I would like to take this opportunity to wish our students and their families a happy and safe mid-year break. It has been a full and satisfying semester and I must emphasise how proud I am of our students and their achievements. It has been an incredibly busy six months and we have shared many great moments.
Your child will bring home their Semester 1 report today. I encourage you to take time over the break to read through their reports with them and establish where growth can occur in second semester. Look for, and celebrate, the strengths and successes; develop strategies to take advantage of opportunities going forward.
In particular, I ask our Year 12 students to plan their break carefully. It’s vital to relax and recharge, as second semester is busy and occasionally overwhelming. We encourage Year 12’s to schedule time to review the concepts learnt in Semester 1, and plan to get ahead for Semester 2. Time will be very valuable during the final weeks of Year 12.
I would like to wish Mrs Arnup well as she departs for Italy during the holidays. Mrs Arnup has been sponsored by Independent Schools Victoria to further her understanding and skills in the implementation of Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment. Mrs Arnup is one of 10 people in Australia who are accredited to train teachers to deliver the enrichment tools. This is a great achievement for Mrs Arnup and our School. The course that Mrs Arnup will be undertaking (LPAD) will further her understanding of how to measure growth and improvement with the FIE.
The Learning Propensity Assessment Device (LPAD) is an assessment procedure and set of instruments which enable the practitioner to evaluate and identify an individual's cognitive functions and reasoning skills. It is based upon the theory of Structural Cognitive Modifiability, which purports that intelligence is dynamic and modifiable, not static or fixed. As it focuses on the learner's potential rather than their current level of performance, the LPAD is a viable alternative to static IQ tests.
Unlike standardised tests, which are product-oriented, the LPAD is process-oriented. It investigates how the learner thinks, rather than seeking quantifiable answers. Instead of comparing the learner's performance to age norms, learners are compared only to themselves at different times and in various conditions. The outcome of the LPAD is a descriptive profile of modifiability that includes the area and degree of cognitive change. The results of the assessment are utilised to recommend a course of psycho-educational intervention, which often includes Instrumental Enrichment.
The training process includes acquaintance with LPAD instruments, supervised assessment experience, and writing of reports.
We wish Mrs Arnup well as she learns how to use these instruments and, ultimately, how best to implement them at Gippsland Grammar.
Wishing you a safe and happy holiday.
I have just finalised plans to travel to Halls Creek during the upcoming holidays to visit the families of Irving Mosquito and Junior Bradshaw. I have been telling the boys for some time now that I would visit their community; with Reverend Rich’s help, and Ms Henry’s encouragement, we are planning to spend five days at Halls Creek at the end of the first week of the holidays.
As part of our preparation, Reverend Rich and I needed to be clear on our reason for the visit and the outcomes we would seek. We’ve spent some time with the boys and their host family, discussing our visit and formulating a plan. First and foremost, we would like to spend time with the boys’ families and strengthen our relationship with them. We are also very eager to connect with the broader community and learn about the culture that has existed continuously in this region for more than 40,000 years.
I remember similar feelings of awe and excitement before I travelled to Rwanda two years ago. In my mind, I was going to Rwanda to save their education system and guide their community towards prosperity and success. Yes, I was a little arrogant and over ambitious! What I learnt from that trip was that my purpose was to make connections, build relationships, develop trust and, ultimately, to learn from the local community; to absorb their culture, devote time and effort to relationships and, most importantly, to listen to their story.
And that will be my primary purpose this time: to listen, to connect and to develop trusting and ongoing relationships. I am really looking forward to learning more about Aboriginal culture, particularly from our two students. As I have said to the boys; when we visit their home, they will become the teachers and we will become the students.
As an Australian, I feel a little ashamed that I don’t know more about Aboriginal culture; I also feel that it is the responsibility of all Australians to rectify this over time. I remember travelling through Europe as a younger person and wishing that we had such depth of history in our young country. What I had failed to recognise, as many people still do, is that we have the oldest continuous culture in the world. It is something we should be proud of, want to learn more about and, ultimately, protect and preserve for the future.
I look forward to sharing stories and photos of our trip on my return, as well as news of meaningful new connections for our School, as we develop a strong, positive and lasting relationship with the people of the Halls Creek community.
