Developing a toolbox of skills

As our students re-engage with teachers and friends onsite after a period of up to six months Learning@Home, it is an opportune time to reflect on their learning. Whilst their learning was not based on the physical campus, they have learnt new skills and reinforced other skills and attributes. There is an increasing awareness of students preparing for life after school and creating a toolbox of skills. This toolbox of skills is a culmination of students learning through life in a variety of settings, from the classroom, a commitment to the Music Program, learning the art of Debating and Public Speaking, achieving a goal in a sporting context or pushing themselves outside their comfort zone by learning through our Global Exchange Program. Skills which can be drawn on as they continue on life’s journey. Our students learn each step of the way through their experiences, adding skills in their toolbox and using these skills in their engagement with others and situations they are faced with.

Twenty-first century learning skills are “built on the premise that students need new skills to survive and thrive in a rapidly changing digital world” Metri, 2003. Van Laar et al, 2020, reviews the theory behind 21st Century learning skills, as:

“The skills needed for education and the workplace in the current economy have been labeled 21st-century skills. To define and systemize these skills, a number of initiatives have outlined frameworks. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a joint government–corporate organization which lists three types of skills: learning skills (creativity and innovation; critical thinking and problem-solving; communication and collaboration), literacy skills (information literacy; media literacy; ICT literacy), and life skills (flexibility and adaptability; initiative and self-direction; social and cross-cultural skills; productivity and accountability; leadership and responsibility).”

Lamb, Maire & Doecke, (2020) reviewed 21st Century Learning skills and identify the skills considered most important from policy makers, researchers and practitioners: critical thinking, creativity, metacognition, problem solving, collaboration, motivation, self-efficacy conscientiousness, and grit or perseverance.

The Year 2020 has not been a traditional school year, where our students learnt through a variety of mediums in the classroom and through the opportunities provided across boarders and in engaging with others. However, our students have added skills to their toolbox in other ways. Looking further at Grit and Perseverance, our students have displayed this skill time and time again in 2020.

Grit or perseverance; perseverance can be conceptualised as a dimension of conscientiousness. In an academic context, grit can be defined as commitment and perseverance in learning tasks and activities (long-term goals) despite difficulties (or obstacles). Academic perseverance or tenacity generally relies on goal-setting and accepting delayed gratification (Farrington et al., 2012, p. 9). The challenges of 2020 has revealed our students’ Grit and Determination, with differing restrictions for each year level, and students across the school have experienced varied amounts of time at home. Our students have continued to persevere and maintained their motivation throughout the Learn@Home program.

Last week in the Celebration of Sport evening, we were fortunate to hear from Jaquie Bell, ultra- marathon runner and mental health ambassador. Jackie grew up as a tennis player and talented young athlete. Jacquie recognised some challenges in her life and had a few experiences that created her to go into a negative cycle. Jacqui started to run to create a change in her life, she ran seven ultramarathons in two years by the age 25. She created a mantra for herself, as she recognised that many of the situations she found herself in were unknown and challenged the ‘why’ in which she was there. Jaqui’s mantra was to just ‘Show up’ and do your best. Why am I retelling Jaquie’s story? All year, our students have followed this mantra, just ‘show up’; show up to class using MS Teams day in day out, show up to do their homework, show up to their sports training sessions, show up to connecting with friends using technology, show up to catch up with one friend for a walk for no more than 1 hour a day, show up to ‘voice gym’, show up to ‘fun with notes’, show up to Debating training and the online competition, show up to Freaky Friday knowing it would be a virtual performance, show up to Junior Joggers on a Wednesday, show up to a Music lesson, show up to Epstein on a Thursday. These are some ways our girls continued to show up, day after day after day. I am sure this sounds familiar to families in Melbourne, “Mum, I can’t wait for school tomorrow, it gives me something to do’. This is an example of our girls Grit and Perseverance.

Whilst our students have not been able to participate in the usual activities that keep them busy on campus this year, there have been a significant number of activities that have continued, albeit virtually. Our students have continued to engage and develop in preparation for when life becomes more ‘normal’ or a COVID-19 normal. Our role as teachers and parents is to continue to guide, support and nurture their development. Whilst the challenges we have faced in 2020 have tested us all, let’s congratulate our students for what they have achieved this year. Although it has not been a traditional year, the opportunities they have sought through the classroom and continued Co-curricular programs have offered our students different ways to engage in their learning and develop essential skills needed for life after school.



Farrington, C. A., Roderick, M., Allensworth, E., Nagaoka, J., Keyes, T. S., Johnson, D. W., & Beechum, N. O. (2012). Teaching Adolescents To Become Learners. The Role of Noncognitive Factors in Shaping School Performance: A Critical Literature Review. Chicago: University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research

Lamb, S., Maire, Q., & Doecke, E. (2020). Retrieved 24 October 2020, from

van Laar E, van Deursen AJAM, van Dijk JAGM, de Haan J. Determinants of 21st-Century Skills and 21st-Century Digital Skills for Workers: A Systematic Literature Review. SAGE Open. January 2020. doi:10.1177/2158244019900176

Mrs Gina Peele

Director of Student Programs

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