A Uniting Church coeducational independent day and boarding school on Kaurna Country, Adelaide, South Australia

Early Learning to Year 12

From the Principal - Edition 10 - 2019

Week one was a great start to the term. Our students have come back to School and it is terrific to see them all around the place. A great Saturday of sport saw some fantastic wins for our teams, including: the First Netballers against Scotch; the Girls’ XVIII against Scotch; the Year 10 XVIII showing great skill to beat Rostrevor; the Second XI soccer coming back from 2-1 down to win 8-2. Most rewardingly perhaps were the efforts of the Year 9 footballers to win their first game of the season. All of this was capped off by a great night at the ‘Green and White’, where our Years 11 and 12 students made the most of the occasion and spent the night dancing and interacting with their peers in a positive and emotionally intelligent manner. In all, it has been a very positive way to start the term.

Over the weekend, I spent some time reading the new book by John Marsden, The Art of Growing Up (Macmillan). John, an author of international repute, has received a great deal of interest in his book as he presents his take on the complexities of growing up, parenting and schooling in our times. It is a very interesting read and for many (including me), it will be challenging.

One of the poignant points he raised was that, as parents, we will have a genetically implanted love for our children, but, just as important as loving your child without ‘being in love’ with them (his terminology), is ‘liking’ your child. The ability to like your child is based on their behaviour, which, of course, is moderated and learnt from their interactions with you and others. When we allow our children to engage in behaviour that we don’t like, it’s highly probably that other people will not like that behaviour either and the children will become inherently unlikeable over time. We need to be careful that if their peers point out or shun their unlikeable behaviour, it is not labelled inappropriately as bullying or exclusion.

Marsden argues that if the good nature of the child, their emotional intelligence, sense of humour, positive energy and willingness to be involved in activities that are important to the parent are developed, the child will be likeable and the parental relationship will prosper. At the ‘Green and White’ on Saturday night, it was a privilege to be able to converse with so many likeable young adults. I hope the results of the values and holistic education, on which Westminster places so much emphasis, are aligning with the values and education that our parents and greater community want.

The likeability of our students is, in part, the outcome of the emphasis placed on values education, accountability for own behaviour and learning the inherent responsibilities of being part of a community bigger than any one of us. This includes respect for each other and the capacity to comply with the norms and values of the society in which we live. At a time when emotional intelligence and the capacity to work in an abstract and collaborative manner are needed for the evolving workplace, perhaps we can all learn something from John Marsden. We can synthesise this with our own knowledge and other sources of learning to help our community grow even more.

Marsden’s book is readily available and holds useful advice for all of us. Of course, one of the issues with books like this, and expert speakers too for that matter, is that often the people who don’t need to read them do, and those who really need to, don’t.

Simon Shepherd