Over 150 people gathered this week at the Marion Mahony Griffin Hall at Castlecrag to thank, honour and bid farewell to Andrew Hill after 28 years of service to the Glenaeon Community, with 14 years as Head of School. Board Chair Peter Candotti spoke, followed by Warwick Brown and Sabine Simmons, Co-Chairs of the GPA, and then teacher Donna Miller read a series of letters and heartfelt messages from former students and teachers, as well special guest speaker, David Chapman who shared his own emotional and humorous tribute. "Andrew always inspired us to take wonder in everything we did. He made each of us in his class feel special. His endless creativity and care for us will live on forever....he was there for me, and I am eternally grateful. It made the world of difference to me, and you have shaped the individual I have become today. Thank you Andrew."
Andrew then took to the floor, to thank his family, with his daughter by his side, the Board and former Board members for the "honour of a lifetime" it has been service the community he loves so much. Thank you Andrew, for your leadership and contribution, you have inspired so many meaningful lives.
This piece will be my last View from the Hill, so it is with very mixed feelings that I write these words. Glenaeon is a hard place to leave: it’s a wonderful community and the combination of professional and personal ties run very deep. Add to that the profound sense of being embedded in Nature every day, and you have the essential shape of a meaningful life.
The teachers, parents and students who embrace the school’s culture may sometimes feel it’s a road less travelled, but the rewards are rich and fulfilling, and the student outcomes can be outstanding. I offer my deep thanks to all those who share our common path, whether teacher, parent or student, and look forward to that path continuing on into a successful future.
It’s been the privilege of a lifetime to be Head of School at Glenaeon, and to play a part in the unfolding story of this great school. Our heritage is a unique and remarkable one among schools, and we all play a part in carrying that heritage.
I am deeply grateful to so many people who have supported my work and the school. Liz Nevieve and Dani Finch and my colleagues on the Executive team, Peter Candotti and the Directors on the Board, Warwick Brown and Sabine Simmonds of the GPA, the Class Parents and so many others. We have built a resilient community and one of which we can be proud.
Next year I look forward to reading, from afar, Diana Drummond’s The Drum which will head up this space in the Newsletter. Diana will be bringing her great experience and expertise to Glenaeon and I look forward to seeing the school grow to greater achievements with her leadership.
I wish all families a restful and refreshing Christmas, and blessings for a happy and successful future.
The Carol Service, one of Glenaeon’s signature events, is about to return, and its been three years in the waiting. We’ve had a gradual return to normal community life, and this will be an even more special end of year than usual.
We celebrate our end of year by coming together as a community for a non-denominational festival of the season, Monday November 28th in the Pitt Street Uniting Church in the city.
It’s in a church but this is not a church service. It’s all about the music but it’s not just carols. Christmas has a vast range of music to offer, not just the traditional carols. Our Head of Music Ian Munns has selected a repertoire that balances some traditional with some beautiful contemporary, and he has come up with an uplifting and inspiring program.
The festival Is not about belief, it’s about mood: a blend of the reverent and the joyful, an inward mood that creatively captures the spirit of the season. The music is beautiful, and our students carry the evening in a range of choirs and ensembles. The mood is created right from the beginning as the Class 4 students entry in procession carrying candles. The mood is accessible to all faiths and expresses the school’s tolerant and diverse culture.
There are many former students and families of Glenaeon who come back specially to the Carol Service to enjoy our unique manner of celebrating Christmas. For many it’s like a tonic, a dose of a warm and inspiring community experience that for many complements the rush of the Christmas season that is about to begin. To quote TS Elliot, it’s a still point in the turning world of Christmas.
Our Carol Service involves every student from Class 4 to Year 11. There is an important role to play for every student who we expect to attend in full school uniform. Students should arrive by 6.15pm at the latest, for a 6.30pm start.
All families in the school are invited, although we do ask that parents who bring any younger children take responsibility to supervise them during the proceedings.
I can guarantee the service will send you home uplifted by the music and joyful in spirit.
Then on Thursday December 8th our teachers continue the long-held tradition of performing The Shepherds Play in the Sylvia Brose Hall at Middle Cove. This Christmas gift to the students is a recreation of one of the York Mystery plays from the Middle Ages and is always a treat for all. There will be an evening performance at 7pm to which all parents are invited.
Into the Woods certainly took us more than into the woods. The Year 10 musical last week highlighted so many elements of what education can be.
Our unique model of the whole Year 10 group performing a show seems so counter-intuitive to performing arts brains. The standard school musical of auditioning across year groups to capture the most talented seems so obvious. Yet as Into the Woods demonstrated last week, the standard that Glenaeon reaches in our stage shows from one year group can be quite remarkable. So why do we do it this way, when it could be so much easier to take the tried and standard route?
There are important educational elements at stake:
- the power of theatre to transform young lives needs to be an experience for all students, just like learning Maths or Science: there were students on stage in major roles who no one would have expected to step up. Those who know them best, parents and teachers, would never have dreamed some of those students could have got up and held an audience in the palm of their hand in the way they did.
