children to live for each other. Perhaps the whole concept of independence has created greater selfishness, so much so that we forget that a higher sense of self-worth is realised when we serve others. Family and community mean so much more in India.
What is the message of Easter; well there are many. But one key message and result of Calvary is that Christ died so we might no longer continue living for ourselves, independent of God, but we can live dependent on Him. When we do, a higher sense of self-worth is realised.
Listening to others
Each term we have had a theme linked to the 16 habits of highly effective learners. This term is no exception - good learners listen with understanding and empathy. Highly effective people spend an inordinate amount of time simply listening (Covey, 1989). And this is not just listening as in waiting for a turn to speak and then putting across your own point of view, but listening to really hear and understand what the other person is thinking and feeling. Senge (1994) suggests that to truly listen is to pay close attention to what is being said behind the words - you listen not only to the “music”, but also to the essence of the person speaking.
Good learners, and indeed the people we tend to naturally gravitate to, are those who have learnt the art of good listening. They seek to understand who we are and what we are feeling. They are attentive to us, seeking not to give advice, but to hear where we are at. This term is a time to encourage students to spend time listening, to ask clarifying questions and to paraphrase back to the speaker what they think they have heard. Listen for understanding and empathy.
“Listening is the beginning of understanding… Wisdom is the reward for a lifetime of listening. Let the wise listen and add to their learning and let the discerning get guidance” Proverbs 1:5
Easter is a message of relationships restored
Prior to Christ, no-one could enter the presence of God. The centre of worship for the Israelite people was the temple. At the temple’s heart was a place known as the Holy of Holies. No-one except the High Priest could enter that space; the rest of the people were cut off by a great curtain.
Mark, in his gospel, recounts the death of Jesus in chapter 15 verse 37 and 38, “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”
A while ago, a good friend of mine did something deeply hurtful to me, something terribly wrong. It broke my relationship with him. Why was it that I could no longer be in a good relationship with him? Was it because I was waiting for justice to be done, for a consequence to be handed down for his actions so I would be satisfied that he had paid the price? Or was it because I was holding onto the deep hurt and resentment that I felt that prevented me from approaching him, and indeed him knowing that I was harbouring such anger?
Forgiveness is such a strange and misunderstood concept. Many people believe that forgiveness is about the other person no longer having to face the consequences for their actions – that we let them off the hook when we forgive them. The truth is that forgiveness is about the person hurt, or wronged, letting go of all those ill feelings and not allowing them to consume them anymore; allowing them to restore a broken relationship. But how hard is that to do? Incredibly hard, and the deeper the hurt the harder it is to forgive.
God has so much to resent in us. We have constantly turned our backs on Him and chosen to live life our own way. How can He let all that go for all of humanity and then allow us to enter His presence, the Holy of Holies? He did. He forgave us and has let all that ill feeling go so we know that we can be in a right relationship with Him. Does this mean that there was no justice, no consequence? Of course not, but God’s amazing grace was offered in the sacrifice of His Son - he paid the price. At that exact moment the great curtain in the temple was torn in two allowing everyone to enter the Holy of Holies.
During this Easter period, is there someone who you are not in a right relationship with because of the hurt that you are carrying?
What are your aspirations for your children?
As a parent of two children, my wife and I have certain aspirations for our children. These aspirations play a significant part in the decisions we make on their behalf, including which School they should go to.
Last Friday night we held our New Families Welcome. Over 250 people came along; new parents and families as well as existing families, staff and students. It was a wonderful community event. I met with many of those new parents, asking what their aspirations were for their children in sending them to St Paul’s School.
Some of the responses included:
• “to grow into a fine young man”
• “to enjoy it, to love it, to embrace all the opportunities that the School has to offer”
• “to be an all-round person”
• “to reach his/her potential”
St Paul’s School offers a holistic education, focusing on every student’s social, emotional, physical, spiritual and academic development. Certainly the parents who attended the night were excited by what the School has to offer and what it values. Their aspirations for their children helped determine where they ultimately decided to send their children.
As for the aspirations my wife and I have for our children, they are not dissimilar to what was mentioned above. That is why they go to St Paul’s School.
ABC has been running some great shows on education over the last month. One of those was titled “Revolution in the Classroom” on Four Corners. The show gave compelling evidence that quality student outcomes are inherently linked to quality teaching; and quality teaching includes the quality of professional relationships that teachers build with the students, ie. pastoral care.
While the evidence presented in the show is not new, it did provide wonderful encouragement for what we have been focusing on under our Strategic Plan and our vision to be leaders in educational thinking and practice.
- a comprehensive appraisal tool;
- quality professional development through the Centre for Research, Innovation and Future Development; and
- coaching from our Heads of Learning and Head of Professional Learning.
- Couple this support for teachers with our strong focus on pastoral care and the development of each student’s social, emotional and spiritual being, St Paul’s School is a place we can be excited and proud about.
Why do people run red lights?
I see at least one person everyday who runs a red light. Are they so busy that they are willing to jeopardise their own life and the lives of others? Has life become so out of control that they cannot wait for just a few more moments to reach their destination?
A number of years ago, my family and I moved to New Zealand for a three month sabbatical. We lived in Wellington, in a suburb called Karori. Our children went to school in the centre of the town at St Mark’s Anglican School. The drive from our home to the school was a 20minute one, down a narrow, windy road which was always clogged with slow moving traffic.
For our first few days driving the kids to school we found it incredibly frustrating; cars in front of us would let other traffic from side streets into the long queue that wound its way down the mountain. Each time this happened we felt somewhat incensed; this gesture would surely make us later than we needed to be. However, what we soon found was that it didn’t matter; it didn’t actually add any time to our trip at all. In fact, after a week we decided to change our behaviour and let waiting cars into the queue as well. Still, this did not add any time to our trip but brought much joy to our drive.
Life has got out of control if we have to speed and run red lights.