Let students manage – high expectations for responsibility

From Gib Gate Open Day – Tuesday 19 March

Poet Francis Thompson was right when he wrote in The Mistress of Vision:

All things by immortal power,
Near or far,
Hiddenly
To each other linked are,
Thou canst not stir a flower
Without troubling a star

This week in our Year 10 Service and Prayers, we paused to consider the impact of recent world events on those most closely affected, and on those well beyond direct connection, in the context of our place in the community of our School and of Mittagong...and of all parts of Australia and overseas. I have urged students to speak with their parents about the issues that arise for them and about which they need broader understanding. Important - every day - is that we continue to examine the quality of our efforts to support student growth in compassion, and in leadership, so that they develop informed perspectives essential to respectful, active citizenship.

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Responsibility

‘Never do anything for your child that they could do for themselves …OR … why we urge parents to be intentional, aligned and determined about setting high expectations for children and teenagers around responsibility and accountability…’

A favourite message of mine applied in the School context is: … if students can manage this (an organisational challenge) please let them…’ because - if we always ‘take charge’ in areas that are entirely manageable by children or teenagers, we are robbing them of the opportunity to accept a level of ‘real’ responsibility that can teach how hard it can be to make things happen, and (when successful) how rewarding…If we add the elements of quiet support along the way and debrief when the task is completed, students build capacity, and everyone benefits.

The best leadership experience for students is ‘real’ – with outcomes that matter. It requires students to work with or on behalf of others, to set and persist to achieve high standards, and to problem solve. 

Testing this notion in our current School context, Senior Frensham students are asked regularly to identify areas of School life where they can support our operations and management. It is my expectation that should we need them to keep the School running for a day in the absence of teachers and House staff, they have the capacity as a team to mobilise and manage their peers and younger students to complete the day safely and productively. 

Three areas of School life where this principle is embedded:

  1. The Year 12 leaders of Event Management, Stage Management, Sound and Lighting have for years been fully responsible to the Deputy Head for the preparation, logistics and direction of all major school events in Clubbe Hall - from the operation of lighting and sound, to the stage management, seating and set-ups of the entire space. 
  2. Visitors to the School are offered Student-led Tours of the campus – requiring two girls from different year groups to engage directly with a family, to agree with them on priorities for the tour, and to respond to questions along the way. This is an experience for every girl – across her lifetime at Frensham.
  3. In a different area completely: Gary Palmer, Frensham Schools IT Manager has in the past two years restructured our IT operation to facilitate student installation and upgrade of essential software on their devices (whilst also increasing the safety and security mechanisms around what is accessible).  In a Report on 2018 achievements, Gary noted that, across Frensham Schools, he has hundreds of associates sharing responsibility for IT management – the students. They are well aware of their role in maintaining what they need for learning and also of the limits imposed – for their benefit – on their IT access.

Resilience – learned through accountability and acceptance of Responsibility

In the opening chapter of Raising Resilient Kids (2018), Dr Michael Carr-Gregg offers excellent guidance for parents (‘How to Build Happy and Resilient Children’, p.5): ...resilience is not a rare ability; ...it can be learned and developed by virtually anyone...resilient individuals have, through time, developed coping techniques that allow them to navigate around or through crises...

Carr-Gregg includes in his list of five key drivers of student growth in resilience:
(i) the development of Social-emotional Competencies (student ability to manage their feelings and friendships and solve problems)
(ii) Islands of Competence - a passion or spark that gets students up and out of bed in the morning – growing skills that make them feel capable…

We know that students feel stronger and happier about life if they can ‘do more’ and if they feel ‘needed’ and our embedding of the experience of accepting responsibility – from the earliest days in Preschool at Gib Gate, is intentional and essential.

Visitors offered high praise to Year 6 at Gib Gate this week, commenting on their skill and their ‘engaging presence’ as hosts of all parts of Open Day - ‘real’ leadership opportunity presented to Gib Gate students, with outcomes that matter.

For parents, please consider the opportunities to harness your child’s or teenager’s ability to manage organisational challenges within family life: step back, set the expectations...and observe (or guide quietly) the ‘solution architects’ in your family, as they test their skills...!

Back to Frensham Weekend Service and Celebration:
Reminder to all re the last weekend of this term that we will be hosting a special Service and Celebration to acknowledge the Centenary of the establishment of Frensham Fellowship.

Acknowledgement to:

  • All families, students and staff who extended a warm welcome to the teachers and students of Paya Lebar Methodists Girls’ School (PLMGS), Singapore during their recent visit. Special thanks to the families who billeted eight of the students and to the student Shadows who hosted girls in class or in the House. The girls enjoyed a full academic and activities programme during their stay at Frensham, including participating in the Year 10 Sunday Service as part of the Senior Choir;
  • Gib Gate families, teachers and students for their support of Gib Gate’s Open Day this week;
  • Recent Girdle recipient, Charlotte Lalak (Year 12) (Equestrian);
  • Frensham Senior Choir for its support of the Confirmation Service at St Stephen’s Mittagong and to Rev Richard Mills who prepared Year 10s for Confirmation;
  • Frensham Swimming Team for their individual achievements, including 12 Years Girls Champion – Sylvie Potgieter (Year 7) and 17 Years Girls Champion – Abigail Clark (Year 11), and for their success as a team: Southern Highlands Secondary Schools Champions;
  • Frensham Schools Equestrian Teams for their success at the recent NSW Interschools Equestrian Championships – further details to follow when overall results are finalised;
  • Allie Broun (Year 11) and Sienna Campese (Year 9) selected in the U18 Southern Highlands Hockey Team to play in the NSW State Championships;
  • Frensham’s Tildesley Tennis team, heading to the competition next week – Wednesday and Thursday, 27-28 March;
  • Frensham’s Show Cattle Team for their recent success at Robertson Show and in the Moss Vale Show Junior Steer Competition and to Olivia Salkeld (Year 12) (Grain), Pip Ireson and Brodie van Egmond (Year 11) (Fruit and Vegetables) for gaining places in State Finals in the Young Judges competition;
  • Students achieving certification and certificates of achievement, now skilled to operate the AV systems of Clubbe Hall, following attendance at formal training sessions with professional staff from Custom Presentations: Sarah Hunter, Lara Kyriazis (Year 9); Sophia Pernice, Caitlin Quinn (Year 10); Caitlin Hargraves (Year 11); Kora Fripp, Hayley Hunter (Year 12);
  • Recent Duke of Edinburgh International Award recipients (Silver): Olivia Hamilton, Miriam Hopkins, Gracie Phelan (Year 11).

Julie Gillick
Head of Frensham
Head of Frensham Schools