- Some students will probably never again be in a theatre show. But at least once in their life they were, and they can be proud of it. They helped backstage, supported each other on cues and entrances, with props and sets, all contributing their own individual best to the magic that is theatre in creating an imaginary world for the audience.
- The experience of community building was so obvious. The mutual support gave a unique experience of shared achievement. The lead singers can only do what they do with the sets and props put in place by unseen hands: they can only do their starring role with the support of those unseen hands. Theatre is a unique team-building exercise.
- Being someone else grows emotional intelligence: theatre has a particular power in stretching an actor’s emotional repertoire to encompass “otherness”, a fundamental pillar of a mature, emotionally resilient personality.
Most importantly, each student did his or her best: some sang a lot, some didn’t sing much at all, but every one of the students did their absolute best. They each contributed their “virtue” to the community whole.
There is a saying from Dr Steiner that we quote from time to time: The healthy social life is found, when in each individual soul, the whole community finds its reflection, and when, in the community, the virtue of each one is living. The virtue, the best, of each of Year 10 was on display last week, and we are all the better for it.
Tim Ross, parent of two boys in our primary school and TV presenter, wrote to me after the show to congratulate the production team. I think his words speak for many:
…School plays are so formative and I got a little misty eyed at the standing ovation…hitting the stage as a teenager was a defining moment in my life.
I’m sure our year 10 students will look back on Into the Woods as a defining moment in all their lives!
End of term:
Farewell to Year 12 next week is a poignant moment when we say goodbye to our senior class. After a walk through all the classes from Kindergarten up on Monday, we will hold our Farewell assembly on Tuesday morning before Year 12 embarks on their Magical Mystery Tour. I look forward to cooking breakfast for Year 12 on the balcony, before they are farewelled by every class on the campus and they head up the hill to the bus that will take them to a destination unknown for a final and fun day as students. They will return after the HSC for the formal Graduation Assembly, but for now, it’s Farewell Year 12!
Spring festivals next week promise to be a joyful welcome to the warmer weather and the new life which this time of year brings. We hope to have a return to maypole dancing and and a happy in person celebration on the round oval at Middle Cove for Class 1 to Year 11.
As the last Newsletter of Term 3, 2022, I wish all families a restful and refreshing break and look forward to seeing everyone in term 4!
It was a great moment this week when our Attendance coordinator announced there is currently no one absent in the school due to COVID. We are officially COVID-free! This moment was a special one after a long time indeed when COVID has affected a large proportion of our student and teacher population. Thank you to all parents for your vigilance, and most importantly for your support for our covid-safe plans which have minimized the impact of the pandemic on our school.
We can now look forward to the return of relatively normal conditions. It does feel like a reawakening. We have had over two and a half years of restrictions and periods of lockdown. The return to normal may be like recovering from an illness or a broken limb: it takes a while to become mobile again, and the same might be said of the return to our regular community events. But there is one special event that will really cement our return to normal community life.
Our Family Fair has been in limbo since 2019. The Fair has been an annual occurrence at Glenaeon since the 1960’s, and this two-year hiatus is the first in our history. The Fair is a huge undertaking, and one that brings our community together in a powerful and sustaining manner. The fund-raising side is important and contributes funds to the GPA which in turn support projects which benefit the students, but the fund-raising side is always secondary to its unifying and uplifting community-building role.
We ask every parent in the school to contribute some time on the Fair day. There are literally hundreds of shifts of work to be completed across all the different activities, and every one of them needs a willing and cooperative parent to do them. The work is social and very joyful. I have personally worked at over 20 Fairs now, and I can honestly say that I have left each one physically tired but deeply happy with the comradeship of shared work for the community good.
Class 4 hosts and coordinates the Fair for the School. Two or three parents act as Fair Coordinators while every other parent in Class 4 takes on a role to be responsible for one activity, such as a game stand or food stall. This way ensures that all aspects of the Fair are covered, and each class coming through the school carries the overall responsibility just once. But we need every parent in the school to be involved.
In order to run all the activities, we ask every parent to work one 2 hour shift on a stall/food/game. The work is simple, enjoyable and child-centred. For new parents it’s a wonderful way to meet other parents and to feel more embedded in the school culture. For longer term parents it’s a time to re-engage and refresh connections. As we recover from the isolations of covid, the Fair is the perfect way to rebuild our community.
In the coming weeks there will be communications around the shifts that are on offer. I urge every family to consider which shift/s you can commit to, and to sign up for your shift on the day. I assure you it will be time that pays real benefits in terms of human connection and personal satisfaction.
The Fair is coming! Come to the Fair!
SAVE THE DATE: 4-6 NOVEMBER
The annual Parent survey conducted by MYP Corporation will be in your inbox in the next week. We seek your responses to gain valuable feedback on the school, and we ask that every parent takes the time to complete the survey. There will be a letter coming early next week with all details.
All former students of Glenaeon are affectionately known as GlenX, short for ex-Glenaeon student. Our GlenX/alumni event for 2022 is fast approaching (Saturday September 17th): see the notice later in this Newsletter. We invite all GlenX to join us for a few drinks in pleasant Glenaeon company, a trip down memory lane, and a catch up on developments in the school since graduation.
