Principal’s Message – Newsletter 4 June

Welcome to week 8 of Term 2. With winter well and truly upon us, it has been lovely to receive the rain over the weekend, even if it created some inconvenience. It will go a long way to giving the gardens a good drink and refilling our catchments.
This time of year sees both staff and students working away smoothly, yet feverishly; completing all that needs to be completed by the end of the semester. Senior students are extremely busy undertaking what seems to be, a never ending run of SACs, as the end of the semester draws closer. Other year levels busily prepare for their exams which have either started or are about to commence. We wish them all the best and trust they prepare themselves well.

Last week we celebrated the Autumn Concert, where half of our Year 7 classes, along with the College Bands put on a great show for an audience of 800. Congratulations to Mr Adam Croft, Mr Darren Winfield, Ms Jenny Ford and all the staff involved in the Music Program. Rehearsals for the College production ‘Animal Farm’ are in full swing and we can all look forward to an entertaining performance early next term. Term 2 ACC sport is coming to an end with semi-finals and finals being played over the next couple of weeks. Good luck to the Year 7 Soccer team who proceed through to the finals.

In line with Education Week, I would like to delve further into what I see as a very important aspect of education; ‘Developing intellectual qualities for the future’. As I have previously mentioned, sometimes we as a society can lose focus of what is important in educating our kids for the future. We allow politicians to convince us that the be all and end all of a good education comes in the form of an isolated score, such as the ATAR score. If we allow ourselves to be convinced of this position, it is our children who will miss out on many great things a good education has to offer.

When looking at education one of the questions we must ponder is “What kind of minds should we be cultivating for the future”? Howard Gardner, Harvard multiple-intelligences guru asks this very question in an article I read in ‘The School Administrator’.
He suggests five types of minds we should be cultivating: disciplined, synthesising, creating, respectful and ethical minds.

When Gardner speaks of a ‘disciplined mind’, he refers to what we would understand to be the academic learning; what it means to think mathematically, scientifically, historically, and artistically. He argues that this learning must go deeper than memorising facts and figures. Twenty-first learning requires the mastering of more than one discipline, or at least developing multiple perspectives. He argues a level of knowledge and perspective is vital for the other four qualities.

Gardner goes on to argue that with so much information bombarding us, the most valued quality in the 21st century, is one that “can survey a wide range of sources, decide which is most important and worth paying attention to, and then putting 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.” Synthesising combined with disciplinary knowledge forms the basis for creativity.

Those with a creative mind 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. Society values creativity, but it can be squashed by unwise practices. 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. Disciplinary knowledge is an essential foundation.

The respectful and ethical minds are interesting concepts for us here at Salesian College as they link in very well with the Catholic and Salesian ethos. In the 21st century we will all encounter thousands of people from widely differing backgrounds. This is particularly true of our community here at the College. “A person with 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. 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.

The ultimate question we must ask ourselves is ‘How can we, the school, in partnership with parents, develop these five qualities in students?

Some of the suggestions Gardner offers include:

  • “Protecting creativity by encouraging multiple approaches to a task or an assignment, asking students to explain their apparently flawed responses, and rewarding those who make mistakes but then learn from them.”
  • Providing activities and opportunities to synthesise information is crucial.
  • We should protect and nurture creativity.
  • Exemplars of each quality are important, both within the school as well as socially.
  • It’s important to have a sense of the developmental trajectory of each quality. Have clear expectations of where we believe students at each stage should be with each of the mind qualities.
  • We need to understand that no educator or parent is a perfect model of all five qualities, but students should see role models – parents, teachers, and others – who exemplify each quality at a high level.
  • Parents and staff should take ownership for ethical and respectful behaviour.
  • Students should be taught that “sometimes these minds will find themselves in tension with one another and that any resolution may come at a cost.” We should encourage them to work through these issues for themselves and not be tempted to always give them the answers

Acknowledgement: “The Five Minds for the Future” by Howard Gardner in The School Administrator, Feb. 2009. These ideas come from Gardner’s book, Five Minds for the Future (Harvard Business School Press, 2007).

We look forward to the remaining four weeks of term before enjoying a well-earned rest.

God bless.

Robert Brennan