From the Principal: 18 March 2019

From the Principal: 18 March 2019

In my opening address to staff on the first day of the year I put forward the following thought as the foundation for our purpose here at Melbourne Girls Grammar.

To educate is to make an intervention into the lives of others. When we intervene we do so with certain assumptions about the value of what we are doing and why. Building students’ capacity for future readiness is a moral-ethical learning endeavour and one that cannot be left to chance.

Our world is changing rapidly and the future requires schools to prepare students with a set of skills and knowledge for the unknown. In 2009 Harvard University Professor David Perkins likened the ancient Zen Buddhist painting by Hakuin Ekaku (1685-1768) titled ‘Two Blind Men Crossing a Log Bridge’ as a metaphor for the 21st century teacher carefully and cautiously preparing learners for this unknown. He likens the teacher to the blind men crossing a deep ravine hoping to make it to the other side. Research, data and an evidence based approach are all enablers of this crossing and a great challenge for educators. 

Our quest is to personalise student learning by providing challenges that will engage young adults with a range of varied opportunities so that they develop a diverse skill set. Our aim is to create a learning environment that is student centered rather than teacher directed, and one that encourages independence rather than dependence.

Knowing a lot well is not enough. As a partnership between home and school we need to develop within our girls the resilience and ability to act and problem solve when they don’t know what to do. We need to have education for the unknown. So, everything we do at Melbourne Girls Grammar must reflect this need to develop the knowledge and skills of our girls with the intent of preparing them for the future. 

As a new Principal, I will observe carefully the rhythm of the academic year and then work collaboratively with the community to chart the next strategic intent of 2020-2025 ready to begin next year. I am currently meeting each staff member one-on-one to listen to their thoughts on the School, reading widely and attending as many school events as I can to fully understand the culture.

As part of this observation and understanding, from the beginning of Term 2, we will undertake a Strategic Review as part of a process to develop the new Strategic Intent guiding Melbourne Girls Grammar into the next decade and beyond. The Review will help our community conceptualise MGGS over the next 5-10 years and put in place a Strategic Plan for 2020-2025. 

The world is rapidly changing and, as a contemporary and innovative school, the new Strategic Plan will ensure MGGS continues to be future focused, responsive and fully prepared to educate the 2030 graduate. On Wednesday 6 March I presented to the Morris and Merton Hall teaching staff the outline and timeline for this strategic review. I stated that we would collect this data together and that we would build the new Strategic Intent collectively. I asked the staff to reflect on the famous quote by Stephen R. Covey ‘Begin with the end in mind’ as a starting point for charting the sharp course for future focused success.

The Strategic Review will allow an opportunity for our community to check our Vision, Mission and Values and to provide clarity for our future direction as one of Australia’s leading independent girls’ school. There will be three key questions that we will focus on, including:

  • What does our school do well?
  • What would you like to see our school doing in 5–10 years?
  • What are things we need to develop to connect where we are to where we want to be?

In preparation for the development of a Strategic Plan for 2020-2025 we will scrutinise data using a searchlight and laser light perspective. That is, we will scan the horizon and breadth of MGGS programs (search light) and we will also drill deep into them (laser light). In Term 3, we will analyse this data with the support of critical friends and develop a draft Strategic Plan to present to School Council. We will respond to feedback and then polish and refine the Plan, ready to implement the new Strategic Intent in 2020. 

Balancing the depth and breadth of our educational provisioning for girls and young women with a focus on academic and wellbeing excellence, with evidence backed practice, is the key. I look forward to walking with the whole community as we shine a spotlight on current practice in preparation to take MGGS to next practice. 

To say that Term 1 is action packed would be an understatement! Each day has a vibrancy all its own and to step in to the School is to see our students thoroughly engaged in a multitude of activities. I thoroughly enjoyed the recent MGGS celebrations in International Women’s Week.

First, our Year 12 Father Daughter Breakfast at the Royce Hotel on 7 March was a wonderful and well attended occasion. Guest speaker, journalist and author, Gideon Haigh gave an intelligent and heartfelt address about being a father and reminded us all of the joy of parenthood and of the precious moments daughters bring.