We enjoy visits from GlenX from time to time, such as the recent visit from GlenX Paul Beasly, now of upstate New York. The Beasly family of Forestville sent their three children right through the school to Year 12. Daniel is now a successful and award-winning architect, Emma is a school psychologist and mum, while Paul earned First Class Honours in a Science degree at UNSW in fibre optics. He then moved into telecommunications, earning a MBA from the University of Texas and becoming area director of a large telco in the New England area of the US. He married a doctor from Boston and they settled in upstate New York, and now have a few children. The most interesting piece of the story is that he left commerce behind and is now a high school Science teacher at the Saratoga Springs Waldorf school in upstate NY. Paul was always very interested in the philosophy behind his education, and it was wonderful to see his evolution from student to teacher.
Being a Glenaeon Parent
The Term 3 GPA meeting was particularly noteworthy. In the first Newsletter of the term I quoted well known author and former Glenaeon parent Stephanie Dowrick. In the comments section under The Sydney Morning Herald article on our Head of School transition, Stephanie wrote a very complimentary paragraph describing her time as a parent here and the very tangible as well as the intangible benefits of a Glenaeon education. We used this comment as a platform for a discussion in breakout rooms on what it means to be a Glenaeon parent. The responses from all groups were thoughtful, considered and very impressive: there was universal positivity about the journey of being a Glenaeon parent including such gems as “As a parent at Glenaeon I have been given a more complete experience of myself as a human being.” Impressive indeed! Thank you to all those who were there.
Following our Parent Satisfaction Survey of 2021, we committed to a greater presence in a number of areas. Prime among these areas were Student Wellbeing, Learning Support and Careers. Here is an update on what the School has achieved in all three areas:
- Learning Support: last Newsletter we unveiled the rebuilding of the team that manages student support throughout the school. Rebranded as our Learning Enrichment team, and led by Head of Department Angela Sutton, the team are supporting and extending student learning progress throughout the school.
- Student Wellbeing: our Coordinator and Psychologist Andy Christie is now working fulltime, providing excellent quality emotional and social support for students and families, mainly in the high school. Andy’s background experience in school psychology has been a powerful asset in his proactive mental health education and as a resource for students and families.
- Careers: I am very happy to introduce our new Careers Advisor Rod Mounjed who has stepped into the role this term:
Rod joined the high school staff this year as the Year 11 and Year 12 Business Studies Teacher. He recently took over the additional role of Careers Advisor for students in Years 10 -12 from Dean Faught. Rod has an impressive amount of experience in this space having successfully been Careers Master and run the careers program at SHORE School, North Sydney for 16 years. His careers advisor role at Glenaeon incorporates work experience, subject selection relating to specified careers, VET courses, VAC applications and access consideration.
All relevant careers information and important dates can be found on GLO: https://glo.glenaeon.nsw.edu.au/homepage/968/
Here you will find really useful and important information and key dates, open days, careers advice links plus more - all designed to support students in their research, consideration and decision making regarding HSC goals, university and post-school learning and career options.
Rod says, “I am looking forward to helping Glenaeon students on this important part of the journey. To the students I say, it’s important to take time to think about what you really want to do, what makes you happy. Challenge yourself, but don’t be overwhelmed unnecessarily and remember to follow your own path in life. It’s never too early to investigate and think about your options and create the life you want for yourself. Read, volunteer, try out, talk with your family, your friends and the adults in your life. Be curious and be inspired!”
Rod promises to be “in your face” about careers. He speaks with students constantly during Mentor time and through the day, reminding them of the need to plan ahead and to start thinking about careers now.
Rod is also a man of many talents. He is a fine pianist, a Musical Director of musicals and shows, a Conductor, Teacher and gym instructor. He even played with our resident pianist Stuart Wright to perform some exciting four hand piano pieces at our high school assembly this week. He knows all about developing talents and he will be doing just that with our high school students! See his Careers Corner story in this newsletter.
Welcome to Term 3, with a very warm welcome to the new students and their families who join us to complete their high school years at Glenaeon.
Last weekend, The Sydney Morning Herald ran a story on the appointment of Diana Drummond as our incoming Head of School. The article prompted a very fine response from Stephanie Dowrick, a former parent of Glenaeon and a widely published author and commentator.
I was a "Steiner parent" for ten years. My children are thoughtful, caring, creative and productive adults now and I am immensely grateful for their Steiner education and all that it gave them. It is far closer to the best in Europe with a highly developed awareness of the natural world, the seasons, our innate creative impulses - and thinking capacities way in advance of conventional education where so much rote/prescribed learning produces far less innovation. This is exactly what's needed in 21st-century life. The emphasis on "deep learning" through focused Main Lessons will also be a vital counter to the agitation of rushing from one "instant" screen excitement to another. Or setting children against one another through constant exams, tests and rankings. To learn to LOVE LEARNING is a quiet miracle. It's not for the most conventional of families, and of course as a private school, it is not within reach of all. But Diana Drummond may well have landed one of the most rewarding principal positions in NSW. May it go very well for her and for Glenaeon.
Our education can be difficult to explain to those that have not yet experienced what it means to be a student at a Steiner school, or a “Steiner Parent”. The qualities of our education are intangible, subtle and nuanced. In terms of community perceptions, we can be seen as “the road less travelled”.
