Last Friday morning, I received the tragic news of the passing of Mary Ann Van der Weide. Mary Anne was the wife of Mr Kevin Van der Weide who has been a part of the teaching staff at this College for over 25 years. Mary Anne was a teacher herself and had a strong connection to our community through her life with Kevin. We knew Mary Ann as a vibrant, enthusiastic and energetic person and teacher, she will be missed terribly by her husband, family and school community. Please keep Kevin and his three daughters in your thoughts and prayers.<...
Last Friday morning, I received the tragic news of the passing of Mary Ann Van der Weide. Mary Anne was the wife of Mr Kevin Van der Weide who has been a part of the teaching staff at this College for over 25 years. Mary Anne was a teacher herself and had a strong connection to our community through her life with Kevin. We knew Mary Ann as a vibrant, enthusiastic and energetic person and teacher, she will be missed terribly by her husband, family and school community. Please keep Kevin and his three daughters in your thoughts and prayers.
It is hard to believe that we are now into the middle week of Term 1. In fact, our senior students will start their exam period in three weeks (and two days) time. The latter half of any term is always hectic for the students as they usually have differing forms of assessment due such as assignments, projects, presentations and exams. It is most important that they have made plans around preparing their assignments well in advance and have submitted draft copies to their teachers within the allotted time. I would encourage all parents, particularly those of older students to discuss with your son what his plans are to complete the assessment work in a thorough manner and encourage him to seek assistance if it is required. Seeking assistance at the last minute is usually a recipe for disaster.
By now all of our students would have had meetings with their Tutor Group teacher, or senior academic adviser, and set subject targets for the end of the first semester. The power of setting targets is more within the conversation of what needs to be done to achieve them. This has been done in these meetings and hopefully in classes over the semester as well. I encourage all parents to discuss these targets with their son and use the end of Term 1 Parent/Teacher interviews as a means to discuss whether he is heading to the target or what else needs to be done to achieve it. In some cases the targets may also need to be adjusted.
Our Years 5 and 7 students and teachers participated in their respective camps from Monday to Wednesday this week. There were many tired young men by Wednesday afternoon, but from all accounts they certainly seemed to enjoy themselves. The camps are possible because so many of our staff give their time away from their families. I know that this is certainly appreciated by the parents of these students. I am sure that the young men would have slept well on Wednesday night.
Last Friday morning, the Year 9 students and their significant adult mentors met on the beachfront at in the front of the College at 6:00am to participate in a ritual known as “The Call and The Departure”. This ritual is a significant part of the Rite Journey program. The morning was very well planned by Mr Brian Polich and facilitated by our Year 9 Rite Journey teachers. The Rite Journey program runs across the full year and is incorporated into the Year 9 curriculum offerings as well as including a series of events and rituals during the year. It can be a very powerful program for the young men.
During last Tuesday’s Academic Assembly, we were most fortunate to have a past student, Brett Parkinson, available to address the student body. Brett finished at St Patrick’s in 2008 and earlier this year was awarded the General Sir John Monash Foundation Scholarship. There have only been 143 of these scholarships given out since its inception in 2003 and Brett is the first student from our College to receive one. It allows him to study for a further three years at any university in the world apart from Australia. Brett is currently in England meeting with Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial universities to choose which institution he will start his studies in October of this year. Brett spoke to the student body about how he was a student at St Patrick’s who started to excel in his senior year and went on to study Chemical Engineering and how his school work and teachers set the foundation for his current opportunity. Brett also presented the academic medals to the prize winners. There were also 24 students from last year who received an OP score of 1-5 in attendance at the assembly.
During my address, I spoke to our young men about considering their education as a passport. We often take education for granted and this can sometimes limit the possibilities that it offers. Brett was an excellent example of a young man who used his education to not only further himself but his further study will assist many others around the world over time. Without the right attitude, persistence to his work and increased effort when needed, Brett would not have been given the great opportunities that he now has in front of him.
In my last newsletter, I spoke about the work of Luke McKenna involving developing growth mind-sets. Luke heads an organisation named Unleashing Personal Potential. Last time I spoke of the tension between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, this week I would like to introduce the notion of GRIT. McKenna refers to the work of Duckworth (2007) whereby she concluded that self-discipline was a better indicator of academic success rather than IQ. Duckworth described achievement as a product of talent and effort with effort being “a function of the intensity, direction and duration of one’s exertions towards a goal”. She identified the following skill sets as significant to developing GRIT:
- models of failure and success
- continuous improvement
- setting targets
- habit formation
- effort and energy management
- delayed gratification
- mastery through deliberate practice
Failure is not a bad thing within itself if the person learns from what went wrong. We will all need to deal with failure in our lives and shielding a young man from this at a young age can only possibly make it a lot worse and harder to deal with as they get older. The important aspect is that young men do not mistake failure for blame. The notion of continuous improvement at SPC is that concept of “being the best that we can be”. One of our core learning beliefs at St Patrick’s is that everyone is a life-long learner. If we embrace every opportunity as an opportunity to learn then we are always seeking ways to improve ourselves.
The most important things to consider in habit formation is firstly, is it a good habit? Secondly, to develop a practice or routine that ensures that the expected or desired behaviour becomes automatic. John Dryden said it best when he commented ... ”We first make our habits and then our habits make us.”
What is important to each of our young men is that they accept that if they want to achieve a target that they have set, it may mean that they have to increase their effort and ways of doing things. Challenges need to be met with a positive attitude and acceptance that solutions may require more time, persistence and added work and effort. They also need to learn to find others who can help them deal with the challenges.
It is not uncommon for a young man to make choices that give him some form of immediate gratification rather than receive gratification later in time. This is best encapsulated in the saying “don’t give up what you want most for what you want now.” If a Year 12 student wants to go to university and do further study, then short-term decisions about how much part-time work they do, what sort of social life they lead, how much time they spend with sport, music etc will have to be made. If decisions are made for the short term, immediate gratification, and they impact upon the long term goal then that is a consequence of their choice and the young man will need to take self-responsibility for the choice and may need to change the goal that was important to him as a result.
Finally, to master a skill that one cannot do well, they must be prepared to practice and the practice should be “considerable, specific and sustained” (Ericsson, Prietula & Cokely, 2007). It is so important that our young men understand that to achieve a goal takes hard work some times and sustained effort and practice and an understanding that they may need to try different ways to attain the skill or meet the challenge. A small effort followed acceptance of defeat will not assist them to deal with the challenges they will encounter later in life.
I would like to thank all of the members of the community for your thoughts and prayers after the recent death of my father. My family and I are most grateful.