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 Principal's Update

Thinking

The year is certainly moving ahead very quickly. So far students have been actively engaged in the learning process in each of their subjects. Now is the time when you can demonstrate positive outcomes from this learning in the assignments that you are writing and the exams that you will sit. 

Which leads me into our Habit of Mind which is 'Thinking about thinking'. I was a little puzzled when I first read this — what could this habit possibly be about?  Further investigation revealed that it was reflecting and acting upon personal learning styles — working out how you best remember things. Are you a learner who has a preference for seeing information or by listening or do you learn most effectively through experience? Whilst all of us have a dominant way of learning, we use a mix of learning styles in different situations. This is a great skill which you can develop in your classrooms during this year. 

A quote attributed to St Dominic is, “A man who governs his passions is master of his world. We must either command them or be enslaved by them.”  

Respecting Self

The world is filled with people who, no matter what you do, no matter what you try, will simply not like you.  But the world is also filled with those who will love you fiercely. The ones who love you:  they are your people. Don’t waste your finite time and heart trying to convince the people who aren’t your people to walk your path. You are not for them and they are not for you. Your are not their cup of tea and they are not yours. Seek to share your path with those who recognise and appreciate your gifts … who you are. 

Be who you are ... You are not everyone’s cup of tea and that is okay.

Remember also, that your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship that you have. Make it a positive one.

The great philosopher Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  Congratulations to all of our young women who make learning into a habit.  

Clarity and Precision

Our habit of mind this week is 'Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision.'  Communication involves the sharing and receiving of ideas: listening, reading and watching. We want our thoughts to be heard and understood by our audience — there is little point in having great ideas if we cannot then share them with others. This habit encourages the sharing of ideas in ways that ensure full understanding. It also fosters the use of communication methods that are clear, avoiding distortions, generalizations or omissions.

It is important that when we think about and communicate ideas and events, that we do so accurately and without error. Strategies that you may use to ensure clarity and precision in communication are:

  1. Communicate often, practice is essential, pay attention to what works, and observe the habits of those who communicate effectively.
  2. Plan out what you need to communicate in advance, create an outline for written works.
  3. Edit your written works for meaning and accuracy. Ask yourself; 'Does this mean what I think it means?'
  4. Avoid over generalizations, distortions and deletions. Check for these in your thinking and writing.
  5. Think about your audience. What do they need to know? Will they understand you? What questions might they have that you should answer in your communication?

To give an example, in the often confusing words of Dr Suess,

“It has often been said there’s so much to be read, you never can cram all those words in your head.

So the writer who breeds more words than he needs is making a chore for the reader who reads.

That is why my belief is the briefer the brief is, the greater the sigh of the reader’s relief is.”

Clear and precise — maybe not.

The key to strengthening our communication skills is to improve our cognitive functioning. Learning new things is one way to turbocharge our brainpower. Every time we challenge ourselves, our brain is forced to rewire itself in order to understand the new information.

Our Habit of Spirit for this week is “Living Hopefully.” Easter is a time for hope. It is a time to let go and to see beyond what is going wrong with our lives. It is a time to look for the happiness in our hearts and to look towards the future with positivity. It is a time to care for one another and to remember that when all hope appears lost, sometimes the unexpected happens. Easter is also a time for chocolate and bunnies, bilbies and holidays. It is a time to spend with family and friends. It is a time for sleep-ins, egg hunts and hot cross buns. It is a time to take a break — to reflect and rejuvenate.

The Concept of Time

I recently read an article about time. When we reflect on time we often talk of minutes, of which we know there are 60 per hour. However, the journalist in this magazine wrote about nanoseconds, when atomic clocks measure time in even tinier increments, pretty much as short as eternity is long. This concept being beyond comprehension, I amused myself by contemplating how many minutes there are in a year. To begin with I did a quick mental calculation. Do that yourself now – how many minutes do you think there are in a year? (Wait 5 seconds.) You may have thought, as I did that the number would be in the millions. To my considerable astonishment the calculator determined that 2017 will be made up of just 525,600 minutes. Surprised?