So can I invite you to consider and share your view on what it means to be a Steiner parent? Feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be very interested in hearing your views.
I must agree with Stephanie that being Head of School at Glenaeon is indeed one of the most rewarding school leader positions in the country. It has certainly been the privilege of a lifetime for me personally.
The Term Ahead:
There is much to look forward to this term including the HSC D&T and Visual Arts Showcase tomorrow night, and the Music Showcase four weeks later, the Year 10 Musical: Into The Woods, HSC Trials, exams, excursions, Outdoor Education experiences like kayaking, a snow trip, rich Main Lessons and a Spring Festival with the promise of warmer days ahead.
Have a wonderful term, and may we all continue to love learning even more!
Head of School
Winter turns us inward. Hasn’t the sudden deep freeze over the past few days brought a different mood? We stay inside to keep warm, we sit by the fire if we have one, and we brace ourselves to face the chill.
Michael Leunig captures the different moods of winter mood so perfectly that there is not much to add. We can touch both the “simpler, softer world within”, as well as the little things of beauty that we find outside us.
Our MidWinter festivals are fast approaching:
- Middle Cove students: Tuesday and Wednesday June 21 and 22 for Class 3 to Year 12
- Middle Cove Community for parents and friends: Wednesday June 22, 6.30 pm
- Castlecrag: Classes 1 and 2: Wednesday June 22
- Castlecrag: Kindergarten Tuesday June 29
- Preschool: Wednesday June 22
For parents new to Glenaeon, the MidWinter spiral walk can be a revelation of how to put the MidWinter mood into a tangible form. For both child and adult, the simple ritual of walking the spiral and lighting the candle are an expression of this turning inward as we walk the spiral and turn into the central light.
Winter and darkness go together. Our festival celebrates the Light.
We celebrated the turning of the season last week in our Harvest Festivals through the school. From Preschool to High School there was the annual celebration of the bounty of Nature, and the gathering of the fruits of the summer sun as we prepare for the coming cold and greater darkness of winter. These festivals go back thousands of years and have their origins in humankind’s profound connection with the cycles of the seasons. In this time of deep concern over our environmental crises, more than ever we need to remind ourselves of our dependence on the cycles of the earth and cosmos that sustain our lives. After a beautiful series of offerings by the students, the high school festival gathered fresh fruit and vegetables for OzHarvest which supports the homeless and disadvantaged in our community.
The primary school harvest festival had a deeper symbolism as well. Ancient Harvest festivals also drew on the dragon story of St Michael and his taming of the dark forces that threaten to overwhelm our humanity. The taming of the dragon was a centre piece of the primary festival at Castlecrag, and all the children provided characters in the story, from Class 1 with their symbolic swords aloft through to Class 6 as the main actors in the story. Class 5 children manned the dragon in a suitably menacing way. It was a potent statement of the dark forces in our world, as Class 6 teacher Katherine Arconati introduced the festival with the reminder that the story was an imaginative picture of our own battles with forces within us, and around us.
We do not need to search very far for such reminders in the state of the world today. On the weekend I saw a post from a European Steiner connection who is in daily contact with biodynamic farmers in Ukraine. The Ukraine produces a significant amount of grains, particularly wheat, and the biodynamic farms there work closely with the seasons, planting in the spring to harvest at the end of summer. Their spring is just arriving and yet at this moment their country is threatened by invasion. I was inspired to read of their steadfast response in the face of such threat, a truly courageous and heroic stand.
One contribution to this question reached me from Ukraine on 15 March, in the daily report from Shiva Semliya (Living Earth), a biodynamic farm in Potutory, 100 kilometres south-east of Lviv: "Today was a wonderful, warm early spring day. The mosaic of our fields in dark brown and pale yellow extends in the sunshine and it seems as if the fields were rising toward the light, ready for the power of spring streaming in from the cosmos. And in the morning, Venus, the star of love, stood mighty and high above the Eastern horizon. Life and love will always prevail."
End of Term
We close Term 1 today and I wish all families, students and staff a restful and refreshing break. May Easter be a time of blessing and renewal in spirit. We look forward to welcoming all our students back on Wednesday 27th April for the start of Term 2.
Head of School
Last Thursday I ran a Parent Education session on the “big picture” of the Main Lesson curriculum that our teachers deliver at Glenaeon, and if you wish to see a recording, here is the link:
This unique curriculum probably deserves a more expansive name than Main Lessons, which simply describes their place as the main lesson of the day. One very supportive family whose three children had been right through the school suggested Explorations as a better name, more suggestive they felt of the breadth and expansive quality of mind that the Main Lessons foster.
My own preference for a new name is World Citizenship. This unique curriculum comprises no less than 140 experiences that build understandings in specific subjects and most importantly, tells the story of humanity, the golden thread of human development from the fairy tale world at the dawn of human consciousness to the sophisticated 21st century world that has us facing the challenge of how to maintain a human future. By telling the human story from beginnings to now, the Main lessons build a sense of each student’s place as a future world citizen.
