Principal Update – Go Girls – Women in Politics

This week in the Senior School, we welcomed Dr Katie Allen MP, Federal Member for Higgins and Senator the Honourable Jane Hume, Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy and Minister for Women’s Economic Security, to St Catherine’s in the first of a series of Go Girls events hosted by Dr Allen for teenage girls in the Higgins electorate. This week the Go Girls – Women in Politics seminar was launched for girls studying Global Politics, Legal Studies, Economics and Australian Politics as part of their VCE course. Students in the Year 10 Globalisation elective were also welcome to attend.

Dr Allen enthusiastically shared her transition from a Paediatric allergist and gastroenterologist at the Royal Children’s Hospital to a career in politics reasoning she wanted “to be in the tent” and “part of the conversation that counts”. Senator Hume has also journeyed from a substantial career in finance to following her heart, hobby and passion by transitioning to politics as a second career. It was clearly evident both women brought their own strengths to their new roles carrying much expertise, knowledge and experience to the table as a politician.

Given the timing of their presentation at St Catherine’s and the somewhat current questionable treatment of women in Parliament as portrayed in the media, both Dr Allen and Senator Hume were peppered with questions from our students about their experiences in Parliament House. Did they experience sexism / prejudice? The challenges of being female in what has largely been a male dominated space since inception? Interesting, and refreshingly, this was not the case, and both Dr Allen and Senator Hume challenged the news coverage suggesting their experiences have been nothing short of positive, enjoyable and professionally very rewarding within the halls of Parliament House. As the Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy and coupled with her role as the Minister for Women’s Economic Security, Senator Hume expressed a somewhat animated excitement at the Budget announcements scheduled for next week, describing one of her long-held passions to finally be included in the Budget to be presented next week. Our students wait with anticipation to watch the Budget to understand what exactly the Senator was referring to with regard to the Budget announcement.

I was certainly impressed with the desire of Dr Allen to be “part of the conversation that counts” carrying a sentiment that encouraged girls to be active and engaged with every part of their day. Within the educational context, this includes our students being actively engaged in every lesson and not passively attending as a bystander to a class discussion. I am confident in suggesting that parents wish for their daughters to be actively thinking in every lesson throughout a school day.

In recent years, our School teachers have partnered with Dr Peter Ellerton at the University of Queensland and supported by our own Pedagogical Coach, Miss Kristy Forrest to undertake professional learning under the banner of out Teaching4Thinking agenda. Every classroom at St Catherine’s is a ‘thinking classroom’ where students are actively engaged just not to rote learn information but to engage in the pedagogy that is driven by the belief that learning and wisdom is shaped by authentic learning experiences rather than the accumulation of vast amount of facts and content.

The ‘thinking agenda’ teaches students how to question, how to learn and how to possess an intellectual quality of thinking that prepares them for a complex and interconnected world. Undoubtedly, the capacity to foster a culture of thinking is a hallmark of our academic programs, one in which teachers are specifically trained to ensure is part of the learning fabric of every classroom. The capacity and capability to confidentially participate “in the conversations that count” and to be part of the decision making and leadership landscape is an essential component of their success as young career women in the future.

This term, our Years 10 and 11 students enter the second term of the refreshed Senior Years Learning Model. The program encapsulates the very feedback the girls provided us through 2020; that being, the girls valued the sense of agency, independence and flexibility that came with the inclusion of some aspect of their learning that was delivered asynchronously. Explicitly, this is one example of girls being “part of the conversation” and shaping their own learning journey. This year, the Years 10 and 11 students have the opportunity once in each two-week cycle to undertake a specifically tailored Masterclass for each subject, providing additional depth to their face-to-face lessons and an active program of learning. Once again, this feeds into the need for St Catherine’s students to not be passive with their learning agenda but to engage at their own self-controlled pace with their Masterclass, to use this as an opportunity to press pause and take notes, rewind and hear the teacher delivery two and three times to cement ideas and concepts in addition to enable time to synthesise key concepts into their own notes for reflective understanding. Under the auspices of our Senior Years learning model project leader, Mrs Ceri Lloyd, we are visibly seeing and measuring every week the flexibility of one asynchronous Masterclass adding depth and understanding to the curriculum material and also providing a bank of exceptional resources in which to revisit as the girls commence study for their end of semester exams in the oncoming weeks.

I wish all families a happy Mother’s Day in celebration of the loving care provided by mothers and mother figures.

Mrs Michelle Carroll, Principal