From the Principal

From the Principal

The end of Term one has come quickly and I’m sure many in the community are looking forward to the two week break from classes after this short but intense term. The holidays will provide time to look back and reflect on what has been a very positive Term here at Salesian College Chadstone. Time appears to fly in schools, especially in short terms, as it only seems like yesterday that we were welcoming the new Year 7 students into the school, celebrating our opening school mass, and thinking about moving into the new Arts Wing. Much has been achieved since that time with lots of work having now been completed and a great deal of joy shared.

For most of us the upcoming break provides a chance for a well-earned rest and a much needed change of pace. We hope that you are able to join us in reflecting on what has been a very busy, but purposeful beginning to the school year. I hope we can all look back on the term with a sense of satisfaction and pride. We thank God for all the joys, hopes and struggles that the new year has presented and we pray that as a community we will continue to celebrate our individual and collective successes, whilst working together through the tough times that come our way.

With the holidays comes Easter, the most significant week in the Christian calendar. Easter is a time we recall and celebrate the Easter Mystery, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The events of Easter are central to our Christian faith and the basis for our mission as a Catholic College of bringing our students to a deeper understanding and faith in Jesus as our God and savior. We hope all in the community have a reflective and holy Easter, and that we all enjoy the break from our normal routine. We hope our students and their families take the time to enjoy each other’s company and celebrate the holy week as it should be celebrated.

As stated previously we encourage all senior students to use the break from scheduled classes positively, by studying, revising, summarising or just catching up with work covered in Term 1 as well as preparing for what will be a busy Term 2.

There have been many things to be thankful for this term which have been reflected on weekly in this column. These activities have continued right up to the end of term with the Hall of Fame Dinner held last Friday evening. We were joined by 100 guests, made up of past and present students, current staff and the Chadstone Salesian community. It was a wonderful evening of reminiscing and sharing stories as well as celebrating the achievements of five wonderful Chaddy boys. I would like to thank all in attendance, Mr Bryce McGain as MC for the night, Ms Suzie Mc Ervale as organiser and the myriad of staff who assisted her in bringing this night together. I would also like to congratulate and thank the members of the senior band for their performance on Friday night, led well by Mr Damon Brunton, set up by Mr Adam Croft as they did a great job. Also to Year 11 student, Jack Robertson for his solo performance which brought the gathering to silence where you could have hear a pin drop. It was a true Salesian celebration.

I reflect this week on a fascinating article I read during the week, written by Maria Popova about a psychologist, Angela Duckworth, who provedempirically that persistence and hard work are a better indicator of success than natural ability. The author sites a number of examples in creative history where the secret of genius is doggedness rather than “god”-given talent, from the case of young Mozart’s upbringing to E. B. White’s wisdom on writing to Chuck Close’s assertion about art to Tchaikovsky’s conviction about composition to Neil Gaiman’s advice to aspiring writers.

Angela Duckworth has done more than anyone for advancing our understanding of how self-control and grit — the relentless work ethic of sustaining your commitments toward a long-term goal — impact success.

Duckworth began her graduate work by studying self-discipline. But when she completed her first-year thesis, based on a group of 164 eighth-graders from a Philadelphia middle school, she arrived at a startling discovery that would shape the course of her career: She found that the students’ self-discipline scores were far better predictors of their academic performance than their IQ scores. So she became intensely interested in what strategies and tricks we might develop to maximize our self-control, and whether those strategies can be taught. But self-control, it turned out, was only a good predictor when it came to immediate, concrete goals — like, say, resisting a cookie. Tough writes:

Duckworth finds it useful to divide the mechanics of achievement into two separate dimensions: motivation and volition. Each one, she says, is necessary to achieve long-term goals, but neither is sufficient alone. Most of us are familiar with the experience of possessing motivation but lacking volition: You can be extremely motivated to lose weight, for example, but unless you have the volition — the willpower, the self-control — to put down the cherry Danish and pick up the free weights, you’re not going to succeed. If a child is highly motivated, the self-control techniques and exercises Duckworth tried to teach [the students in her study] might be very helpful. But what if students just aren’t motivated to achieve the goals their teachers or parents want them to achieve? Then, Duckworth acknowledges, all the self-control tricks in the world aren’t going to help.

This is where grit comes in — the X-factor that helps us attain more long-term, abstract goals. To address this, Duckworth and her colleague Chris Peterson developed the Grit Scale — a deceptively simple test, on which you evaluate how much twelve statements apply to you, from “I am a hard worker” to “New ideas and projects sometimes distract me from previous ones.” The results are profoundly predictive of success at such wide-ranging domains of achievement as the National Spelling Bee and the West Point military academy. Tough describes the surprising power of this seemingly mundane questionnaire:

For each statement, respondents score themselves on a five-point scale, ranging from 5, “very much like me,” to 1, “not like me at all.” The test takes about three minutes to complete, and it relies entirely on self-report — and yet when Duckworth and Peterson took it out into the field, they found it was remarkably predictive of success. Grit, Duckworth discovered, is only faintly related to IQ — there are smart gritty people and dumb gritty people — but at Penn, high grit scores allowed students who had entered college with relatively low college-board scores to nonetheless achieve high GPAs. At the National Spelling Bee, Duckworth found that children with high grit scores were more likely to survive to the later rounds. Most remarkable, Duckworth and Peterson gave their grit test to more than twelve hundred freshman cadets as they entered the military academy at West Point and embarked on the grueling summer training course known as Beast Barracks. The military has developed its own complex evaluation, called the whole candidate score, to judge incoming cadets and predict which of them will survive the demands of West Point; it includes academic grades, a gauge of physical fitness, and a leadership potential score. But the more accurate predictor of which cadets persisted in Beast Barracks and which ones dropped out turned out to be Duckworth’s simple little twelve-item grit questionnaire.

You can take the Grit Scale here (registration is free). Taking this test may clarify reasons for issues you’re having. For more on the impact of Duckworth’s work, do treat yourself to her book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character.

This article has a great message for us all. Too often I here students opt out or make excuses because work is too hard or because they believe themselves not to have the time or the talent but what Duckworth’s study shows is that true grit is the one thing we all can have if we want something bad enough and are willing to do something about it.

God bless and have a reflective and great break

Rob Brennan