In preparing the talk, I was reminded of a retrospective that one of our long term students wrote just days before she finished Year 12. Mia Westcott’s Year 12 retrospective is a long and considered piece, reflecting the deep intelligence that since leaving Glenaeon has seen her graduate in Medicine and become medical practitioner working with disadvantaged aboriginal women in the Newcastle area. Written as she finished school and was looking back on her journey, one of her final paragraphs describes how powerful she found our Main lesson program.
I have always found Main Lesson such a huge part of my life at Glenaeon, a fascinating and enjoyable experience. The things I have learnt in Main Lessons seem to recur throughout life, and make daily life a richer experience. I have found evidence of this when travelling, such as when I knew as much about Norse Mythology as the tour guide when in Norway, felt like I was with old friends when looking at the wonderful paintings and architecture of the Renaissance in Italy, and actually knew what the guide was talking about in India, as I had studied both the Ramayana and Bhagavad Gita. My parents have made me realise just how lucky I am to have learnt about all these things, and I would have thought it perfectly normal, but for the fact that they often didn't have a clue what I was talking about. Main Lessons were also an excuse to draw and be creative, and when I look back at my main lesson books, I remember the great pleasure I received from this. I have to admit, I still have every single Main Lesson book from primary school and most from high school, and (don't tell anyone), I actually enjoy getting them out and looking through them, remembering the fantastic stories.
Another Glenaeon graduate, also a doctor and also in the Newcastle area, donated his entire Main Lesson book collection to our archives. Dr Andrew Keyworth who runs a family practice in Charlestown, mentioned to me after one of our GlenX evenings that he was cleaning out his garage and couldn’t bear to throw out the product of his primary schooling at Glenaeon. All his main lesson books from his class teacher years has journeyed with him through various family moves, his university training and his own family homes. He was reluctant to throw out the books he had created as a record of his own learning at Glenaeon. We gladly accepted them, acknowledging once again how powerful meaningful learning can be. Meaningful learning builds Meaningful Lives!
Today is World Teachers’ Day in Australia, a day where we stop to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of all those who support the learning and growth of children and young people in our schools. At Glenaeon, our gratitude extends to the entire teaching staff, tutors, and our extended professional services team. In short, the entire staff. In whatever role, our people come to work each day with a core purpose; to improve the lived experience of the students we serve. Together, they form teams who create opportunities, solve problems, support and counsel, teach, think and act with integrity as well as heart. They are, quite simply, incredible humans, and it is a privilege to work alongside them each day. Thank you!
Have your say!
A reminder that the annual Parent Survey closes this coming Monday, October 30. Please take time over this weekend to provide feedback and have your say. Your feedback will be analysed carefully and directly inform our planning for 2024 and beyond.
Upcoming opportunities to Engage
- Come along and hear more about Glenaeon’s new Wellbeing Framework next Thursday 2nd November. You can register here.
- The Fair! The Glenaeon Family Fair is only 8 short days away. Our Fair Convenors and myriad of supporters are busy with last minute arrangements and set-up plans. If you haven’t already, please volunteer to help out on the day. Every hour of support counts!! Register here.
- Glenaeon’s next Strategy is being shaped currently through a detailed strategy development process. Parents and carers can attend an upcoming session on Wednesday 8th November to hear about our progress and provide input. You can find out more and register here.
I look forward to seeing many of you at tonight’s Celebration of Life for Jonas Stoebe. This promises to be a moving and special tribute to honour Jonas and the enormous contribution he made to our school community. If you are coming and are yet to register, please do so here for the latest information.
Head of School
May you find peace in the
promise of the solstice night,
That each day forward is
blessed with more light.
That the cycle of nature,
unbroken and true,
Brings faith to your soul
and wellbeing to you.
Rejoice in the darkness,
In the silence find rest,
And may the days that follow
be abundantly blessed.
Walking the Spiral
On Wednesday, I joined with Year 8 to walk the spiral, an important ritual in all Steiner schools across the world, marking the Winter Solstice and a time for deep introspection and contemplation. For us in the southern hemisphere, the occasion denotes mid-year as well, so a fitting time to shed negative thoughts and energy that no longer serve us well and to nurture that inner light that burns within us all. A moving and very special experience, I encourage parents and carers to ask their children about this festival experience. And if you missed the community spiral walk on Wednesday evening, do look out for it next year – a gift of strength, inspiration, and hope.
Annual Giving Campaign – Final Opportunity before EOFY
A reminder that the Annual Giving Campaign is still active, right up to the end of the financial year on June 30. This year, we are launching the Glenaeon Staff Innovation Fund, designed to support our staff in the pursuit of innovative projects and ideas that will inspire them and our school community to remain at the forefront of what is possible, now and into the future. You can read more about our Annual Giving Campaign here.
This is the final Newsletter before the break, a much-needed time for families to reconnect, travel and live life at a different pace for a few weeks. Make time to do away with electronic devices, to rest, read books, play and climb trees. Next term, we welcome new opportunities for learning and for growth and I look forward to welcoming students back to school on Wednesday, 19th July.
In three words or less, what does our school stand for?
