At our recent celebration evenings, I proposed the question - What do you think future generations will condemn this generation for? I wonder what pops into your head? If we skip back through history to the middle of the 19th century, many in the US and other nations condoned human slavery. Our grandparents were born in the early part of the 20th century where women or indigenous people were forbidden to vote. Just 50 years ago we changed the constitution to recognise Indigenous people as just that ... people. Looking back at such horrors it’s easy to ask: what were people thinking? Why did it take them so long to fix such things that seem like basic common sense now? Yet the chances are that our own descendants will ask the same question with the same incomprehension about some of our practises today. So again, what will future generations condemn us for?
I was fortunate to be part of a group of Principals who wrestled with this question at a conference in New Zealand recently, and as you can appreciate there were all sorts of opinions. Common ones were, the way we treat asylum seekers and the way we respond to the ongoing needs of the ‘first people or indigenous’.
The thing that popped into my head was perhaps a little different: the mobile device. Now I’m the first to admit that the mobile device has great strengths: however, I remain sceptical about its long-term effects on humans, especially when we put these things into the hands of children when they are still developing. The mobile device has helped create people not willing to look up and look out, but to look down and inwardly. We no longer allow our brains to ponder and ruminate over ideas, instead if we are bored the easy option is to jump onto a mobile device. Cynical I know, but I wonder if we will reach saturation point on the negatives this device is having rather than celebrating its strengths.
Also, when I consider the environment, and climate change, I wonder if our future selves will look back in condemnation, because a little like the mobile device, people aren’t really willing to make the changes necessary to truly impact the environment. Nations are not willing to make a stand or take the changes necessary to better manage its impact. We are making some changes to our habits to reduce the impact we are having on the environment and yet the rate at which we consume items like clothes, energy and water means we’re not that keen to make the real changes required.
So, it got me thinking about this issue, because for there to be improvement in things around us, radical change must take place, and someone has to do it. If we’re truly going to tackle the challenges facing our indigenous communities, the environment, asylum seekers and so on, then radical change needs to take place. If we want to ensure that we aren’t condemned for our actions today, then change is required. It seems to me that we are full of talk but not so much action, because change is hard, and consensus about what change is needed is even harder.
But why do we find change so hard? What is it about change that we love and what is that we find so confronting? If I were to ask you what sort of changes you have experienced over the past 12 months, I am sure you could list off a multitude of experiences, from the simple like perhaps a new device, or a new exercise regime, to the complicated like changing jobs, to the annoying, like perhaps an upgrade to NBN. But the reality is we so often get caught up in the concept of change at a micro level. In fact, we’re a bit obsessed with change at a micro level. Perhaps your phone now controls every aspect of our home, or you have a new and improved approach in the workplace. We try and teach our children resilience, that when something is changed or different from the usual they can cope. Organisations employ people to oversee and manage change. But I’m concerned that we’re not doing enough to challenge ourselves and our children to consider what needs to be changed at a macro level. What needs changing outside of things that impact just our own lives?
In the mid-1990s my father-in-law was employed by the Australian Defence Force to design a vehicle that would become known as the bushmaster. It’s unique V-shaped hull is now synonymous with protecting the lives of thousands of soldiers who are transported in this vehicle that he designed. Soldiers will tell you this unique design which deflects land mines away from the inhabitants has ensured that no life has ever been lost in a Bushmaster that fell under enemy fire. If you google this, you won’t find my father-in-law’s name anywhere. An ordinary man, using the gifts he had, to change something at a macro level that continues to impact people’s lives today.
I shared last year that the College had embarked on our new strategic plan and in implementing this, we have been embarking on some pretty challenging investigations or projects that at their very core are asking the question: If we want our students to move confidently into their futures and we also hope and pray for a better future on a wider scale…how will they do that? How will our students champion the macro change required for a better future?
You see, we are making some great progress as we roll out our Learning Framework. We are reflecting deeply on how we teach, how we monitor every student’s progress and how we offer a wide and varied range of opportunities to help all our students develop and grow. However, some of the projects that Council and members of staff have endorsed go much deeper. We are keen to explore the concept of personal capacity. Asking, what it is that we do, that enables students to be discussing, debating, thinking about and actioning ethical decisions. We are embracing different ways of thinking and learning, giving them strategies to solve problems in new and innovative ways, to wrestle with and action ethical decisions, to build social capacity. Ultimately to live out our values.
We do set ourselves big challenges here at St Andrew's! If you feel overwhelmed by hearing this, you’re not alone! It’s really easy to be overwhelmed by the change that’s needed in our world. However, there is a famous prayer called the ‘serenity prayer’ that I like to pray whenever I feel like it’s all too much. It’s a pretty good summation of what I want for myself and for our children and it goes like this: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Throughout the Bible, there are countless times where men and women have seen the need for change and have called on God to give them the strength and wisdom to do that. There are countless Christian men and women throughout history who have seen the need for radical change and in the confidence of God’s strength have sought to make a difference. I try to do the same.
Our challenge as a leading school is not to hide behind the façade of talking about change or accepting change at a micro level, but creating opportunities for our students to see the need and to be the agents of change at a macro level. Our challenge is to educate well; to create inquiring, thinking minds; courageous spirits; bold actions; and team players who communicate and work together for good. Our challenge is to educate students into their new and re-imagined futures.
2017 marks an interesting point as we farewell two key staff who are ‘retiring’ from the teaching profession - Mr Dale Pound and Mrs Lisa Martoo. Both members of staff have been with the College for many years and in that time they have helped shape and developed key areas of our College but, more importantly, they have invested in people and contributed so much to our culture and community. We wish Dale and Lisa all the very best in the next phase of their lives and thank them for the generosity, friendship and dedication to St Andrew’s.
Today we also farewell Mrs Candy Elley, who is moving into a teaching role outside the College, and Mrs Sophie Wrigley, who is resigning from our Music Department to pursue a family business venture. We thank Candy and Sophie for all their efforts over the past few years. We also farewell a number of short-term staff and we wish everyone well for the future.
On behalf of the College community, I want to wish each and every member of our community a happy and blessed Christmas. It is such a wonderful time to share with family and friends, but most importantly to give thanks to God for all he has done for us. He sent His Son into the world to restore our relationship and that is an amazing gift. We believe in a God so amazing, so keen to share with us, so willing to sacrifice for us, because of an incomprehensible love for us!