The Gates Will Re-open, The Roses Will Bloom and We Will Laugh Together Once More
The strength of the St Catherine’s School community has been built over many years on strong, enduring relationships, and at this time of unprecedented global upheaval, I write with my sincere appreciation and gratitude for the strength our community provides to many people connected to the School.
At the School Council Meeting this week, a genuine sense of care, commitment and support was communicated towards our generous and spirited School community. In a time of such uncertainty, their expertise across a range of financial, medical, legal, education, community engagement and economic sectors was never more evident. Their guidance, strength in diversity and critical thinking will ensure the School navigates with great care through this challenging period.
Over this past week, our students of all ages have engaged wholeheartedly in their Learn@Home programs with the support and encouragement of family members. I have enjoyed reading the numerous emails from kind and generous parents asking me to forward their appreciation to our dedicated staff. A teacher reflected last week that they felt like they had undertaken years of professional learning in the space of two short weeks. Their commitment and very genuine care for the learning journey of every student was palpable, profound and visible in my many conversations with teachers.
In my thirty years of working in education, and presented with no other alternative, I have never seen such dedication, commitment and willingness than from the St Catherine’s staff this past month as they prepared for teaching in a new landscape. I also extend my gratitude to the Senior Leadership Team for their extensive work, support and careful guidance across Term 1.
At a time of significant family confusion, fear and change, it is the ‘routine’ of the School day, the familiarity of a timetable, a teacher’s reassuring voice and the connection with subject matter that will settle and calm the children and teenagers in our care. Over the past week, our teachers have learned to create a new rhythm for each lesson, most notably in an attempt to address the fatigue of lengthy screen time and increased periods of time requiring intense concentration. In recent weeks, we have regularly collected feedback from the girls about their online experiences in addition to the teachers’ reflections specific to each Faculty and age group in the Junior School. We will look to distil this information over the Easter break and devise strategies to enable and ensure the sustainability of the Learn@Home program throughout Term 2.
Closing Term 1 Reflections
In Term 4 of every year, I reflect on the joy of celebrating with the Year 12 graduating class on their last day of School as they undertake a rite of passage walking through the wrought iron gates of Heyington Place for their final time as schoolgirls. Together, teachers and younger students line the driveway, forming a guard of honour to cheer on the girls. It is a colourful dash for the girls with laughter, singing and smiles. And so it was, today, with much sadness that I glanced down the driveway, barely able to look at our beautiful gates, standing strong but closed. I reassure myself and others around me that this will pass, and the gates will re-open, the roses will bloom and we will laugh together with our extraordinary Year 12 girls, the Class of 2020, as they too will make their colourful dash in Term 4 through the Heyington Gates.
In closing, I thank The Reverend Dr Peter French of St John’s Anglican Church for providing our Easter Blessing on Wednesday. At this difficult time, I hope our families can celebrate Easter in their own unique way this year. Easter is a time to reflect upon all for which we can be grateful and all that we can do in joyous service of others – friends, families and our community. It is a time to reflect on our values – empathy, integrity, curiosity and perseverance – and how we must live by these values each and every day. At Easter, it is a timely reminder to ensure we live our lives by showing empathy and care for others. I wish you good health in the coming weeks and trust you will take the opportunity to thank those around you for all they do.
In closing this letter, I would like to take the opportunity to wish you a peaceful and healthy time with your families. May you keep safe and stay strong. I pray for your wellbeing and hope that we see each other soon, and that our students return to classes full of health and a continuing zeal to learn and excel.