Welcome to the new year and a very special welcome to new students and families joining IGS, as well as those returning to our School.
It was wonderful to greet members of our community at the gate on the first full day of our academic year, after preparing for our students’ return with The Beautiful Work Conference on Thursday 21 January.
Our focus was on creating extraordinary opportunities and learning outcomes for our students in the year ahead.
Our fun, inspiring, thought-provoking day began with acknowledgement of Gadigal Land, reminding us that the land upon which we teach our students and work each day is ancient and precious.
Julius Sumner Miller Fellow at the University of Sydney Dr Karl Kruszelnicki AM joined us as keynote speaker, challenging us on the concept of Beautiful Work, what it means and how we draw it out in our students through quality feedback.
I use the term “draw out” deliberately; the word education is derived from educare: to train, to mold; and educere: to draw out. Teachers train and mold, but they also draw out the gifts and talents that are within the child.
We have also begun to forge a bold new strategic plan for our school which will be launched at Speech Night in December. The plan will give IGS a blueprint to the end of 2026 and beyond; a blueprint which is mindful of our mission, our values and our precious history.
Crafting a school year for around 1300 students is a labour of love, an act of collective expertise, hard work, good will and creativity.
There is a strange alchemy that goes into the education of a child. It has elements of the linear, but excitingly, it manifests in fits and starts and just when it seems that a child is not progressing as we would like, they do something that astonishes us and their learning takes an almighty leap. We see these exciting eruptions in student growth in the beautiful work of the child or young person.
When I say beautiful, I mean beautiful in the broadest sense, mathematically, scientifically, artistically. Beautiful work matters. It has substance. It is important to the child and to the world. It builds capacity and character.
It comes from effort and focus. From effort comes ease and flow and then quality and beauty emerge. So we are reframing the concept of work into a precious thing, a thing of beauty and quality, intricately connected to learning and flourishing for our students and for us all.
What are the factors that bring out beautiful work in a child or young person? The holding environment of the child must be safe, stimulating and nurturing. We all play a role in that.
We also know that the teacher and teacher feedback are key. Our teachers explored this notion in more detail by focusing on the illuminating work of Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Ron Berger who has been teaching for 45 years and has devoted his life’s work to the belief that when our students leave school, they will be judged by two things: the quality of the work they do and the quality of their character. Our teachers heard how he helps students become leaders of their own learning.
I will be introducing our whole school goal for 2021, to build beautiful work across the school, in good news assemblies over the next few weeks to students from Kindergarten to Year 12.
I am excited to begin this new year of equipping our students to be ready for the world (our school’s mission), as we take our students further than they think they can go towards the creation of beautiful work, drawn out through the kind, helpful and specific feedback of the teacher and by the relationship the teacher forges with the student and the class.
On a practical note, we are maintaining COVID-safety by staying away from campus if we are at all unwell, by maintaining physical distancing, ensuring windows and doors are open for a cross breeze, washing hands with soap for 20 seconds, using hand sanitisers around the campus and coughing or sneezing into our elbows. Masks are optional. As always, I thank you for your cooperation as we navigate the pandemic together while focusing on exceptional opportunities for education every day.