The government has recently released a report informing us that people in Australia are living longer - particularly women surviving to almost 85 and men wearing out a little faster at 81. If I live to the average, I will have experienced 44,465,760 minutes.  Members of our families and community may be fortunate to have been alive for longer than that already.  If you are in Year 7 you have lived for around 6,570,000 minutes. For those of you in Year 12, you have used 8,935,200 minutes. 

Are these numbers a lot or not? Were they dollars in the federal government budget, which is expressed in billions, these few million would be regarded as petty cash.  However, think of the minutes you squander scrolling through clips on youtube, travelling on public transport, waiting in checkout queues, the list goes on.  Do we always use our time wisely?

Importantly though, are we wasting minutes of our lives in conflict with others?  Thomas Aquinas, a doctor of the Church and well respected Dominican preacher, questions us, “How is it they live in such harmony, the billions of stars, when most people can barely go a minute without declaring war in their minds about someone they know." 
 
Each year we are challenged to live out the mission of our College. Our theme for 2017, is unity.  We know that as a community we must continue to work to ensure that we are together as a team. But do we squander time in conflict with others around us? How many minutes of our day, week, year are taken up with mindless tension and quarrels that oppose our goal being of unified?  As a group we regularly look to our Habits of Mind and Spirit for direction, and so we understand that it is vital that we follow our conscience, be kind, respectful and generous and show mercy to others. We need to give over each nanosecond to create meaningful relationship with ourselves and others.  St Mary of the Cross MacKillop wrote, “so great is the strength we possess in our unity.”  This is a powerful message for us to take into the new year.
 
We also recognize that as a school in the Dominican tradition we share a commitment to learning as we seek to nurture, challenge and shape our heart, mind and spirit.  We are dedicated to using class time wisely and with purpose.  In 2017, students, you will experience an initiative known as Excellent Learning and Teaching … or ELT for short. Student learning growth is the goal and during the year there will be an explicit and targeted focus on literacy learning and teaching. This will build upon the great learning culture we have always experienced at the College, and be achieved through consistent practices in our classrooms and collaborative cultures amongst staff. 

This term we have already used 30,240 minutes with just 70,560 to go. The message here is obvious. With just 500,000 odd minutes for 2017, we have to make every one count. It is time to crank up our efforts here at school. To work hard towards our common learning goal, to complete our assignments on time, to do our homework well and to study for our exams. But just as much, we need to be unified as one harmonious community. We need to stop wasting our precious​ minutes. 
 
Tick, tick, tock.  The clock is ticking … there really isn’t a moment to lose. ​

Year of Unity

As a Dominican school we are guided by the values of truth, joy, faith and prayer, justice and compassion, community and service, and a love of learning. As a community we strive towards a ensuring a sense of unity, connectedness and belonging for all. In reality though, as individuals we are all different. We have different aspirations, different ideas, different interests and come from a range of different backgrounds.

This year we have determined unity as the theme for our community. The following words attributed to St Dominic inspire us ... “We are companions and must walk together.  For if we hold together no earthly power can withstand us.” 

To achieve this do we need to follow the mantra of less me and more we? Do we need to remember that everyone is special in their own way and that we need to work together to make each other strong? And do we need to be more tolerant and respectful of ourselves and of our peers, to seek connectedness with God and others through inclusive, welcoming and right relationships, to build community and to act compassionately. In a sense — we have the answer to these questions already. We have 16 Habits of Spirit to guide us as we build the team that is San Sisto College. 

How then in 2017 will we each foster this notion of thinking and working towards our common goal of unity?  It is up to each of us, individually and together to enact the values that we as a community hold dear to our hearts. 

J K Rowling writes in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire … ”We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided."  A motto for us to live by this year.  Please keep in mind that as a team we can work together to enhance the outcomes for our whole community. Ask yourself how much more could be achieved if we were there for each other, hand in hand, standing shoulder to shoulder, speaking in one voice, every time. 

We are all members of the San Sisto family in 2017 — we’re all in this together and it shows! 


Mrs Shelley Hamilton​​​​​​​​​​​