29 January 2024

PRINCIPAL’S BLOG

29 January 2024

Last week I was sitting in our Junior Quad before the start of school, chatting to a few of our new Grade 1 pupils. It is always incredibly refreshing chatting to these young 6 year olds, who are right at the start of their school career, and who see the world very differently to us oldies. Their honest optimism, and expressed joy for the simple things of life can teach us so much. I asked a few Grade 1’s what the highlight of their year had been thus far. Expecting some wonderful feedback about their first few days of school, or their new school uniform, or something about the start of their schooling career, I received the following responses:

  • Two Grade 1 twins told me that their highlight had been receiving their new hamsters – also twins, named “Fuzzball” and “Furball”;
  • Another Grade 1 told me that her highlight had been meeting a grey cat over the weekend, named “Ginger” (the contradiction did not seem to bother her);
  • My next young friend proudly told me that her highlight had been falling off her bike, and that her knee was grazed and a different colour.

No deep pedagogical or educationally philosophical input, and no life changing revelations about school life. Rather a stark reminder that the simple, often ignored experiences are the most important. That we learn so much, and receive so much joy from that which we tend to often rush past in the busyness of life. That sometimes we as adults, focus on our perceived priorities in terms of what we believe a young person should be focusing on, and should be pursuing. However, what is often needed is a reminder that the simple things are equally, if not more important, than the complex ones. I suppose it boils down to what our priorities are, because often we prioritise that which we think is so important, however, it is the basics, the so called “smaller details” that really make a difference at the end of the day.

And so, as we start a new year, maybe it’s worth our while to pause, and take a moment to reflect on our basics, to check out our priorities, and to ensure that our children, ourselves, and our families, are spending enough time on the vitally important, yet often ignored “smaller details”. Our time is hogged by that which we deem to be a priority, and if we are brutally honest, our priorities are more than often dominated by that which the world tells us is important. Sadly, the world often deems the basics, the simple things to be irrelevant and not worthy of our attention.

Possibly, we all need to check our priority lists, and ensure that some of the following basics are in place:

  • Are we eating supper together as a family at least 3 to 4 times a week. No technology, no interruptions. Just healthy conversation and time together (regardless of what’s on the menu). For some, this may be a daunting prospect, but the consequences of ignoring this family activity are far more daunting. If you are not convinced, chat to a family where all the children have finished high school, and left home. Time together as a family is a privilege, not a chore.
  • Children need time to play. To spend time being a person of their age. Free from technology and free from stress. Just playing in an age appropriate manner. It is our responsibility as the adults in their lives to create such opportunities. If we allow their schedules to become so busy that time to play is not an option, then we have let them down.
  • Are we being proactive in terms of monitoring the use of technology by our children? If not, then we must brace ourselves for the inevitable destructive consequences. Age appropriate use of technology could be one of the most important and critical aspects of the growth and development of the modern child. Putting effective boundaries in place with regards to technology (as exhausting as this may sometimes be) may be one of the kindest things that you ever do for your child.
  • Children need spiritual input in their lives. As parents, we need to determine the nature of such input, however, to neglect the spiritual growth of a child is to neglect the child.
  • Another simple basic, is doing something together as a family at least twice a month. Whether it be going to the beach, walking the dogs, going for a walk, having an ice cream together, or playing a board game as a family – this time together is invaluable. Pre-teens and teenagers may protest at this idea. Don’t give in. Stand your ground. They will thank you later.
  • Prioritise kindness in our homes. Our children model their behavior on us. They imitate us. Their language development, and character growth need to be molded by those at home (and not those on social media). We all need to take a moment to take stock of the words, the attitudes, the thoughts we express around our children, and ensure that they are constructive, and not destructive.
  • Be honest with ourselves about our own digital habits, and the example that we are setting for the young people in our lives. Living our lives through our phones, and desperately seeking validation on our social media pages, will send a message to our children that we may live to regret.

