Last week my wife and I travelled to Calgary in Canada to attend the funeral of our daughter’s mother-in-law. It was a very different experience for us being a Chinese Buddhist funeral service over two days.
But it did remind me of the importance of culture, and tradition.
The culture and tradition gave shape to the proceedings, guided all the friends and family as to what they needed to do and be and created a sense of unity and purpose amongst us all. It asked very specific things of us all; behaviours were proscribed. This is how we showed our respect for the deceased.
Then we attended mass in the Cathedral of St Mary’s. Catholic liturgy is an international language and we felt immediately at home, able to participate and felt connected to the community of faith gathered there. The style of the liturgy, whilst recognisably Catholic as I know it, also had some differences and it was up to me to respect those differences and act accordingly.
And so much of this is true of St Francis Xavier College and its communities.
In the classroom we are focusing this year on, among other things, our Positive Learning Partnerships. One particular element is the call for unconditional respect. I love this as a value of our community.
By the way, the other really powerful value is that of gratitude which is given form by our minute of gratitude just before each lunchtime at each campus. I am so grateful to Paul Desmond for this part of our culture.
However, unconditional respect is one of those elements of culture that forms us as a community. Healthy families are known for it. Good parents are good at it. Grandparents often have PhD in it…
What it means for our school culture is that everyone can feel they belong because of how they are treated and accepted each day. They can feel safe and therefore grow as learners and people in the school setting.
But, in this school it is a 2-way street. It asks something of all parties: Parents, staff and students.
The main enabling personality strength is self-regulation; how we manage our own response to daily life, to relationships and stressors. It asks us to accept responsibility and take control, not seek to blame others or unreasonably hide behind excuses for our behaviour.
But a healthy school culture relies upon a high degree of consistent compliance with its expectations and understanding – by all.
Teachers are really focusing this year on aligning their practice with the expectations of Positive Learning Partnerships. They are accepting responsibility for getting better personally at those expectations.
Parents already have a code that applies to them and Vera Treloar is working in her new role to help improve how we can include parents and carers more.
It is for this reason that Heads of Campus are starting to look at what is expected of our students every day; looking at how they can best act to build community and at what sort of support systems we are providing. We are also looking at how to provide more targeted intervention programs to help students who may be struggling to be fully part of the school so that they and others can benefit more from membership of this great learning community.
It is one thing to have a good strategy for improving as individuals, as a school. But, without the right culture our efforts are doomed.
Please support the work of Heads of Campus and their teams when the opportunity comes your way.
Vincent J Feeney