With the year of 2021 concluding and the release of another round of SACE and IB results, it prompts me to reflect on my time as a school parent. I’m always grateful for the Seymour journey that my daughter, Pearl ('09), had travelled and appreciate how this school is a place where every girl gets to shine. Perhaps, the most valuable takeaway is that learning is everywhere in your day-to-day life, not just from the books.
I caught up with some friends over coffee last week. The exchange was great and all those turned up had a good time. Sharing the good time also included a group of students sitting at the next table. They were discussing enthusiastically the possible approaches to tackle a particular science assignment. Not knowing the exact details of their subject matter, their earnestness and seriousness was a delight to watch. A term they used kept lingering on my mind and that led to my sharing some unchained ideas here.
“Show-and-Tell” – does this term sound familiar? Yes, it has been a common exercise in the early formative years of our girls. Seemingly a simple piece about what you did over the weekend or your favourite toy or book. However, I realise some years after my daughter finished high school that – wait a minute, it is not dissimilar to the pursuit of a PhD as it involves identifying your own topic, thinking through the why and what, researching and synthesising, and presenting your findings. Indeed, that would be the maiden pitching for all our girls.
The whole process checked all necessary steps for self-research and more importantly, this simple assignment sets off the track of personal learning and reflection. Fast forward to now, Personal Learning Plan and Research Project are essential components of SACE.
Academic studies are important but learning can be found beyond the books and formal curriculum. The right balance between formal academic studies and extra-curricular activities is a perennial question. I honestly didn’t think much about it when my daughter was in school, as we just let her choose what she enjoyed and how she participated. The biggest lesson out of those years, though, is that formal and informal curricula are almost equally important as they help inform and shape the development of a child.
Employers today, especially for entry level positions, typically require applicants to have the ability to work independently and as a team, skills to effectively communicate with different audiences, time management skills to meet deadlines and work flexibly. And problem-solvers and self-starters are always favoured. Of course, applicants may need to have certain education qualifications but that is only one of the many criteria that employers are looking for.
Those other attributes represent the sum of who you are by that point in your life – and are not solely developed through formal schooling. Acquiring those skills and abilities need to start from very early on and it can be developed organically without a strategic plan. The ‘Show-and-Tell’ experience certainly helps, as do joining choir, being part of a sports team and working a casual job to live out real life experience and solve problems.
It is great if your girl turns out to be an outstanding singer or gifted athlete, yet the experience of working as a group and going through training together to perfect each piece and each act is just as valuable in equipping your girl to be a future responsible citizen.
Our world is changing rapidly and change is a constant that we have to face. The more our children can learn from their studies and extra-curricular activities, the better they are prepared for the new world. I have confidence that our girls will do better than their parents and their earlier generations with the right attitude and mindset. Crescam Ministrando - I grow by serving is a great motto. Our girls should all be encouraged to take part in service – big or small – to build understanding of and empathy for real world issues. It is another learning opportunity that should not be missed.
Learning is in fact everywhere. It is an enjoyable journey that can be shared by all family members and friends (as so vividly demonstrated by that group of students I saw last week). As parents, our job is to make it enjoyable for our children and let ourselves enjoy it too! Time flies in the flick of an eye, the whole schooling journey may initially seem long and never ending but every moment is a treasure that you will value in the years to come.
Seymour past parent and Board member