Principal’s Message – Newsletter 17 September

It is always nice when we come to the end of a term knowing that the vast majority in the community have given of themselves to make things happen. We can reflect positively on all that has happened and all that has been achieved in Term Three of 2013. To name only a few, this term we enjoyed the College production of Animal Farm, had the chance to listen to a number of performances by the College bands, we were able to cheer on our boys as they competed in a myriad of sporting competitions and recently we celebrated Community Week, concluding on Friday with Community Day. We came together to celebrate Community Week Mass before entering into a series of activities which kept the boys entertained and provided much joy amongst us all. A few weeks earlier we celebrated the feast of the Assumption, and we have participated in many fundraising and social justice activities over the term. These are but a few happenings that have taken place this term. All of these undertakings require dedication and commitment on behalf of staff and students and we thank them for their efforts and we celebrate them all in the knowledge that they have added positively to the Salesian Community.

One of the questions we as school leaders ponder regularly is “What kind of minds should we be cultivating for the future?” What should our learning and teaching look like to ensure we nurture young men who will be able to thrive in the greater community and contribute to making their world a better place? Harvard multiple-intelligences guru Howard Gardner in an article in The School Administrator suggests there are five minds or ways of thinking our students need to develop.

The disciplined mind. Gardner interprets learning to think mathematically, scientifically, historically, and artistically. This must go deeper than memorising facts and figures, he says. Nowadays, mastering more than one discipline, or at least having multiple perspectives, is at a premium. A level of knowledge and perspective is vital for the other four qualities.

The synthesising mind. With so much information bombarding us, the most valued quality in the 21st century, says Gardner is one that “can survey a wide range of sources, decide which is most important and worth paying attention to, and then put this information together in ways that make sense to oneself and, ultimately, to others… those who can synthesise well for themselves will rise to the top of their pack, and those whose syntheses make sense to others will be invaluable teachers, communicators, and leaders.”

The creating mind. Those with this quality are “eager to take chances, to venture into the unknown, to fall flat on his or her face, and then, smiling, pick oneself up and once more jump into the fray,” says Gardner. We value creativity, but it can be squashed by unwise practices.

As educators we must protect creativity by encouraging multiple approaches to an assignment, asking students to explain their apparently flawed responses, and rewarding those who make mistakes but then learn from them. Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum, says Gardner. You need disciplinary knowledge and some ability to synthesise. “You can’t think outside the box unless you have a box!” he says.

The respectful mind. In the 21st century we will all encounter thousands of people from widely differing backgrounds.

“A person possessed of a respectful mind welcomes this exposure to diverse persons and groups,” says Gardner. “A truly cosmopolitan individual gives others the benefit of the doubt; displays initial trust; tries to form links; and avoids prejudicial judgments.” Parents, schools, and leaders in the outside world all shape children’s level of respectfulness.

The ethical mind. Children and young adults ask questions like, “What kind of person do I want to be? What kind of worker do I want to be? What kind of citizen do I want to be? What would the world be like if all persons behaved the way that I do…?” Parents and schools play an important part in guiding this quest. Ideally, an ethical person lives in accordance with the answers, even when they go against self-interest.

As we enter into the latter part of the year (especially for our senior students), it is a good time for all of us to reflect on Howard Gardner’s thoughts. As a school have we provided the opportunities for our boys to develop these five different aspects of their minds and just as importantly have the boys taken up the opportunities we have provided?

As Principal of this great College I am confident we can respond in the affirmative as I witness on a daily basis these qualities in our young men.

The end of Term 3 generally means the end of school based outcomes for most of our Year 12 students, however it is important that students realise this is not time to sit back and relax. To use a football analogy, a side going into the three quarter time break with a lead cannot afford to think the job is done, they need to continue to work hard to either ram home the advantage built up in the first three quarters or hold on to finish the game in front. This is also true for our Year 12 students. Whilst some may think they are in front, having completed all or most of their internal outcomes, they still have the last quarter to play. They need to use the upcoming two week break to prepare for these as there is still at least 50 per cent of their marks to be assessed. The most important thing they can do is prepare for their practice exams in the first week of the break and enter into them with a clear mindset of doing the best they can as this will enable them to identify areas of competency and areas of weakness. It will be on this feedback that they will be best able to prepare for the real thing. We encourage them to use their time wisely so they get a break and freshen up as well as making a good start to exam preparation.

I hope all students enjoy the break and return refreshed and ready to undertake Term 4 and all its challenges.

God Bless.

Robert Brennan