This was the question I posed to students at High School Assembly last week. At the heart of this inquiry lies the concept of identity and the values that define our school culture. Abstract concepts indeed, and ones that our students welcomingly engaged with. They spoke about Rudolf Steiner, about living meaningful lives, about the school’s connection to nature and the unique approach to learning. I talked about the strength of unifying around a shared identity and the impact this can have on school culture, about the type of school we are and the one we want to become. Central to this is the students’ sense of agency in shaping their lived daily experience at school. This matters, and I’m committed to creating opportunities for students to learn about the role they can play in shaping school culture and identity: about participation, responsibility, the art of influence, and about framing goals around clear purpose and identifiable actions. This year, I will work with the Leadership Captains in Years 11 and 12 and the Student Representative Council (SRC) to consider ways they might contribute authentically towards this end.
Parent Information Evenings
The parent response to on-site Information Evenings over the last few weeks has been overwhelmingly positive. I witnessed again the strong bonds that bind parents at GRSS, and what struck me more than anything at these meetings was the depth to which teachers know and understand learning and learners at each stage of childhood development. The sense of commitment and passion they demonstrate for the work they do with your children abounds. Our Information Evenings are just one way that we support the parent-school partnership. Our Parent Education Program for Terms 2-4 is being reviewed currently and will be published before the end of this term.
Attendance and Leave Applications
A reminder that for Middle Cove students, school starts at 8.40am. At Castlecrag, it’s 8.55am. Attending school regularly and arriving on time each day sets up children for success, both academically and emotionally. Sometimes, buses run late, as do families. And that’s life. What’s more challenging is when lateness occurs regularly and students miss the opportunity to start the day in a calm, measured way, and with some healthy play with friends. Thank you for supporting us by ensuring your child is at school on time. A small sidenote: we are aware that the Northern Beaches bus has been regularly arriving at Middle Cove after 8.40am and as such, the timetable for this service will change from this coming Monday, March 6, to ensure all students arrive before school starts. Parents and Carers of students who use this service have been contacted and the new timetable is reiterated in this newsletter.
One more request regarding attendance. When planning family trips, Parents and Carers are asked to adhere to Glenaeon’s generous gazetted school holiday periods, published well in advance each school year. Lessons take place from Day 1 of a new term and right up to and including the last day of any term, and attendance is expected. Please know that Leave of Absence applications are not automatically approved.
We are now at the half-way point of Term 1. Can you believe it? A challenge for all of us: finishing the term with the same energy and optimism with which we started the term. And on that note, I’m off for a walk and to chat with students, which is the very best part of my job, and has the added benefit of fuelling the soul with hope.
With very best wishes,
Head of School
A magnificent Summer’s evening greeted the 170+ guests at the Middle Cove campus for the 2023 Welcome Soiree last Friday. To spend time as a community of involved parents and carers, in person, was indeed food for the soul. As I said during my welcome, we play a long game in education as we develop the young minds and hearts of the future. The nurturing of good humans takes patience, courage and often strength. I’m a strong believer in the partnership between families and schools and in the positive difference that can make in a child’s journey through school. True partnership involves intentional and active engagement, the ability to listen deeply and be open to diverse perspectives and intent on finding solutions to challenges that serve the needs of the child and the school. And so, I invite you to join us in partnership as we strive towards a shared purpose to develop meaningful lives.
The Glenaeon Parents Association (GPA)
The GPA held its first meeting of the year on Wednesday evening. It was heartening to have over 30 parents and carers join either in-person at Castlecrag, or via Zoom from home. One fundamental purpose of the GPA is in the promotion of parent and carer engagement through community building activities. Another is to provide an avenue through which parents and carers can learn more about what’s happening within the school. To that end, I was able to share on Wednesday two key questions I’m exploring with students, staff and Glenaeon families. A collected synthesis of responses will reveal insights into what our community values and perceives as important next steps for the school. Parents and Carers who were unable to be at Wednesday’s GPA meeting are welcome to provide their thoughts to me via email@example.com. The two questions are:
· What’s something great about Glenaeon?
· Broadly, what’s an important next step for the School?
Habits, Rhythms and a ‘cornucopia of new beginnings’
As we settle into the rhythms of the new school year, a pattern of weekly activity begins to emerge. There are new activities to try, new homework habits to establish, new routines to set and changing expectations with which to adjust. An abundance of opportunity indeed! Healthy study and play habits in children are developed and refined through modelling, repetitive practice, feedback, and on regular reflection centred on the needs of the child and the family. Be sure to check out Glenaeon’s co-curricular program of offerings for Semester 1 2023 on GLO and see which might be on interest to your child this year.
Introducing New Staff for 2023
It is my pleasure to introduce the last of our new staff to you and welcome them to our community. You can read more details about each of them here.
Will Bryant Archivist
Emily Collett Eurythmist
Lina Crawford Assistant Teacher, Class 5
Sabrina Durman Teacher’s Assistant, Pre-School
Jenni Foley Learning Enrichment Teacher
Tamara Louis Marketing Coordinator
Naoko Murphy Playgroup Leader
Additional RAT packs were sent home with families last week for use when cold and flu symptoms present. Further RATs packs are available for any family that requires additional supplies. Simply call Middle Cove Reception 02 9417 3193.