As 2024 roars into life, I really hope that each one of us makes the time to revisit our priority lists, and that we all make an effort to ensure that the simple, yet essential things are given preference, and not forgotten about in the pursuit of all that the world often deems important.

Have a happy, peaceful and wonderful year, full of life’s simple, yet beautiful moments!

19 May 2023

PRINCIPAL’S BLOG

19th May 2023

During the 1st Term I was reminded of the true value that sport plays in the life of a child. In our overly competitive world, where results are seen as the holy grail, and take precedence over all else, we need to be regularly reminded of why, we as a school, play the sports we love and cherish. On a sunny afternoon, I sat watching one of our Under 11 cricket teams play a match against a local school. We were batting, and the match was evenly poised, with a great deal of nail-biting taking place along the boundary (by very nervous parents). The fielding team took a wicket, tilting the game in their favour, and in strode our new batsman (no doubt with visions of match winning glory etched on his mind). He took his mark, and before he knew it, the bowler had bowled the yorker of the century, and his middle stump was cartwheeling towards the slips.

Totally dejected, and clearly carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, the batsman began the dreaded long walk off the field, no doubt fearing the reaction of his team-mates. As he reached the half-way mark of his lonely walk, a remarkable thing happened. His team-mates came out to meet him, on masse. They wrapped their arms around him, and escorted him off the field, clearly realizing that he needed all of their support and understanding. No moaning at him, no blame or victimization for how the team suffered because of his wicket. Just pure and unbridled sportsmanship, camaraderie, and having your team-mates back. Looking around, there were a few parents (mostly Dads), who seconds earlier were cursing the batsman under their breath, and who were now aware that they were witnessing a golden reminder of the true essence of sport.

I don’t remember who won the cricket match, and I doubt whether any of the players do either. In fact, it is likely that the parents don’t recall the outcome, or even who the opposition team was. But no-one will forget the life lessons that we all learnt that day, and that we were once again reminded that life lessons trump results.

The 2nd incident took place at an inter-schools C-League Gala – a busy affair, with young people from all walks of life, many different schools, coming together and enjoying a good old-fashioned gala. There were no prizes for podium finishes, and finishing the race, overcoming the starters gun, and the hype and fervor of the crowd, were top of each participants agenda. A particular race caught my attention – 25m of one of the strokes. In the far lane swam a young lady who clearly was giving it her all, and was unbelievably determined to finish the race. She paused now and then, to look up and see how far she still had to go, and pausing around the mid-way mark, it was clear to her that the other swimmers had already finished.

A lady then appeared out of the crowd, and slowly and sensitively walked alongside the lane, quietly encouraging and motivating her. It was the swimmers mom. There was no doubt that every eye in the packed pool area was on the swimmer and her mom. As she reached the end of the pool, the crowd erupted, as if she had just won a gold medal at the Olympics. Once again, no-one remembers who won the race, what the time was, or even what stroke they were swimming. But we will all never forget the image of someone overcoming a huge obstacle in her life, being supported by someone who dearly loves her, and of a crowd recognizing the fact that finishing the race was far more important than the outcome.

And so as we descend into our winter sporting season, where early Saturday mornings, and dew laced fields become the norm, it is my hope and prayer that we will make every effort to remember that sport offers our young people the most incredible opportunities to grow and learn, and that very few other pursuits will offer such valuable lessons. Being part of a team, learning to support each other through thick and thin, and just participating, are such important aspects of healthy development. We should never underestimate how significant it is for our young people to feel included, recognized, and valued – taking part in an extra-mural activity is a fertile field where these critical concepts can be nurtured and grown.

I just hope that we as adults don’t mess up these golden opportunities.

