ABOVE & BEYOND


The Art of appreciation – we’re all in this together

Head of School Message – October 2021


The White House recently honoured the 2020 and 2021 State and National Teachers of the Year. US President Biden put it well: teachers are the “single most consequential people in the world beyond our parents.” I couldn’t agree more.

After three COVID-affected school years, WIC teachers are looking beyond learning loss to lessons learned, supporting students academically and tending to their social-emotional needs – all while trying to stay healthy as the effects of the pandemic persist. It is not easy.

Pandemic fatigue is real. After months of uncertainty, pandemic protocols, stress, and anxiety, it can be seen in poor mental health and personal well-being. Despite our busy lives, we need to take care of ourselves and practise self-compassion.

Dr Judy Pickard, Clinical Psychologist and Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Wollongong, says that self-compassion is underpinned by three common facets:

  • understanding that as humans we are works-in-progress and fallible;
  • having a genuine sense of kindness towards our own hardships; and
  • having the mindfulness (or present moment awareness) to be conscious of what’s actually happening to and around us.

Given what I retain from my daily campus walkabouts, the buzz that emanates from the science labs, gymnasium, Junior- and Senior-corridor classrooms reminds me that while we continue to navigate the pandemic, the innovation and energy of the WIC teachers and students to form meaningful, interconnected relationships, and robust learning environments is without end.

Over the last week, I’ve had the privilege of spending some time in the classrooms of teachers new to WIC. It was wonderful to see them in action with students – enthusiastic, caring, making connections to real-world learning, using educational technologies effectively. It was a good reminder of the qualities the leadership team had appreciated through their recruitment process.

Pursuing personal excellence – learning to know, to do, to live, and to be

As a PK-12 school accreditation officer, site visits were always highlights for me – so much is revealed simply by looking. What matters (most) can often be communicated without words. As a school leader, I pay close attention to the messages we convey as much as the words we use. For example, I am encouraged by how we are strengthening our culture of care through:

  • prioritising a holistic student experience – e.g. running an engaging array of sports/ extracurriculars and experiential learning/sec 1-2 outdoor education excursions
  • promoting school spirit with fun community-building activities – e.g. Halloween week theme days, JDRF walkathon, by-homeroom team-building events
  • reconnecting with families (e.g. sec1 parent coffee & conversations), alumni (Class of 2020 social), and local partners (West Island Community Shares Fun Day)
  • cultivating civic mindedness by participating in Truth and Reconciliation day learning and doing a mock election/interacting with local candidates running in the federal elections
  • our guidance counselor and school nurse raising awareness about self-care strategies as part of Suicide Prevention Month, sharing messages and stories of hope and empowering everyone to be there for those facing mental health distress
  • partnering with the ACDPN network to undertake vision/values-aligned professional learning for a more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and just WIC– e.g. powerful Oct. 8th all-staff workshop on constructive cultural conversations and implicit bias
  • celebrating students’ academic successes and community service impact on others in 2020-21 at a series of grade-level assemblies that are -widening WIC’s vision of success-.

Education is done by (and with) the learner

With our academic program in full swing, students have completed formative and summative assessments. They have received feedback and, with the support of their teachers, are reflecting on areas of strength and opportunities for growth. With mid-term reports issued this week, parents ought to be checking in with their child by asking such questions as:

  • In what moments were you most proud of your efforts? What has surprised you?
  • What do you want to learn more about, and why?
  • What practical steps can you take today, tomorrow, next week to grow yourself further?

As we support our young voyagers, let’s keep strengthening our partnership by encouraging – at home and at school – their pursuit of:

  • meaning – look back: how can I make sense of the world/my learning journey-to-date?
  • purpose – drive forward: how can I be of consequence in this world?
  • connections – make a positive impact: how am I growing through my interactions with others?

What students learn is important; however, how they are transformed by learning is even more powerful. Each of our WIC learners has their own unique strengths, interests, and goals.

Let’s continue to help our young voyagers to connect the dots between their personal, social and academic selves… and to feel/be/become successful in their pursuit of personal excellence.

Dr. Eric Jabal
Head of School