Illalong News

  • 26th October, 2018

Dear Future Self...

The weeks are flying by with the countdown highlighted in the Year 12 area, striking each of the days remaining until the end of their secondary schooling career – and a rite of passage, paving the way to their future.

In the coming weeks, while many will focus on our graduating cohort’s grades and scores, I would like to pause to reflect on another measure of student success.  What is of equal significance, despite not having a scoring mechanism, is each of their social and emotional development, as well as their character, integrity and empathy.

As our Year 12 graduates walk across the stage on Valedictory Day, I often think about what is it that we as a College, as parents, and as a community hope that they have gained from their 17 to 18 years in the world? How will we know they are ready for what awaits them?  It goes without saying that building their bank of academic, sporting and cultural prowess is a must, but it would seem that everything I read at the moment indicates that soft skills—those interpersonal or people skills—like listening, empathy, flexibility and optimism are just as important to future success as training and qualifications.

Approaching graduation, our Year 12 students have been given back their time capsules (messages from their Year 7 selves to their future selves) and as they write their final assessment speech for English, they have the opportunity to reflect on their time at our College.  It is in listening to their recollections of experiences and reading their Valedictory speeches that we really see how well we have prepared them.  It is in their reflections of lessons learned that I hear ‘fulfilled’, ‘happy’, ‘thoughtful’, ‘confident’, ‘kind’ and ‘optimistic’ being used.

A few weeks ago, our guest speaker at our parent evening Dr Arne Rubenstein reminded us that experiencing failure and challenge is important in growing and developing grit and determination; strengths that are an indicator of future success.  He regaled us with his own children’s stories, serving to remind us that adolescents can be quite shrewd in obtaining their desired outcome; tossing difficult problems onto parents like the proverbial hot potato!  He reminded us though, that the challenge for us is to recognise what forms of distress are essential to promote growth and internal resolve. That we must then bear our children enduring such distress and trust that we are working together for the same purpose—to grow young men and women complete with character, wisdom, imagination and integrity.

In Arne’s talk, he spoke about the village to help raise each of our children, and our College is a major part of this village.  He reminded us that modern parenting is hard and is a changed landscape from our own childhoods. Overwhelmingly, sessions like this help parents feel relieved to know that other parents are facing the same dilemmas.

Our Year 9 cohort was fortunate enough to attend a workshop with the Rites of Passage yesterday.  I am always so impressed at the calibre of our students – their depth, their genuine support of each other and their absolute trust and candid articulation that ‘mistakes made’ lead to ‘lessons learned’ and that it all serves to teach and prepare them for their futures.

Dr Rubinstein left with us with one other important message – that a village is only successful when members are working together towards a shared purpose. As we have said many times before, our partnership works best when parents and the College align.  If we want our students to be persistent and resilient then they must face challenge and be guided to grit their teeth and persevere. If we want our students to be motivated and manage their emotions, then they need to experience discomfort and learn to bear it. If we wish to raise young men and women who can hold their own in any sphere, then we need to allow them to navigate playground squabbles themselves and learn to assert their needs.

Joanne Sheehy
Assistant Principal: Senior School

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