And on that note, all that’s left to do is wish you a very happy weekend.
With very best wishes,
‘Even the wisest can learn incalculably from children’ – Rudolf Steiner
A new school year begins
The school year is finally underway! It is a truth universally acknowledged that teachers and those involved in the business of running schools never sleep well in the nights before a new school year begins. Perhaps the same is true for parents too, and for our children. The anticipation of a new year holds so much promise in its unwritten state: the narrative is yet to unfold, the characters only partly formed, the plot merely a series of predictable signposts that mark out a typical school year. This is a good time to engage in conversation with your child about the year ahead. By listening deeply to their hopes, wishes and worries, parents and carers have an ideal opportunity to expose inner thoughts and feelings, and gain insight and wisdom about the most appropriate way to respond. Class teachers, Mentors and Advisors are a wonderful source of support and connection at any time, but especially at the beginning of a new school year. Please feel very welcome to bring forward questions, wonderings and ideas.
It was indeed wonderful to welcome students back to Castlecrag and Middle Cove campus’ on Wednesday. What struck me? The confident and positive manner in which our students greeted their teachers, friends and new classmates. Long may it continue! At Castlecrag, the beautiful Rainbow Bridge ceremony marked the start of the next chapter of learning and growing for those entering Class 1, and again, a sense of calm confidence was on display as our Kindergarten graduates gathered on the Class 1 balcony.
Staff Seminar Days
Prior to the start of term, Glenaeon staff engaged in a series of professional learning sessions during our Seminar and Planning Days. The 2023 Staff Days were designed for exploration of what it means to Build Meaningful Lives as custodians of the past and champions of the future. At the heart of this work lies a deep investigation into our school’s identity, our culture, our challenges, and the opportunities that await. We’ve only just begun and look forward to sharing this work with the wider community over the course of this year. Special thanks to our guest presenter, Nicole Ostini from Samford Valley Steiner School who provided a beautiful balance of assurance and provocation for us to carry forward, and to the fifteen Glenaeon teachers who led sessions. (Take a look at the photos in the gallery below.)
COVID-Safe Measures for Term 1
For some of our youngest learners, this new school year is unique, as it heralds the first for them without the global pandemic impacting usual operations to a significant degree. It’s important for parents and carers to note however, that COVID-Safe measures are still in place at school this term and we ask that families are supportive of the School’s priority to keep our community safe. Detailed information can be found below, in this newsletter.
- The school will continue to implement good and encourage good hygiene practices including regular hand washing with soap and warm water and/or use of hand sanitiser;
- Students, staff, and visitors should only attend school when they are well;
- We will continue to send home students or staff displaying symptoms of being unwell, including cold and flu symptoms; and
- From Term 1, teachers will no longer be posting work online for COVID-positive students. High School students are expected to liaise with and seek support from their subject teachers.
This year we welcome a number of new staff who will be introduced over the course of the next few Newsletters. Today, I’m thrilled to introduce the following teachers to the Glenaeon community. You can read more details about each of them HERE.
- Nicholas Greenfield, English and History Teacher, High School
- Frederic Hemming, Mathematics Teacher, High School
- Sally Mock, English and Society and Culture Teacher, High School
- Leyla Rousouli, Science Teacher, High School
- Jonathan Shaw, Class 1 Teacher, Primary School
- Sarah Simmons, PDHPE Teacher, Primary School
- Lydia Wilson, English Teacher, High School
On behalf of the entire Glenaeon community, a very warm welcome to you all. We are thrilled to have you join the team.
New Parent Soiree
If you haven’t already, please RSVP to this special event next Friday. The Soiree provides an ideal opportunity to engage with other Glenaeon parents in a casual sand beautiful setting, and learn more about the opportunities available for parents within our community. See invite below.
With very best wishes,
Head of School
A Musical Triumph!
Tonight, the final performance of Year 10’s production of AIDA - School Edition will be performed in the Sylvia Brose Hall, no doubt to rousing applause and heartfelt gratitude for all who have contributed to its success. What a delight to witness my first Glenaeon Year 10 Musical! Such a wonderful demonstration of all that we value as a school and so magnificent to witness individual characters shine and the power of the whole group to come together to produce something so special, accompanied by a live Orchestra featuring a number of Glenaeon students. What a fantastic show!! Congratulations to Brenton Fletcher, Ian Munns, Alleyne Moss, Clair Cisterne, Evan Sanders, Raphaela Mazzone and the many, many staff members who have helped bring this show together. You are exceptional humans and our students are lucky indeed to have you lead them through such an ambitious project.
Glenaeon’s Community Involvement Program (CIP)
Glenaeon’s strong community spirit is built through ongoing and intentional efforts to build bonds within and across year levels and is one of our most precious, intangible assets. When a child joins our school, parents and carers become part of our community as powerful partners for their child’s learning and also in supporting more broadly the School’s vision to nurture a compassionate and collaborative school community working towards a common purpose. Glenaeon’s Community Involvement Program (CIP) provides avenues for parents to contribute to the school through active service, the kind of service that makes a real difference to the student experience each day. Even the smallest number of hours is appreciated, so please consider how you might contribute in this way in 2023. More information on the CIP can be found via GLO. Alternatively, parents and families may wish to pay a levy in lieu of volunteering, payable via the termly Accounts Statements.
