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

Early Learning to Year 12

From the Principal - Edition 11 - 2020

What a great time to be a Westie! Despite COVID-19, we are about to open two amazing buildings. In times of overarching hardship, communities bind together and our ‘perceptual filters’ are aligning to reflect a belief that these new facilities will greatly benefit our students and their learning. Last weekend, we hosted our first home round of netball for the season and it was fantastic to see our girls compete at home, especially the Open team who had a gritty victory against Scotch. They set the tone for the weekend with our Soccer and Basketball teams continuing their unbeaten run. To finish off a great day, our First XVIII won against Rostrevor in a closely competitive match. A quick check through the annals of time suggests this has not happened for many years. Even with history not in our favour, we’re happy for now to adjust our ‘perceptual filters’ around this well-earned victory!

Perceptual filtering is an interesting concept and we all have the capacity to use our filters when looking at news, events, expressing opinions and making facts out of assumptions, sometimes without even realising it. This week I saw an interesting example during my morning exercise. I usually have the TV on as a bit of a distraction and generally, catch up on my favourite programs recorded during the week. Last Monday, I watched Forged in Fire where four blacksmiths competed against each other and the clock to make knives. Only two made it to the final round where they were sent home to forge an iconic weapon from history. In this challenge, they had to make the Chinese Zhanmadao, a huge, curved anti-cavalry sword. After all the challenges in the final trial were completed, the judges chose the better sword as the winner. Giving feedback to the runner-up, the judges gave technical feedback, saying the blade was too flexible and didn’t have a great enough curve. While their feedback was very clear, the runner-up stated: “It just wasn’t my day”. He ignored technical feedback and effectively attributed his loss to not having a good day at the judging. Having already passed through a set (or sets) of filters, the message he received then had to pass through his own set. He was then able to establish a point where his ego was capable of coping with the outcome, resulting in a perception with which he was comfortable and he felt he could communicate. He had justified the outcome - the accuracy of the filter was irrelevant to him.

Perceptual filters will often align between people with similar values, experiences, cultures and opinions. However, perceptual filtering can also be applied in a self-serving manner. Our kids are probably the best at this - events that have happened during the school day are often relayed through a perceptual filter, one that is self-serving and not entirely accurate. If you have more than one child at home and there is an ‘incident’, each will usually apply their own perceptual filter, commonly being the exact opposite of their sibling. As parents and educators, we have to be able to look past the perceptual filter and find the truth, or as close to the truth as we can manage. In a world where the truth is often ignored and the loudest or last voice becomes the truth, this can be very hard. We must endeavour to remove our perceptual filters before we judge and react. If we can understand the ‘why’ behind a perceptual filter, it is easier to remove it. In 2020, this is proving to be especially important as we deal with a global pandemic where there is a lot of fake and sensationalised news coming through many world-wide channels. Often these messages are cleverly and credibly constructed to easily pass through our perceptual filters. By not jumping to conclusions that suit us, we are hopefully setting an example that will encourage more reasonable and balanced outcomes.

Simon Shepherd