The Power of Language to Connect and Transform

The key to inspiring others is to have a shared vision and a story that commands interest and engagement.

It will not come as a surprise that, as an English teacher, I have a love of language and a fascination for the power it has to connect and inspire. Language forms an integral part of the weThrive:Wellbeing@St Catherine’s program, with each Year level being united by a common theme which incorporates the many aspects of ‘thriving’; from weExplore in ELC to Year 2, to weLead in Year 12.

We have recently seen excellent examples in our School community of the role language plays in leadership. St Catherine’s girls are encouraged to demonstrate leadership in a range of ways at nearly every stage of their journey, from ELC through to Year 12. They learn that the key to inspiring others is to have a shared vision and a story that commands interest and engagement.

As James Humes, a speechwriter for five U.S Presidents, once said, “The art of communication is the language of leadership. If you want to be a leader, you must…connect with the audience and deliver a memorable message.”[1]

Our St Catherine’s Student Leaders have done just that; the 2015 and 2016 Captains, and their Year 12 Executive and peers, have demonstrated the power of language to capture the interest of the School community by selecting an inspirational word to mark their leadership goal. Despite being very new to their roles, the girls have harnessed what has been recognised by experts as the importance of leaders creating a ‘shared sense of us,’[2] a connected community through a common and clearly articulated vision.

The 2015 word ‘Absolutely’ inspired the girls to approach all aspects of School life with absolute passion, conviction and commitment. The 2016 word ‘Golden’ urges the girls to ‘go for gold’ and ‘be bold, be gold’, to push beyond their comfort zones and strive for their ‘golden’ St Catherine’s moments. These mottos serve to bind the girls in a common quest, setting a goal they know will be supported and celebrated.

Whilst the St Catherine’s girls enjoy the fun and frivolity associated with each Year’s chosen motto, research shows these inspirational words are more than just a catchy label. While the term ‘Golden’ has captured the hearts of the girls, particularly through the tangible and very cuddly mascot, ‘Goldie’ the teddy bear, who shares ‘golden moments’ with the girls from sporting feats to overseas trips; the cognitive connection and benefits are also significant.

Longitudinal research has found that ‘identification with one’s school predicted engagement and that a sense of belonging to a school has a significant influence on student wellbeing; including increased happiness, self-esteem, and improved social and coping skills.[3] Whilst celebrating individual accomplishments and endeavours, it is also important to share a common goal and identity, simultaneously embodying the shared values of the School.

The 2016 mascot, ‘Goldie’ the teddy bear, may not be aware that she is a transformational leader, but our girls can be sure that they are leading the way in this regard.


[1] Humes, James, The Art of Communication
[2] Hodges, Dr Julie, Leadership Approaches: Developing a Sense of ‘We’ CSM Pastoral Vol. 4 No.5 November 2015
[3] Haslam SA, (et al), The New Psychology of Leadership, Identity, Influence and Power (London 2010)

Ms Merran O'Connor

Director of Student Wellbeing

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