Dear members of the Whitefriars College Family,
There is so much that is difficult and challenging in our lives at this time, so when little rays of light and hope appear, we grab hold of them and appreciate them all the more. In these days of isolation, I think it is those moments of connection and interaction with others which give me the greatest joy and hope. In my own life, it is the wonderful get-together’s I am having with my extended family at the moment, via zoom of course! Last week we celebrated my mums 80th birthday (I hope she doesn’t mind me stating her age!). It was great to have the whole family together to pay tribute to someone who has given so much to her four sons and extended family including 9 grandchildren.
It is relationship that sustains us during times of struggle and strain. Schools are places which are founded on relationship, they are driven and nourished by relationships; in fact, learning itself requires a relationship. How then can this activity of educating young people occur successfully when we are physically apart from our community? This past week, I have been witness to a couple of examples of ‘relationships at work’ in our school.
Last week, I was invited to attend two combined Year 10 Vocational Preparation Classes taught by Christine Haddrell and Andrew Worner. I was asked to present to these students, the important skills and strategies involved in preparing for and attending a job interview. When I arrived in the zoom meeting, some students were already there chatting to their teachers. It was wonderful to hear the cheerful banter and conversations occurring between students and teachers in this space. I felt a sense of mutual respect in this class, which speaks to me of who we are as a Catholic Carmelite school for boys. A place where the inherent dignity of all is nurtured and supported.
Last Friday, I attended a meeting with Mark Ashmore, Deputy Principal – Learning and Teaching and the Year 12 Academic Captains. I listened with great interest as these Gentle Men spoke of their experience of the Whitefriars Home Learning Program. When asked what they missed most about coming to school, all the boys spoke about relationships; seeing their mates at lunch time, talking with their teachers and simply helping each other out with their studies. These young men shared how important it was for them to have the support of their teachers and their mates at this challenging time.
Early this week, I gathered with the boys and staff from an Avila and a Soreth Pastoral group to celebrate the birthdays of Year 12 students Charlie and Oscar O’Connor. The boy’s Pastoral teachers Lauren Cape-Murphy and Jason Savage organised the morning and a gift was left on the boy’s front door step from the Pastoral classes. These two young men greatly appreciated the effort and sentiment of this thoughtful action from their teachers and classmates. As their mother Mandy later wrote: The boys will certainly remember this birthday!
These as just some examples of the thoughtfulness and joy our staff and students are bringing to each other during this time of separation. Examples where relationships and learning hold equal value as one begets the other. This is the time more than any other when we need to put aside differences and focus on the building of lasting and valued relationships.
So, what does the relationship between teacher and student really matter anyway? Isn’t the teaching of content more important? There are many including Internationally renowned educational psychologist Kirke Olson who would disagree. He says that from the moment we are born, the human brain is wired to best learn within the context of a positive relationship. “When the humanity is removed from education, so is much of the effectiveness” – (Olson 2014). You can see therefore the importance of the three examples of I have just provided here. These are only a tiny fraction of the many positive, relational interactions taking place every day between teachers and students in our Home Learning environment. It is now more than ever that these interactions are of even greater significance. They are a Hallmark of Whitefriars, they are deeply ingrained into the DNA of who we are, right down to our motto Almae In Fide Parentis – In the care of a loving mother.
Mr Mark Murphy