This week I had a visit from our St Anne’s Year One students. They have been studying Science recently and are particularly interested in sound and light. I was a little nervous and apprehensive about how I would keep them occupied and interested for an hour, but I accepted the challenge.
The students dutifully arrived, on time and very much under the control of their wonderful teachers, Mrs Rich and Mrs Roberts. They all found a seat in the Physics lab and waited eagerly for whatever surprises lay ahead. We discussed sound, sound waves, frequency, pitch, demonstrated a sonic blast, tested our hearing and finally looked at standing waves in the Reuben’s tube. All of these topics could quite easily fill a term of Physics for our senior students.
While I always enjoy demonstrating Science to students, particularly junior students, I was particularly delighted by the level of curiosity the students displayed towards the topic; their willingness to engage each other in deep discussion as we completed ‘I see, I think, I wonder’ activities; and their respect for each other’s opinions and thoughts. It is when we teach children of this age that we see a genuine love of learning and a real curiosity about the world in which we live. While they will take in everything that the teacher might tell them, they will also question and wonder about these concepts in a vibrant and creative manner.
As we worked our way through each activity, I could see amazed faces, confused faces and curious faces. At the end of the session the students openly and honestly told me where they were with regard to their learning and the SOLO Taxonomy. With some simple hand gestures, they could indicate whether they were ‘unistructural’, ‘multistructural’, ‘relational’ or ‘extended abstract’. Those that were ‘extended abstract’ were able to tell me why my experiments would not work in space.
As educators, it is our job to capture and nurture this natural love of learning. As our young people grow older and become more entrenched in the school system, a love of learning can fall away, usurped by external pressures to perform. My time with the Year 1 students was an opportunity to be reminded of our moral purpose as educators and teachers: to inspire, encourage and nurture the love of learning that we are all born with.
I would like to thank Mrs Rich, Mrs Roberts and Mrs Canfield for bringing the Year 1 students to Garnsey Campus and giving me the opportunity to play with our wonderful Science toys. I am looking forward to visiting the Year 5 students on Tuesday next week to discuss Chemistry.
At Garnsey Assembly this week I spoke to the students about Reconciliation Week. I urged them to think beyond the colourful football jumpers and vibrant ceremonies to try to develop a deeper understanding of what Reconciliation Week is about. At Chapel, Reverend Rich Lanham urged the students to think about their actions during the week and what they can do as individuals to generate understanding and empathy for others who may feel excluded.
To help me develop a better understanding of Reconciliation Week and what it means to be an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander in Australia, I read the book written by Stan Grant, ‘Talking to My Country’. At Assembly I read extracts from the introduction to this amazing book. Stan Grant is a well-known and accomplished journalist; an Aboriginal man who has written this book to help us better understand our history. Here’s a brief excerpt:
My country: Australia
These are the things I want to say to you. These things I have held inside or even worse run from. It is not easy, what I have to say, and it should not be easy. These are the things that tear at who we are. These are the things that kill, that spread disease and madness. These are the things that put us in prisons and steal our sight.
I have started this so many times and stopped. I have tried to find the right words. It is so tempting to turn to rage and blame. I am angry: I know that. It flares suddenly and with the slightest provocation; it takes my breath away sometimes. I know where that comes from. I have seen it in my father and he inherited it from his father. It comes from the weight of history.
I am afraid too. And that comes from the same place. I have known fear all my life. When I was young it used to make me feel sick, physically, in the pit of my stomach. It was a fear of what could touch us—the sense of powerlessness, of being at the mercy of the intrusion of the police or the welfare officers who enforced laws that enshrined our exclusion and condemned us to poverty. It was a heavy hand that made people tremble. I see it still in my father. I see it as he tenses up just at the sight of a police car. He has done nothing wrong. But when he is pulled over for something as routine as a random breath test his heart beats faster and he fumbles his keys. We fear the state and we have every reason to. The state was designed to scare us.
I want to tell you about blood and bone and how mine is buried deep in this land. I want to tell you of a name that should be mine, a Wiradjuri name that passed down from thousands of years of kinship—taken from us along with our language and our land.
