My colleagues and I are excited about the year ahead. In preparation, we have been re-examining ethical leadership and exploring and reaffirming what it is that makes IGS unique as we pursue this year’s whole school goal to achieve educational excellence in all we do.
Year 7 Philosophy began today! This is a new curriculum offering for IGS in 2018. It’s being pioneered by Oxford-trained philosopher and linguist Dr Britta Jensen. In the spirit of philosophical inquiry, Britta is opening the doors to our Philosophy classrooms. If you’d like to see our students immersed in this exciting new body of knowledge, please contact Britta at email@example.com. In fact, if we have enough interest, Britta may run a Philosophy class this term for parents. You will be very welcome!
The Ethics Centre Executive Director Dr Simon Longstaff AO reminded our leadership team, during his Tiger in the Room workshop in January, that leadership and ethics go hand in hand and that living an examined life is perhaps the highest calling for us all. In organisational life we avoid the elephant in the room, but the tiger in the room was a fascinating metaphor for risks that we may not see. Simon wove this compelling metaphor into a practical framework for our ethical decision-making as we lead the School in 2018. At its heart is the notion that constructive subversion is the ethical tool-of-choice for leaders. This requires deep ‘listening up’ as well as ‘speaking up’.
Our School’s values are diversity, personal achievement, authenticity, connectedness and vibrancy. At our all-staff Culture Conference, staged at the University of Sydney’s Law School last week, we reflected on how these values are expressed every day through our relationships and through the quality of our classroom pedagogies.
I was thrilled to welcome Virgin Australia CEO and Managing Director John Borghetti AO, and IGS parent Geraldine Chin Moody who leads 5H Values Capital. John and Geraldine generously gave up their time to share their inspiring, thought-provoking and encouraging insights at the IGS Culture Conference.
“What is the world about? What is life about?” Mr Borghetti asked.
“Relationships! Everything is about the relationship you have with your family, colleagues and neighbours, and success comes from benefiting from the relationships you have.”
I encourage you to read the full article on the IGS Culture Conference here.
We also welcomed guest speaker BVN Principal Phillip Rossington, who presented an update on the Master Plan and explored the connections between the culture and the School’s built environment as we continue to reimagine and redesign our campus for the benefit of all students, now and into the future.
The campus has been refreshed for the start of the academic year. Students are enjoying the new Blue Room on Level 2 of the Reg St Leon Building. Our iconic Kerrie Murphy Building is earmarked to become the Global Learning Centre this year, a fitting heart for our distinctive and abiding languages program. We will also create The Imaginarium on the ground floor of the Wright Building which will see the space opened up for a range of purposes, both curricular and co-curricular.
Our teachers have also been reflecting on the value of every moment with every student and how the atmosphere in the classroom contributes to students’ growth and feelings of wellbeing. In that context, we are beginning The Stillness Project in the coming weeks, to develop activities in mindfulness for our students across the campus this year.
In my first Through Line of the year – a letter I share with colleagues each Monday morning – I asked our teachers, “How will you begin your first lesson?” I recounted the story of a dear friend and former colleague who has just retired after 50 years in the classroom. Her name is Althea. At the beginning of her first Year 11 English lesson she writes on the board: “I went into the woods because I wanted to live deliberately.’ She tells her students about 19th century American writer Henry David Thoreau and his experiences living in a cabin on the banks of the beautiful but isolated Walden Pond. Thoreau’s decision to live in the peace, beauty and isolation of nature, in the woods, became the subject of his 1854 masterpiece Walden. These words come from that text.
Althea and her students then discuss what it might mean to live deliberately and how they may as a class explore literature and words carefully, deliberately, “putting the right words in the right order”.
Althea’s story inspired me to think about how we begin our days at IGS and how we shape our classroom atmosphere so that our students can be, in the words of John Borghetti, “the best we can possibly be, right now”. And so we have been sharing stories from the classroom this week about how we begin.
Wednesday was our first assembly day and Aboriginal Elder and cultural educator Uncle Jimmy Smith ushered in the new academic year with a smoking ceremony and with words of wisdom shared at both assemblies: “Be proactive, be positive, be productive!”
In my keynote address, I told the story of the 1975 Köln Concert in which jazz pianist Keith Jarrett gave the performance of his life, playing what many saw as an unplayable piano. Through this story, I encouraged students to appreciate the unexpected advantages that will come this year when they respond with grit and delight to challenges that push them out of their comfort zones.
I look forward to watching our students grow, embrace challenge and be courageous in their learning this year, because as I said to them on their first day, sometimes you learn best when things are a little bit uncomfortable.
As we come to the end of a fantastic first week, I look forward to seeing many of you at the Welcome to Parents event this evening, which we will host on the School’s rooftop with the city lights as our backdrop. You will have the chance to meet key staff and hear from our President of the Parents, Teachers and Friends Association (PTF), Andrea Belunek.
Throughout 2018, let’s celebrate the best of our culture, and enhance what is unique about our great school.
I wish you all the best!