Our job is to support, to guide, to nurture, and to be the reminders of what truly is important. It is not our job to relive our golden sporting days through our children, nor to insist that our children achieve on the sportsfield what we were never able to accomplish. It is our job to be bigger than what the scoreboard says; it is our role to show restraint and tolerance when a call goes against our team; and to always remind our children to stay humble in victory, and gracious in defeat. And it is good to be reminded that our children learn far more from what they see us doing, than what we say to them.

As adults, we need to make a conscientious decision about how we approach our child’s sporting endeavors. We need to decide whether we will join the popular masses, and pay homage to the “winning at all costs “mentality. Or will we be brave enough to help our precious children become better humans through their sporting escapades.

Encourage them to play their heart out, to never give up, and to give it their all – absolutely. But how we support, how we behave on the touchlines, and the words we use, especially during and after the match, will remain embedded in our child’s mind forever. May those deeply impactful words be ones that we choose wisely, and not ones that we live to regret.

8 September 2022

PRINCIPAL’S BLOG

8 September 2022

I was recently at a well-known local restaurant, waiting to collect a take-away. I could not help notice a family sitting at a nearby table, a mom and dad, and two children (around 11 to 12 years of age). To my dismay, both young children sat engrossed in their tablets, whilst mom and dad chatted away. Once again, I was reminded of how technology has invaded our lives, and of the sad reality, that in many cases, we have become slaves to the devices around us. How sad that a wonderful occasion, such as a family meal, should be overruled by an unhealthy obsession with a screen. Some may argue that at least the parents had a chance to chat, and the kids were happy – that response says a great deal about where we are as a society. I am immensely concerned about the dangerous amount of exposure that so many of our young people have to screens, and the concerning avenues that they lead down. The age at which our children are being exposed to various forms of social media is getting younger and younger, and the amount of time that they are spending on social media is growing exponentially. There is no doubt that our younger generation is facing a threat of mammoth proportions by way of the technology around them, and that unless we, as the adults guiding and mentoring them, take urgent action, this threat will wreak havoc for many years to come. Many might state that I am being overly dramatic – clearly the accidental deaths of a number of young people around the world who participated in a “TikTok” “Blackout Challenge” prove otherwise. Almost on a daily basis, we encounter the disturbing consequences of our young people having uncontrolled and unsupervised access to various forms of social media. This may be due to a number of reasons, but regardless of the cause, the consequences of such exposure are always damaging. Children are unable to interpret and comprehend messages from social media sites containing graphically explicit content. They are neurologically not developed enough to discern and to digest such material, and their young minds are able to absorb all that they see and hear, but are unable to safely understand and discern that which they are exposed to. It is common knowledge that social media can be extremely addictive, and also robs our children of vital time that should be spent on child centred activities. Children as young as 9 and 10 are been given their own smart phones, and often have very little restrictions placed on them in terms of social media access. Quite frankly, this is unacceptable and borders on neglect. So what are we to do to stop this wave that is engulfing our young generation? It is imperative that we collectively take a stand and assert our parental authority where it is so desperately needed. To argue that our lives are too busy and that we can’t cope with the stress of managing our children’s screen time, does simply not cut it. If urgent sacrifices need to be made to put measures in place to control our children’s use of technology, then surely such sacrifices are worth it. As a school, we empathise with parents raising children in this digital age, and we understand the myriad of challenges that technology causes a parent to face. Our role is to work in partnership with parents, and to provide resources and support so that our precious pupils can be mentored and nurtured in a meaningful and positive manner. It is however critical, that every parent realizes that laying down firm and non-negotiable boundaries in terms of the use of technology starts at home. It is our hope that every parent will take this responsibility seriously, and put measures in place to ensure that their child is exposed to technology and social media in an age appropriate manner. Just as much as a chemical that has addictive potential is controlled by a medical prescription, and is kept under lock and key… so too should we as parents be controlling and restricting our children’s access to technology. Over the next few weeks, we will be making various resources available to parents, which will hopefully assist in understanding the technological and social media threats faced by our children, and provide guidance in terms of laying down healthy boundaries. These resources will be distributed via the class WhatsApp groups, and the D6 Connect App. As a start, please see the list of resources at the end of this blog. It is my sincere belief that one of the greatest threats to the wellbeing, and emotional health of our young people is the dangers of over exposure to various forms of technology and the unrestricted access to social media platforms. Technology and social media programmes have many positive attributes – of this there is no doubt; however, unguided and unchecked use by a young mind, will lead to devastating consequences. As a Clarries Family, it is my sincere hope that we will, together, educate, equip and lead our children through this mine field, so that they emerge as healthy, wholesome and happy young adults.

