Living our values
As we come to the end of Term 1, my reflections on my first term here at Walford have been resonant with our new School values of Courage, Commitment, Community and Growth.
Community and Commitment
Highlights for me this term have of course been getting to know the girls through chats in the yard, visiting classes, dining with boarders, hosting lunches with groups of Year 12s, seeing our girls compete in sports, watching music and drama performances, teaching my Year 10 PLP class, collaborating with student leaders, and attending Reconciliation Action Plan Committee meetings.
I have also enjoyed getting to know the wider School community, including parents, alumnae, friends of the School and community members. The Old Scholars International Women’s Day Soiree and PTA Picnic were standout events. It was a joy to see the Heart of Walford thrumming with energy and community activity.
Observable each day is the deep care and commitment Walford staff—all staff, from administration, finance and technologies staff to facilities, support and teaching staff—have for our students and for the educative purpose of the School. Teachers are often found, at lunchtimes and outside of class time, providing one-on-one or small group academic and pastoral support to students.
We recently welcomed to our community Reverend Michael Lane as School Chaplain, and Ms Leah Taylor as Human Resources and Compliance Specialist. Today we farewell three staff as they head to new adventures and opportunities. We thank Ms Roxanne Russo, Ms Mayra Franco and Deputy Principal Ms Mandy Hore for their service and commitment, and wish them all the very best in their next chapters. We additionally wish Ms Karen Toms, Ms Kathryn Allan, and Ms Yvonne Colsey well on their long service leave.
Courage and Growth
I was reminded of two of our new School values—Courage and Growth—on Monday at a presentation by Adjunct Professor Erica McWilliam AM on ‘Post-Covid Teaching for Optimising Girls’ Learning’. McWilliam argues that girls need to be given the space and opportunity to be challenged. She observed that parents and teachers can, with good intentions, rush in and rescue our girls too soon, and that doing so deprives girls of the pleasure of rigour and the satisfaction of wrestling with complexity.
McWilliam told the audience of educators that our young people need to learn ‘strategic independence’, and that schools and teachers need to avoid the seduction of providing environments which are low challenge with too many opportunities to retreat from difficulty. She quotes Michael Foley from his book The Age of Absurdity (2010):
“Difficulty has become repugnant because it denies entitlement, disenchants potential, limits mobility and flexibility, delays gratification, distracts from distraction and demands responsibility, commitment, attention and thought.” (p.113)
Girls, McWilliam asserts, need high rather than low challenge. Those experiences that transform us are often those that require some struggle. The notion of a high challenge, high support environment, as optimal for learning and wellbeing, resonates with the concept from developmental psychology of a ‘holding environment’. Each individual benefits from being ‘well held’ in a nurturing and safe environment, and simultaneously supported to take risks and grow.
Walford provides plenty of wonderful opportunities for students to be courageous and to grow. Design Thinking lessons and inquiry learning in the Junior School challenge our students’ thinking, as do the academic pathways students take as they move through the School. The adventure activities on Year 7 and Year 8 camps this term have allowed students to test their limits. Guest artist Ross Irwin encouraged our musicians to be brave enough to experiment musically. Our boarders are challenged to transition from the homes they know into the boarding environment. Sports competitions, music performances, academic assignments, leadership roles, and co-curricular opportunities for speaking and performing, all allow our girls to rise to challenges and to take risks within a safe environment.
Our values of Courage and Growth speak to the need for our girls, and indeed all of us, to be brave enough to try new things, to sit with discomfort, to seek to enjoy rigour, and to see mistakes and feedback as opportunities to grow. It is ultimately the job of parents and teachers to allow the young people in our care the space and support to grow enough so that we are no longer needed, and they fly on their own as independent, self-authoring people.
I wish you all a safe, peaceful and happy Easter, and a rejuvenating break. I look forward to seeing you at the beginning of Term 2.
Dr Deborah Netolicky