Posts by: Briar Standing

Compassion and Community

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You can group people together and call that a community, but, for me, I only rate it as a community of value if there is compassion within it.

I mean, you can live beside your neighbours and you are in a community but do no more than wave as you walk past. Taking an active interest, checking in, asking questions, offering help, being involved – that’s a relationship fitting of a genuine community.

Coretta Scott King, an advocate for equality and civil rights (and wife of Martin Luther King Jr) proposed that, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members”. Coretta knew a thing or two about coming together for a worthy cause!

I say life is a worthy cause and at St John’s Grammar we plan for students to live a life of meaning – a life that means something to them and contributes meaning to others.

We saturate students with example, messages and learning experiences where consideration of others is followed up by resultant action that makes a positive difference to individuals and the community. This begins in the ELC and progresses in scope through to the final year of the whole-school journey. Of course, these programs, moments and longer-term projects are all designed to complement what happens at home and in your wider community connections involving your child.

I am talking about the example of compassion our staff demonstrate to students via our layers of care and efforts with teaching, opportunity provision and differentiation.

I am also talking about students helping a peer in the classroom, assisting the teacher and serving the School community as a formal or informal leader.

Moreover, I’m thinking about students taking action in the wider community beyond the School gates; fundraising, awareness raising, random acts of kindness, being creative then innovative through our enterprise learning framework where the beneficiaries are others as well as themselves, of the significant proportion of our graduates who embark on vocations of mission, and so on and so forth.

Quite simply, our students are invited daily to embrace our culture of living beyond themself.

This is particularly crucial through the Middle School years of young adolescence. This stage of development sees dispositions formed that are taken into the adult years combined with it being a time where disengagement in learning can peak and emotional hardship and turbulence abound. As such, our students benefit so greatly in terms of nurturing a sustainable resilience and appetite for the application of grit in their life by immersion in this mantra of action for others and the power of coming together to achieve greater things.

“None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful”
Mother Teresa.

I think we can, indeed, do great things on our own, however I concur with the notion of together, with love, we can achieve benefits of wonder.

Our students are regularly coming together to support others in the tough times and learning to ‘prevail’ – being a buddy to a new student (changing schools as a teenager is a tough time!) or walking laps for 24 hours for the Cancer Council’s Relay for Life – the ways are many and varied. In a week’s time, a ‘pod’ of St John’s Grammar student and staff swimmers will dive in for a 24 hour swim in aid of research and support for sufferers of Multiple Sclerosis – the MS Mighty Swim (we have raised more than $30 000 over the years supporting this cause, together).

Service, fundraising and house building journeys to Vietnam, relationship building with our Japanese sister school and connection making in the APY Lands – all wonderful examples of fostering in our students a calling to come together with others to build resilience and achieve improved outcomes…all on a foundation of love and compassion.

Whilst I can’t hand on heart say that other cultures are not like this, I expect they are as I think it’s a human trait, but it is often bandied about that it’s a very Australian quality – to rally together in times of hardship. Floods, fires, and COVID-19 on a large scale, or on a smaller scale, family tragedy or illness, so often bring out the best in others who feel compelled to wrap their arms around those disaffected and do whatever they can to help. How poor we would be if that wasn’t the typical response from others. Well, I am confident that St John’s Grammar people will always be those that provide support and, furthermore, will often be the ones with the proactive solutions!

One final example that I must highlight is the tROOper Project (#tROOperprojectau) which our Art faculty have lived over the past year.

I love this. Renowned SA artists and St John’s Grammar students have come together, through love, using their creativity to find a way to contribute in a time of crisis. Following the widespread devastation from the 2019/2020 bushfires, we were so deeply moved by the stories coming from the community about loss and devastation in the wake of the fires. So much so that it propelled our creative Art department into action. Our series of lifesized, fibreglass kangaroos were transported across Adelaide in our school buses to various high-profile artists with the finished masterpieces to be auctioned off to raise money for two very worthy bushfire-affected wildlife recovery initiatives.

But despite the best laid plans, sometimes things don’t actually go to plan. COVID-19 threw a few challenges our way last year as we rescheduled and adapted the event many times. Now, one year on, we are able to finally hold our auction. And this is the time to call on our community to support this unique initiative. Please tell all your friends and contacts (most notably the rich ones!) to register to bid on auction day on Sunday 21 February at the Secondary Campus. Registrations open from 2pm and the auction will start at 3.30pm. More information can be found on our website (https://www.stjohns.sa.edu.au/trooper-project/) , and you can follow White Chapel Art Gallery or #tROOperprojectau on instagram for ongoing updates.

If you’re not sure where you could fit a lifesized fibreglass kangaroo, not to worry, there are 10 mini sculptures to bid on as well! 100% of money raised will be distributed to charities supporting animal rescue; The Glossy Black Cockatoo Project and the Kangala Wildlife Rescue, both on Kangaroo Island. These two charities are full of volunteers who embrace the value of compassionate action within community.

I love being part of this community and hope you feel the same – getting involved is the greatest thing you can do.

Ben Clark
Head of Middle School