Additional Resources:

1. The Digital Law Company: A guide to the Google Family Link App – an easy to use and comprehensive tool to manage your child’s device: https://www.thedigitallawco.com/smartphones/googles-family-link-appeverything-parents-need-to-know/

2. The Digital Law Company: A parent’s guide to apps and social media: https://www.thedigitallawco.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/180629_Parentsguide-to-apps-and-social-media.pdf

3. Focus on the Family: Your Teens Need You, Not More Screen Time: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/your-teens-need-you-not-morescreen-time/

21 June 2022

PRINCIPAL’S BLOG

21st June 2022

I recently lost a very good friend whom I have known for 35 years. We were at school and university together, and he left behind an amazing wife, and two beautiful young daughters. His passing came as an enormous shock, and the void he has left behind is immeasurable. His memorial service was marked by incredible tributes from family, friends and work colleagues. An incredible man taken too early from us. As one begins to trudge through the dark and muddy waters of grief, one of the natural consequences is to questions one’s own priorities, and to take an honest look within. That which we often don’t want to focus on, is laid bare by the brutal light that emanates from such a tragedy. Such a devastating loss causes one to possibly reconsider all that grabs one’s attention, and to be reminded in an unsubtle way, that nothing is guaranteed in this life, and that each day is a gift (regardless of the cliché label that such a statement carries). And so my mind is drawn towards our role as parents, and to the decisions we make each day with regards to our time, our resources, our energy and our priorities. My guess is that anyone who has left this life, would have a very different outlook on these factors if they were given a second chance. And so I am challenged to be brave enough to question what receives most of my attention. To somehow find the courage to be completely honest about the balls that I juggle in my life: do the glass balls (those that cannot be dropped) get my closest attention and care? And to truly realise that if I drop a glass ball, it will never be the same (regardless of how I convince myself otherwise). The world has a knack of convincing us that glass balls such as family, health, relationships and our spiritual lives, can always be repaired and restored back to prime condition. Sadly, there are countless examples that prove otherwise. Losing someone close to you presents a painful opportunity to reflect. Failing to do so is somewhat disrespectful to the one you’ve lost. And so my meandering thoughts (as outlined above) are part of such reflection, and maybe there are others who too will be encouraged to reflect. To reflect on:  Does my family more than not, get the best of me, or what’s left of me at the end of a day’s work? (a difficult one to face with the excessive demands placed on so many of us) A question that has life changing consequences  As hard it sometimes may be, do my children get my full and energized attention when I am around them?  When I get home, do the worries of the day become more important than the needs of those at home? Am I able to leave the cell phone alone, and to give my undivided attention to those that need it. Or have I convinced myself (erroneously) that I can listen to my child and look at my phone at the same time – and he or she won’t notice?  If I am too tired to read with, or to my child at the end of the day, am I brave enough, disciplined enough, or strong enough to put measures in place to make sure that I have the energy needed?  Do my children see me putting life’s important priorities into action, and not just hear me speaking about them?  Am I insistent on us eating together as a family on a regular basis (where I take the lead in turning off all devices), or have I given into the lie that this critical practice is not really that important. All of the above tough questions involve sacrifices, as I may not be able to do all the things that I want to do. But the cost of not making the sacrifice, of not finding the time and energy, are far more grave and disastrous than any small sacrifice that I have to make. And as I contemplate the sacrifices needed, I also need to honestly reflect on the boundaries that I am putting in place. A child cannot develop to his or her potential, and become a young person of integrity and humility without boundaries put in place by loving hands. It is sometimes easier not to put boundaries in place, but the consequences will bring about much anguish and hurt. Our children desperately need us to be fully present in their lives. Nothing can, and ever should, replace that presence. Getting this right will involve many of us having to stare down the demands around us, and make the difficult choices. But it’s worth it.

