Dear St John’s Grammar families,
I can’t believe that it’s the end of Term 2 already! The Year 7s are halfway through their first year of high school and have changed their electives already. The Senior School are in the first exam period for the year. The Junior School and ELC are preparing the Mid-Year Receptions for their start of school next term. And all of our students, across all 3 Campuses, have already achieved and celebrated so much this year.
As one of only a handful of staff who works across all 3 campuses, it has been my absolute pleasure to see the students so engaged in so many sporting, music, fundraising, academic and service events in the past few weeks.
Reconciliation Week was a beautiful coming together of the whole school as we acknowledged the pain of our collective history and the hope found in using common language, sharing a connection to the land and of loving each other well and moving forward together as a unified nation. The National Simultaneous Storytime, the cross-country events and the Halstead Day on the Green were delightful celebrations of being together, and the Pride Party gave us the opportunity to learn more about and to celebrate the diversity of our student community.
As much as we have to celebrate, I am also aware that being part of a school community is not always smooth sailing. It has been a massive start to the year as our society has embraced the removal of all Covid-19 restrictions. For most of our students, it was the first uninterrupted semester they have had in three years. Amongst the celebrations there is also a weariness as we all – students, staff and parents – are still processing the impact of the last three years on our own wellbeing and our expectations of ourselves, our jobs and how we interact with others. School is also where our children learn to socialise with others and all relationships will experience “friendship fires” and our young people are trying to navigate what that means for their sense of self and their relations. And of course, schooling is also about education, and many of our students have increased anxiety at the moment about what their reports will show next week.
With all this in mind, I think it’s easy for us to fall back into thought patterns that lead us to believe that we need to keep striving to make ourselves seen and appreciated. We strive academically. We strive in our roles and often we strive in our “self-care” – as being able to achieve self-care feels like adding another thing to the to-do list that we have to successfully do. I’ve had many conversations in my wellbeing role with middle school students worried that their grade for a particular test will ruin their chances of getting into the career they want in the future. Of course, as adults, we know that is not true, but it does serve as a reminder of the pressure that we personally, can put ourselves under when we hyperfocus on a certain detail and forget the big picture. As a parent, it also reminds me of how a small comment from me can often turn into a big worry for my child! And of course, social media, overheard adult conversations, and mainstream media also create this sense of pressure and fear of missing out.
So I just want to take this opportunity to remind all of us to take a big breath and remember that both the celebrations and the challenges that we are facing don’t define us – and the celebrations and challenges that our kids are facing don’t define them.
As Chaplain, I have the huge privilege of sharing moments of stillness and reflection with your children regularly. We have chapel each week in the Junior School and each fortnight on the Secondary Campus. I like to think of chapel as a relaxed church service where we have regular rhythms to help us think about what values guide us and what is important in our lives.
As the representative of the Anglican faith at school, to me this comes down to the two great commandments: “Love God, and Love others.” But a huge part of being able to love others well comes down to knowing how deeply loved we are as well. We can acknowledge that there are a lot of commodities in this world which are scarce or at risk of scarcity, but I do not believe that Love is one of them.
As I said at our Secondary Easter Eucharist earlier this year:
“Ultimately, we hold onto this hope that at the end of the day, love wins. That forgiveness wins. That grace wins. That our relationships, the way we love others and ourselves matter.
And that’s the story of Easter – that God is with us in the mess, that God weeps with us in the mess, that God feels the full brunt of the pain of the mess and takes that mess and that God doesn’t let it win. God begins to put it, and put us, back together and invites us to help in putting others back together.”
It is my hope that our children grow up with a unshakeable knowledge that they are loved and that they can’t earn that – our friendships, our grades and what we do and have – are building blocks to helping us soar and to chase our dreams. It helps us to climb high, to have a launchpad to jump from. But they are not why we soar – we soar because we know we are loved. Eagles do not fight to fly. They are not small birds who have to flap their wings and fight the air currents. Eagles rest in the air currents and let them take them to where they need to be. We can thrive as the person we were made to be knowing that the wind keeping our eagle wings up is the unshakeable love we have from God.
So as we all wind up the end of our semester, may we be grateful for what we have been able to celebrate and achieve in the last 2 terms. May we know love and connection from others in the school community. May we hold our report cards loosely. May we rest well over the holidays, and may we know that we are loved beyond all else.
At the end of each Junior School chapel, I finish with a benediction, that I would like to share with you today. May each of us know the truth of it in our own lives and in the lives of our students too.
“You are not what you have, what you do, or what people say.
You are a child of God, and no one can take that away.
There’s nothing you can do to make God love you more or less.
You don’t have to hurry or worry, You can trust your friend Jesus
You can rest in the love of your Heavenly Father, and let your courage and kindness be a gift to others.”