Dear PLC Sydney Community
We have 1300 students at PLC Sydney.
Each has her own soul, her own mind, her own body, her own conscience.
As a school we want to assist families to look after their daughters’ well-being – each girl and young woman.
This is a significant undertaking, involving us in a multitude of interactions, from valuing eye-contact and ensuring we all greet each other, to seeking to fix misunderstandings or poor actions quickly, to providing coaching at key points, to thinking about and acting to support students’ academic well- being. Simple acts of love overcome any number of weaknesses.
I know families are aware of our general well-being program so I want to focus on academic well-being in this short article.
Some students feel the pressure of achievement. Some of the students who feel it the most are those who score well in assessments. Some are students with a few areas that they find harder. Some are students who haven’t mastered school yet.
Perhaps it comes from pressure they feel when they see others achieve, or when they worry about achieving their own standard – some students are very hard on themselves. As parents and teachers we can inadvertently apply pressures. Habitually. Even accidentally.
Student well-being is everyone’s business.
And yet do we really understand it?
It was Michel Clouscard who wrote “Under late capitalism everything is permitted and nothing is possible.” Now I do not know if we are in the period he calls ‘late capitalism’ or if there is such a time period, but I do see some middle years’ students experiencing a growing sense of personal freedom at the same time as they experience a near paralysis in one or more areas of their lives.
Perhaps they are free to look at many Pinterest images and see hundreds of pictures of young women posing and find it very difficult to accept their own bodies or to make sense of how they should present themselves. Free to see everyone else’s dreams of an ideal body and paralysed regarding their own. Perhaps they are free to hear the talk about academic work at school and struggle to understand how they can ever achieve the results they hope for. Free to read and think and work and yet paralysed to start the process. Perhaps they hear the comic wit of an acquaintance and long to be able to make someone laugh. Free to make jokes yet worried lest one falls flat. In a scientific age we measure, catalogue and grade so many things – and then can compare ourselves to an imagined ideal. The science that assists us also hinders us.
Student well-being is everyone’s business.
Thus we need to ensure we are constantly educating ourselves. Mrs Chiba continues to guide the area of academic well-being in the College with an astute and thoughtful leadership. In 2018 we are investing further in this important area in the appointment of Mrs Maria Halkidis to the role of ‘Head of Positive Student Care and Engagement’ (Years 7-12). We want to think more as a College about student academic well-being. A key part of Mrs Halkidis’ work will be to help us all to understand the research on how best to develop student academic well-being, and to conduct our own research into how we do this at PLC Sydney. We engage in this process thoughtfully, realising that sometimes the act of addressing such an issue with any sort of scientific approach can, as Foucault identified, have us create labels that just problematise people. What used to be understood simply as ‘odd’ behaviour comes to be known by a powerful scientific diagnosis and the person, who may well have just grown out of it, is left with a psychological ‘albatross’ to bear. And yet, if we aren’t honestly addressing real mental health issues we can miss the person who is really crying out for help. It is a delicate conundrum.
So we must try to hold both horses. We want to assume that people grow through the times when they are challenged and to watch out for those who might not be able to face the things that trouble them. Mrs Halkidis will have time to help us really think through these matters and to assist Mrs Chiba. She also has some practical tasks connected to issues ranging from uniform to attendance. We warmly welcome her to her new role.
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In regard to the Gateway Project we are now correcting a few faults. Please note the main two – the concrete area outside the Science and Technology rooms will be corrected on weekends to achieve the non-slip and beautiful finish that is not quite apparent yet. And the reception desk has been faulted since it has blistered. Thus we have not moved our receptionist as yet.
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I appeal to all families to drive with patience and safety around the school premises. We want every precious girl to be safe every day. And every staff member. And every parent. Don’t pull over in ‘No Stopping’ zones. Drive the speed limit. Don’t park illegally. Obey the law. We want to keep each person safe at PLC Sydney.
Dr Paul Burgis