Second, our Old Grammarians hosted an International Women’s Day Breakfast in the Dining Hall early on 8 March with guest speaker Opera and Theatre Director, Sarah Giles (OG, 2001). Sarah spoke of the importance of story and the lens in which we view the world. She purposefully wove into her brilliant address of her journey since school, the Bechdel test, the feminine narrative and the significance of being comfortable in one’s own skin – a truly inspirational choice by our President of the Old Grammarians Society, Ms Trudie Horsfall. 

Finally, at the Merton Hall IWD Assembly on 8 March, owner and developer of Mecca Cosmetica, Jo Horgan spoke eloquently of balance and keeping the inner voice a positive one. How fortunate are we as a community to have three such guest speakers who have given generously in time and spirit to address our students? On behalf of our community, we are most grateful for the individual messages they contributed for IWD week.

Congratulations

Congratulations to our entire rowing family. The sense of community and sisterhood at the Head of School Girls Regatta over the weekend was inspiring. Overall, our teams performed particularly well and there were many medals won; indeed too many to highlight in this paragraph. The message we strongly communicate to our Grammarians, is that the joy of participation and teamwork are the most important keys to any sport. In the words of our Head of Rowing, Angus Seller: 
“Results come secondary to how we believe we have executed our racing – technically, physically and physiologically. If we have executed as well as possible, that is all we can ask for as a crew. Usually, high execution of these qualities does mean a positive competition result, which we saw yesterday.”

Thank you to our families for supporting their daughters in the rigorous training and build up for the event, and thank you to Angus Seller, Sally Bailey and all the rowing coaches who have worked with our Grammarians this season. Additionally, thank you to the many staff and alumnae who travelled down to Geelong to cheer on the teams. Furthermore, we wish our senior teams attending the Nationals in Sydney in a few weeks all the very best and we know that they will be outstanding ambassadors for MGGS.

To our alumnae, Sarah Macky who performed her VCE monologies as part of VCAA Top Class at The Playhouse Theatre on Tuesday 12 March. Sarah’s solo performance of Tokyo Rose was exceptional. The stimulus for this character is the life of broadcaster Iva Taguri D’Aquino (Tokyo Rose) who was convicted and imprisoned by the US as a traitor at the end of WWII. I felt very privileged to be part of the audience to witness the talent.

To Father Walter for so capably blessing all the animals at the Morris Hall Pet Chapel on Friday 15 March. The old saying, ‘be careful working with children and animals’ belies the fact that they are just so entertaining! I thoroughly enjoyed this happy occasion and it was delightful to see so many students proudly displaying their furry and four footed friends at Morris Hall.

Congratulations to Ahelee, Year 9, who has been accepted to be a part of the VicSRC’s 2019 Ambassadors Program. This is a great achievement and I am confident that Ahelee will contribute a very thoughtful voice as an ambassador.

A hearty congratulations to Year 5 student, Nelly who competed at the Singapore National Swim Championships in mid-March.

Well done to Year 10 student, Kanna who has been selected to compete at the Cheerleading and Dance World Competitions in April in the US. We wish Kanna every success in her competition!

Congratulations to Year 6 student, Amelia who represented MGGS at the Equestrian Interschools in late February winning two seconds and being awarded Reserve Champion. Amelia will represent MGGS at the Interschool State Championships in April. Bravo!

Additionally, congratulations to Year 11 student, Bella who has been selected to compete at the Australian Swimming Championships in April in Adelaide. We wish her all the very best!

In closing, as we enter Week 8 and the term comes close to an end, I would like to remind everyone (especially our senior students) of the importance of sleep. I am well known for the mantra ‘sleep is your friend’. In the busy schedule of school, it is essential for growing children, adolescents and young adults to ensure that they get sufficient sleep. 

Sleep is as important as exercise and nutrition and our young Grammarians should be aiming for a minimum of 9 hours per night! Inadequate sleep will impact negatively on mood, wellbeing and academic performance — so please support your daughters to get to bed early, turn off devices and limit television and screen time so that they can start each day reenergised and refreshed.

Author

Dr Toni E. Meath, Principal