Fearless and Bold: The Dispositions that Define us All
Novelist Mary Shelley (1818), wrote, “Beware for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.” Shelley was a British novelist who authored the classic novel Frankenstein when she was only 18 years old.
In her novel, she alludes to the idea that women are always in victimised positions in society. A plight she knew well living in the patriarchal world of the 1800s, but she refused to let her world define her. She rebelled against conventions, followed her heart, and supported herself financially by writing. Shelley refused to be restricted by her world and found her fearless and bold voice through her writing, more remarkable due to her youthful age.
These dispositions have not changed from the 1800s to today. We all need to find our fearless and bold voices. This is what we strive for as educators at St Catherine’s.
There has been much to celebrate at St Catherine’s in so many pursuits; our academic achievements, our co-curricular success across our many sports, the Arts through the Gala Concert, our international rowing success, debating and so many others.
As I contemplate our School’s many successes, I am often asked what is it about St Catherine’s?
This question is challenging to answer because so many factors come into play. It really does “take a village to raise a child,” but more specifically, it takes a community to raise a young woman, and not just any community, a St Catherine’s community.
Our partnerships with students, teachers and parents create the achievements that we see in so many of our girls’ endeavours. At St Catherine’s we dream big. Our small size does nothing to detract from our successes. As one of Shakespeare’s characters spoke, “Though she be but little she is fierce.” In fact, we all know “small” is an intrinsic factor in our achievements. We know every student in our care.
Furthermore, our academic care model develops this idea through our essential character dispositions that young women need for the 21st century world they will pathway into post school.
What I keep coming back to are our traits of fearless and bold. This is our ‘X Factor,’ the St Catherine’s superpower that our teachers capture, harness, and build in every lesson, every day. Our culture within and outside our classrooms promotes student thinking and allows them to develop these key traits.
At St Catherine’s we have spent much time reviewing our programs and developing the 2022 Teaching and Learning Framework aligned to our model of Academic Care. The research clearly shows that persistence and intellectual curiosity are determinants of academic success as well as the direct relationship between students’ wellbeing and skills. (OECD, 2021).
Student wellness is central to this model and just like our intertwined blue ribbon that binds all members of our community, student wellness is intertwined into every innovation and program. From our Critical Conversations Year 9 Humanities program, mathematical problem solving, science connections with Universities, artists-in-residence, English guest speakers and novelists, the list is endless. Every teacher works to develop their thinking classroom and these character dispositions in students.
It would be remiss of me not to state that being fearless does not mean one is without fears and emotions. Fear is a powerful emotion but if we use it to our advantage, it will drive us forward, allowing us to step into those challenges along the way.
Women who are fearless will use their voice, show integrity, believe in themselves, face their fears, encourage other women, and go beyond their comfort zones. Being bold and fearless are intrinsically linked, acting with perseverance, strength, and grit, but not acting alone. Our achievements are built around teamwork, working together as one. Bronte Cullen, Year 12 student and rower, summed it up after our First Eight Rowing Crew won the prestigious Henley Royal Regatta in the UK, and became world champions, “We have the most amazing group of girls and just act as one.”
One, but always together as a team. Being the best, being number one means acting as a team. Those at the front and the many that stand next to them, supporting and working together. Our community stands together to create our successes. It is important to note that achievements can be big or small, such as having a difficult conversation, being honest with a friend or speaking with a teacher about work. All of these allow for a bold mindset, stepping into a conversation, bringing our voice to the table, and facing a fear.
When students leave St Catherine’s, I want them all to know that the Heyington Gates will forever be open, and the blue ribbon will always connect them to a community of bold blue.
I take the opportunity to wish the Year 12 students all the very best as they embark on their final assessments and move into trial examinations.
I thank our School community for assisting in raising our bold and fearless young women. All of them on their own unique journey, but forever connected to this small, fearless, and empowering school!