Welcome to our 2019 school year! At our opening Senior School assembly, I addressed our students on the theme of marking the passage of time. It seems to be an almost universal anthropological phenomenon that each culture has formed a way of celebrating or acknowledging the transition between months, seasons or years.
While this is pertinent now due to the celebrations acknowledging Chinese New Year, we can also look to the celebrations in Iran and Afghanistan around Nowruz (Persian new year), which involves the tradition of a three-week deep cleaning of one’s house before the exchange of gifts. In local First Nation’s culture, members of the Kulin nation, with their astute focus on changes in the natural environment, mark the transition between six to eight different seasons.
Our Jewish tradition has Rosh Hashana with our round challot, fish heads and huge feasts. Western culture also has a substantial celebratory focus on New Year’s with fireworks and late-night parties.
So what do all these celebrations mean? I think the point is that each culture, in its own way, acknowledges the psychological importance for us in marking end points and start points.
This is because each of these points allow us to think back to what we have achieved and also to encourage us to think about where we are going.
What I wanted to point out for our students is that in the transition between the 2018 and 2019 school years we should each take time to reflect. What can we do differently in the year ahead?
I challenged them to ask themselves some questions. Can they become a better friend in 2019? Can they take steps to ensure that their actions truly represent their values? Can they be truly inclusive? Can they ensure that they consider other’s feelings when they organise a gathering or sit down in a circle at lunchtime? Have they thought about what a gift it can be to invite someone in?
Can they refrain from passing on gossip, judgments or put-downs?
And what about their studies? Can they apply themselves with dedication? Follow their teacher’s recommendations and produce work that they are proud of?
Can they challenge themselves to try new things? Put themselves out there and take part in the huge range of opportunities that are available that maybe they haven’t tried before?
My wish for our students is that they do not merely allow the passage of time to drag them into a new school year but that they take ownership and take action in regards to what they want to change.
One easy and memorable model to achieve this is to focus on the traffic lights.
Red is for what choices or behaviours should they stop doing.
Amber is for what is working for them that they should keep doing.
Green stands for what new decisions, opportunities or friendships they wish to pursue in 2019.
Hopefully this simple framework proves useful in assisting our students to get the most out of 2019.
I mentioned at our Parent Information Evenings that we believe that the best way to raise a child is to create furious agreement between home and school. We know that through investing in parent partnerships we are well placed to ensure a cohesion of messaging and consistency of support. As such, I request that our families take the opportunity to reinforce this message in age-appropriate ways to our students.
In so doing, you will be helping us give our children the gift of mindfulness, agency and optimism and setting them up for a great year.