Principal’s Message – Newsletter April 23

Welcome back to students and their families from what I hope was a restful and enjoyable break. The College is looking forward to a very productive and exciting term, as we hope you are. This term is an extremely important term for all students, in particular our senior students. We encourage all students to apply themselves fully to their studies to ensure their results are indicative of their ability.

Later in this newsletter I will talk about how we greatly value communication between school and home. One of the main sources of communication here at Salesian College Chadstone has always been the College newsletter which has traditionally been a weekly publication. As of this term we are moving to a fortnightly publication of our e-newsletter, a link to which will be emailed home at 11:15am every second Tuesday. All families will receive a letter explaining the change in direction as well as a brochure outlining the benefits of the changes. I hope you continue to enjoy this valuable communication. If there are any questions or comments about the changes I direct you to the information in the letter which gives a contact here at the College.

As we enter into Term 2 and the realities of the school year have well and truly settled in, I thought it a good opportunity to remind ourselves that not all students find coming to school a joy. Schooling for some boys can be intimidating, daunting or simply a chore. Cases such as these can cause undue stress and anxiety. Boys who are not enjoying school for whatever reason require our special attention; we need to do everything possible to ensure their experience of school is a positive one.

Salesian College has always recognised that it is in partnership with families that we are best able to provide a good education and a positive experience for all our boys. Such a relationship requires open and honest communication and a great deal of trust. This relationship or partnership needs to be at its strongest when things aren’t going as we would like. It is when students are struggling most that our partnership requires open communication and a willingness to support each other in order to best address the needs of our boys.

The reasons students struggle at school are as varied and numerous as there are children in our care. For some it is the fear of failure, for others it is the feeling of having a hard time at school, whilst for others it is just the thought of learning a particular subject or simply not wanting to adhere to school rules. We know that whatever the reason, whether real or perceived, the outcomes or the effects can be the same – and can be detrimental to a student’s ability to learn. It is for this reason that parents and the school need to work together to identify possible solutions to the issue at hand.

The vast majority of the situations we face are able to be resolved cohesively with the families concerned through open and honest communication. In the vast majority of cases we find that once an issue has been resolved, students are able to readjust and have a positive experience of school. However, there are times, for various reasons that things don’t work out. Sometimes because communication breaks down between the school and our families, at other times it occurs when either party is not happy with the stance taken by the other, or it can be simply a misunderstanding, all of which make it quite difficult to move forward and resolve such issues. It is in these situations, both parties need to make a concerted effort to search for ways to work together to resolve any such issues for the benefit of the boys.

One thing we would like to focus on for this term is the resilience of our boys, for experts argue that this is the single most important skill we can give our children. With resilience kids are able to face issues more confidently or adapt to situations which bring them discomfort. Throughout the remainder of the year I will include a tip from one of the country’s leading parenting educators, Michael Grose on ‘Resiliency Robbers’. The following is the first in the series.

Robber # 1: Fight their battles for them.

There is nothing wrong with going into bat when kids struggle or meet with difficulty inside or outside school but make sure this is the last resort, not the first option.

Resilience notion# 1: Give kids the opportunity to develop their own resourcefulness

I stumbled across the following story over the holidays and I share it with the community as there are some very good messages in it for us all.

Socrates – A Man for Our Times

Two thousand four hundred years ago, one man, Socrates, tried to discover the meaning of life. People flocked to hear him speak. He charmed the city of Athens; soldiers, shopkeepers, celebrities – all would come to listen. “He brought philosophy down from the skies.” (Cicero)

For nearly 50 years, Socrates was allowed to teach philosophy on the streets of his hometown. But then things started to go wrong. His city-state suffered horribly in foreign and civil wars. The economy crashed; year in, year out, soldiers died; the population starved; the political landscape was turned upside down.

And suddenly the philosopher’s bright ideas, his eternal questions, his eccentric ways, started to irritate. And so, on a spring morning in 399BC, the first democratic court in human history summoned the 70-year-old philosopher to the dock on two charges: disrespecting the city’s traditional gods and corrupting the young with his ideas. Socrates was found guilty. His punishment: suicide by drinking hemlock poison in his prison cell.

Socrates, the philosopher from ancient Athens and the father of western thought, taught for no pay in the streets and open air.

When Socrates walked through the city’s central marketplace, he would challenge the shopkeepers by shouting, “Look how many things I don’t need!

“So the question is why should we, in the 21st century, care about this curious, clever, condemned Greek?

The answer I would argue is quite simple, Socrates’ problems are our own. He lived in a city-state that was for the first time working out what role true democracy should play in human society. His hometown – successful, rich – was in danger of being swamped by its own hunger for beautiful objects, new experiences and foreign cash.

Socrates questioned the values of society. “What is the point,” he asked, “of walls and warships and glittering statues if the men who build them are not happy?” What is the reason for living life, other than to love life? We should ask ourselves what do we hunger for or crave in our lives? Is our need for material wealth, fame or hollow measures of success the things that drives us?

For Socrates, the pursuit of knowledge was as essential as the air we breathe.

Socrates did not just search for the meaning of life, but the meaning of our own lives. He asked fundamental questions about human existence. What makes us happy? What makes us good? What is virtue? What is love? What is fear? How should we best live our lives?

Socrates would certainly have something to say about how we live today.

Our modern passion for fact-collection rather than a deep comprehension of the world around us would have horrified him. What was the point, he asked, of cataloguing the world without loving it? Does the learning for our boys have the sole purpose of obtaining an ATAR score?

Are our boys missing out on the joy of learning?

He claimed: “Love is the one thing I understand.”

Socrates had a famous belief, “the unexamined life is not worth living”, a dangerous idea to many who fear looking below the surface of life.

After his death, Socrates’ ideas had a huge impact on both western and eastern civilisation. His influence was great in Islamic culture as well – in the Middle East and North Africa. His ideas were said to refresh and nourish, ‘like the purest water in the midday heat’. Socrates was recognised as one of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom; he was called “The Source”.

We should honour Socrates’ exhortation to “know ourselves”, to be individually honest, to do what we, not the next person, know to be right.

Not to hide behind the hatred of a herd, the roar of the crowd, but to aim, hard as it might be, towards the ideal life.

Socrates urged us to learn through asking thoughtful questions and to be true to ourselves. The Socratic Ideal was the good life. What a message for the new term!!

Acknowledgement: Socrates – a man for our times by Bettany Hughes, Guardian. The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life, by Bettany Hughes, published by Jonathan Cape.

Term 2 is an extremely busy one and we hope it provides all students with an array of wonderful and joyous experiences.

God Bless.

Robert Brennan