Call us nostalgic, that’s ok; we choose to still take inspiration from the Olympics.
We choose to see beyond the politics of the host-city decision process, the governance of the IOC, the commercialisation, instead allowing ourselves to romanticise the virtues of the Games. We still love the ideal of the world coming together, not to worship Zeus anymore, but for peace, connection and personal bests.
The values of the Games outline this ideal:
- Striving for Excellence – encouraging people to be the best they can be
- Celebrating Friendship
- Demonstrating Respect – towards oneself, the rules, opponents and the environment.
Olympians and the officials promise to take part respecting and abiding by the rules, embracing the spirit of fair play, inclusion and equality; and stand together in solidarity and commitment to make the world a better place through sport.
This, combined with the individual stories of the Games, the elation, the reward for sacrifice and effort, the heartache and disappointment, the resilience to refocus for next time and with the demonstration of humility by many, provides a great example for the benefit of schools, classrooms and individual students.
We see a link between the Olympic ethos and the intentions for our culture at St John’s Grammar School.
We wrote earlier in the year of community and the imperative for compassion to be core to that. We’d like to continue that here with relation to our culture and individual behaviour.
Our culture and standards are a foundation we are continually building on. Forged by parents’ aspirations for a school that provides the best learning experience by nurturing free spirit and promoting collaboration, our vision and mission to be an inclusive community of creative and passionate learners provides the environment in which students learn to soar. Why? Culture is integral to the collective and individual students’ ability to soar.
Research supports that when the environment is inviting, safe, inclusive and supportive of all, students, staff and parents soar. Put simply, teachers are more dedicated, students achieve more.
Our culture is the responsibility of the entire school community: leaders, staff, parents and students. It is through continual commitment, purposeful action, communication and collaboration – every day, on the little points and moments, as we deal with the thinking, work, emotions, challenges and opportunities that arise and that we create.
Our culture is for all of us – students, parents, teachers, leaders – by all of us, and is focused on the present and the future. We could reference Abraham Lincoln here, but we’ll stick with the Olympics parallel!
Our culture is all about ‘Living Beyond Yourself’ and personal bests. Our students are saturated with messages and examples concerning this, and the alignment with the Olympics is obvious.
Respect yourself by working hard, abiding by the rules, working with your teachers, speaking up when there’s an issue – being an upstander, being a friend, and encouraging others to be their best!
This begins in the ELC and progresses in scope through the Junior School years, the Middle School experience all the way to the final year of the whole-school journey. The frameworks differ for age and developmental appropriateness but instilling our values of care and action for others is consistent.
Leaders and teachers of the school continuously refine the whole-school approach. A child and family should have the sense along the way that we are one school – with culture, proactivity and response.
This relates to the positive learning environments and behaviour piece.
All schools have classroom and behaviour management policies and guidelines, as do we, but moreover, one of our exciting projects is to overtly link these and other levers of cultural contribution to allow all stakeholders to clearly see, articulate and refine the parts.
Aspects such as:
- Staff codes of culture and conduct
- The professional learning program
- Teacher collegiality and collaboration
- Our High Impact Teaching project
- Positive learning environment standards
- The planned curriculum
- Wellbeing layers of care and education
- House and School Life including extra-curricular, service and community links
- Our communications
- Our celebrations
These are just some of the many parts that play their role in contributing to our culture.
The suite of positive learning environment and behaviour management policies and practices are but some of these components that strengthen and preserve our culture.
Whilst learning occurs anywhere, anytime including the school-yard, home, the community and online, the classroom remains the central environment for the face to face connection and support of learning. As such, it is of critical importance to have the physical environment and the human interactions conducive to optimal learning conditions – a quest for a standard of excellence. These standards apply to many aspects, including: classroom practices such as safety, tidiness, welcome and inclusion, resources that stimulate and support learning, seating plans, book and digital work, attention, focus and best efforts.
From anti-bullying, to the safe passage of behaviour reporting with accompanying confidence in the efficacy of complaint handling, to respectful relationships education and management (for which we have a task group working in consultation with Dr Tess Opie to assess, evaluate and refine our work) there is an appetite within the school to always be forward focussed, to best guide the provision of education and support of student needs for the society they are, and will be, acting in.
So much happens in this area but the perception may not always correspond. Due to a focus on compassion, learning and individual respect, it’s right and proper that not all matters are made public. But that can cause a problem.
It’s human nature that simply less-informed thinking can lead to a conclusion of ‘nothing has been done’. By making our intentions, rationale and pathways and practices for culture, standards and behaviour management more visible, more easily accessed, we can lessen this view. Communication and clarity is key and this is part of the commitment we have with this whole-school review project.
As with the Olympic ideal, these behaviour policies and guides complement our culture by respecting each individual – others and oneself (personal responsibility) and encouraging others to be the best they can.
As such, these values reflect our compassion and commitment to education – we are a place of learning, a community of learners. Yes, we will be clear on expectations and enact resultant consequences, but we will also have a focus on learning; learning to live well, to have a life of meaning, to work with others restoratively, to repair hurt, to communicate, to forgive, to live with grace. That’s the hard but the profound bit – it doesn’t come easy to forgive, to be gracious. It goes against our every instinct – as the student wronged by another, as the parent of the wronged student.
We naturally want cause and effect, receive what we earn, karma, consequence, an eye for an eye. We’re not, however, arguing the case for ‘cheap grace’ or unaccountability for misdeeds here – our school, nor society, cannot operate that way – rest assured that whilst preserving the utmost dignity of each child and confidentially, these standards of accountability are continuously reinforced.
Moreover, it’s allowing space for those who have wronged to make amends, to be forgiven and to build – it’s a crucial component of our approach. If one doesn’t learn to forgive, you break the bridge over which you too must cross. It’s a fine line that our policies, frameworks and education programs aim to achieve – having the balance right where the ‘consequences’ and learning befit a situation, the individuals and their greater growth.
We recognise that the child and adolescent brain continues to develop connections (roadmaps) and it is our role, working in relationship with parents and the child, to continue to re-route and re-map these in times of difficulty or great challenge.
All these thoughts and actions speak to our culture – meaningful connections, positive and purposeful learning experiences and the development of individual responsibility. This is always a whole-of-school agenda item and one of such profound importance to other outcomes of the St John’s opportunity and journey that we are committed to continual review and development as we lead this ever-ongoing project.
We love that our school community has a commitment to compassion for each individual, to standards and to education for a life of meaning. We hope you feel the same.
Head of Middle School
Deputy Head of Junior School