Australia still can’t decide whether we were settled or invaded. We have no doubt. Our people died defending their land and they have no doubt. The result though was the same for us whatever you call it. Within a generation the civilisations of the eastern seaboard—older than the Pharaohs—were ravaged.
Across Australia nations that had not seen a white man—Bandjalang, Kamilaroi, Ngarrindjeri, Arabana, Darumbal, Gurindji, Yawuru, Watjarri, Barkindji and all of the other hundreds of distinct peoples, each with their law and song and dance, all of them separate with their own boundaries defined by kinship and trade—in the eyes of the British they simply never existed.
Soon we would lose our names; names unique, inherited from our forefathers. Then our languages silenced, soon children would be gone, this is how we disappear. Now Australians pay their respects to the elders of nations of which they have no idea.
So, my country, these things are important. Faces and names and language and land are important. Without land we have no inheritance. People with no land are poor. It isn’t just here: we share this with indigenous people throughout the world. Together we are just five percent of the global population and fifteen percent of total poverty. But these are numbers, and faces and names are far too often forgotten.
Australians know so little about us. They know so little about what has happened here in their name. Perhaps they can talk about the American west: Sitting Bull and Custer and Little Big Horn. They may know of Caesar and Napoleon and Tutankhamen. But Pemulway? Windradyne? and Jandamurra? What of these warriors and leaders who fought and died here for their land? What about the massacres of Myall Creek, Coniston or Risdon Cove?
All of this is our story. These are events and faces and memories all set against the drama of this land. Our lives are pages of a history still unwritten, a story of a place and its people; the sins and triumphs and how all of it has formed us.
The great American playwright Eugene O’Neill said: ‘There is no present or future, only the past happening over and over again.’ The past is alive in me now. Its wounds rest deep and uneasily in our soul. I am the sum of many things but I am all history. And we are trapped in this history, all of us, and if we don’t understand it we will remain chained to it.
We can all benefit from the greater understanding that comes from such a powerful and personal story. I encourage you to read it.
It is with great delight that I can reveal that Gippsland Grammar has been chosen to participate in a significant research-based improvement initiative with the University of Melbourne.
The Science of Learning Research Centre (SLRC) comprises over 100 researchers from the disciplines of education, neuroscience and cognitive psychology, collaborating to better understand and improve learning. Established in 2013 and funded as an Australian Research Council Research Initiative, the Centre was led by the University of Queensland and the University of Melbourne.
The Science of Learning Schools Network aims to build a highly effective learning partnership between researchers, teachers and leaders in schools. The SoLSN, a professional learning network—often referred to as a Community of Practice—is designed to support our teachers to learn together, share best practice and drive improved learning outcomes.
The University will work closely with our School through Ms Monger, Mr Howard and I to share the Centre’s research findings, identify alignment between the Centre’s research and Gippsland Grammar’s priorities, and co-create new knowledge, as together we develop innovative approaches to using the research knowledge within our School.
Our invitation to participate in this program was based on a reference to the University by Sophie Murphy and Luke Mandouit, researchers who have been working with our staff this year. Sophie and Luke were so impressed by the work of our teachers that they felt that we should be part of the SoLSN, as one of only two independent schools invited to join.
Ms Monger, Mr Howard and I have already attended two network meetings, the most recent being with Professor John Hattie, who leads the SLRC. We will be presenting a project to the network at an all-day conference later this term.
This week there has been a great amount of media attention focussed on the Federal Government’s plan to implement the Gonski 2.0 funding model for all schools in Australia. This is a needs-based model that funds schools based upon the socio economic status of the community of each school and the needs of individual students within a school. In essence, the same model would be used for all non-government schools. As an underfunded school this is good news for Gippsland Grammar and we should be transitioning towards full funding by 2027. However, we will lose any benefits we currently experience from being part of a broader association like VESS – the Victorian Ecumenical System of Schools. This is a problem that our colleagues in the Catholic sector will also experience. The legislation for this funding model was put before the House of Representatives this week; I look forward to watching the debate unfold over the next few weeks.
I wish all of our St Anne’s parents well for tonight’s music trivia night. I hope that all of those great 80s tunes come flooding back from the memory vault; they will probably then stick in your mind on constant repeat for at least a week!