28 April 2022

PRINCIPAL’S BLOG

28 april 2022

Towards the end of the summer sporting season, I was fortunate enough to watch one of our junior cricket teams in action during a mid-week match. It was a tightly contested match, and in the end went down to the last ball. At the conclusion of the game there was great jubilation from the victors, and a tangible sense of despair from those that ended second on the day. However, once the initial celebrations (and morbid reality of a loss) had died down, the two teams lined up (clad in their blazers), and duly shook hands and congratulated (or commiserated) each other. In the end, the victors and losers left the field together, and I doubt very much whether the outcome was spoken about much on the journey home. Rather, I would imagine that experiences on the field, and the ups and downs of a great contest were the topic of conversation. All in all – a great advertisement for why our children play sport. And as I look back on the cricket match referred to above, I begin to ponder on that time of year when the winter sports season is starting to kick into full gear, and chilly winter early Saturday mornings on the side of the astro and field will soon become a reality. The start of the winter season can often be a bit stressful for all concerned, as players attend trials, and teams begin to be selected. And as much as we want our children to make the best team possible, the unavoidable fact is that often they don’t. And sometimes they are incredibly disappointed, and feel quite dejected when they don’t make the team that they were hoping to make. How we, as parents help them to navigate this emotional and complex path is critical to their development as a human being. The perspective that we offer in terms of their disappointment will go a long way in helping them to become a wellbalanced person. In a similar light, how we guide them when they make their desired team is also so important to the development of their character. Their response to success says so much about who they are as people, and true humility is a much sought after trait. Our response to their success plays a big role in how they learn to handle success. As parents, we have to step back and remove our own ambitions from the table. Sometimes we inadvertently apply pressure on our kids to make a certain team. There are so many reasons for this. Perhaps deep down we harbor disappointments from bygone sporting years, or maybe our past accomplishments on the sports field have lead us to believe that the sporting team made at junior school level determines one’s success in life. Unfortunately, there are times when some may believe that the team that our children make will have a direct bearing on our social status. Whatever our motives, pure or somewhat misguided, the bottom line is that sport presents our children with a golden opportunity to learn so many life lessons. To discover so much about themselves, the world and each other. And to learn that how we respond to setbacks says so much more about our character. And in order for our children to learn these valuable lessons, we as parents have to step up to the plate, and remove our own agendas and ensure that we guide our children through the challenging times of making a team, and performing on the field. Our focus needs to be on the love of playing, on the camaraderie of being in a team, and of cherishing every moment, regardless of the team. These messages need to come through loud and clear from us. Any other messages, detract from the joy of sport seeping into the lives of our young players. Sometimes life is a little unfair, and sometimes coaches do get it wrong. Our response to disappointment faced by our children has an enormous influence on their outlook. Handling a fragile moment such as this takes great wisdom, and requires us to ensure that our own hopes and aspirations don’t get in the way. Guiding a child as they face challenges of this nature is not easy, as we are so emotionally involved, but a more fertile moment to teach and mentor will be difficult to find. For we learn life’s greatest lessons when the chips are down, and not when we are riding the crest of the wave. As I observed from the mid-week cricket match, sport has the unique ability to teach so much in a real and direct manner. It presents all involved with opportunities to grow, to self-reflect and to gain perspective. As we excitedly look forward to a busy winter season, let us not waste such golden moments to nurture and guide those within our care.