End of Term 1
Thank you for a wonderful term, Glenaeon! It has been delightful getting to know students and families this term – I’m deeply appreciative of the ongoing warm welcome received. School breaks for Easter and the term break next Wednesday, our final day of lessons for the term. Be sure to rest, relax and refuel over the coming break by reading, walking, climbing trees, or doing whatever nourishes your soul and lifts the spirit.
Head of School
“If people can take part in an annual cycle of seasonal rites of passage that have an observable reality in the changes of nature, they may, it is hoped, feel a stronger responsibility as adults for the earth and its needs, and not be confined to their heads.” - Rudolf Steiner
Our seasonal festivals, such an integral part of Steiner education and of the Glenaeon student experience, ground and enrich us. They are cause for celebration for the predictability of the natural rhythms of life and are a strong reminder of the strength and power of Mother Nature to provide in abundance and our human responsibility to care, protect and be grateful for our incredible planet. Now, more than ever, to be grounded by these fundamental values provides calm and reassurance in a chaotic world.
Our Primary students are looking forward to marking the Autumn Festival in a number of ways including the re-enacting of the story of St. Michael, a tale with a strong message of inner resolve, initiative and the triumph of light over darkness. In addition, students are asked to bring in an item of non-perishable food as a symbol of harvest, forming the centrepiece of the festival, amid a feast of colour and autumn song. In High School, our students engage in a series of activities woven into the final weeks of the term in which we lift the yearly cycle to the cultural and societal level. Mentors and Guardians will lead discussions about gratitude, community and generosity and the final Assembly of the term will centre on the harvesting and celebrating of the term’s work. An initiative of our Yr 12 Environment group, we will also mark Earth Hour with some time spent ‘off the grid’ next week.
Non-perishable food collection on both campuses will begin next week and be followed by perishable items in the final week of term. Oz Harvest gratefully receive our donated food and use it to provide meals and food items across Sydney.
SEA Insights Survey
Steiner Education Australia (SEA), the peak representative body for Steiner education in Australia, in consultation and collaboration with Steiner schools, are investing time into exploring how we can grow positive awareness of Steiner education in Australia. As part of this process, SEA are seeking ideas and insight from parents, students, and staff across our school community.
Community members can provide input into this work by completing an insights survey by using the following link: Click here to take the survey. The survey is open now and will close at midnight on Friday 24th March 2023.
We are currently undertaking a review of communication processes and systems across the school with the central aim of streamlining message communication to parents and families. Be assured that feedback collected from the 2022 Parent Survey is being utilised as part of this work. In addition, a random selection of parents will be contacted to offer some end-user insights into the current communication experience. As always, parents are welcome to provide their thoughts directly to me via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recent Graduate Visit
A small number of the Class of ’22 returned to campus on Tuesday. What a gift to listen to their stories about life beyond school, work and university adventures and plans for travel. You can read more about their visit below.
Head of School
2021 HSC Results Statement from Andrew Hill, Head of School
I am delighted to be able to congratulate the Class of 2021 whose HSC journey has been one of the most difficult in living memory.
Glenaeon’s Year 12 of 2021, like all HSC students in the state, have set the bar high in their response to unprecedented challenges. They have all met these circumstances with strength and goodwill, stood together and weathered the storm of COVID restrictions and exam uncertainties with an equanimity which belies their years. Their character has certainly been forged in the fire of adversity and they take with them a strong foundation of resilience to build their future lives. My advice to students has always been that success at the HSC is not so much about how smart you are, but how smart you work: they will learn skills in managing themselves that will last a lifetime. This year’s cohort has learned something even more: how to stay the distance even when the finishing line is stretched further than you ever thought.
Well done, Class of 2021, we are proud of you: your efforts, your strength, your resilience and your determination. We look forward to seeing you go forth and do great things!
Head of School
Congratulations everyone! We have made it through one of the most challenging of years, and though we are not without scars, we are at least able to look back on some achievements. There will be a final letter to all families with some wrap up details, and plans for next year. Thank you to everyone for your patience and equanimity, and good will in working together.
The missing thing for the end of 2021 is the absence of those events which mark the students’ celebration of Christmas, always so joyful and uplifting. In line with a year of minimal yet meaningful messages, here is a small offering from Michael Leunig which I trust captures a very essential element of this festival of birth and new beginnings. May Christmas 2021 be fulfilling and uplifting in its own unique way. I wish all families a joyful celebration of this end of year and look forward to meeting up again, in person, in 2022.
There’s an old architectural design mantra that promotes Bringing the Outside In, which is about using large natural forms and building them into internal design principles. Over the past few weeks we’ve been doing exactly the opposite, and Taking the Inside Out. The need for good ventilation has driven many classes outside, and what a breath of fresh air it has brought, in all meanings of the term.
At Middle Cove we are using seven “official” new outside learning spaces to ensure all our high school lessons are as ventilated as possible. There are other less official spaces that teachers have found, in outdoor nooks and crannies that can accommodate smaller groups of students. Our bushland campus has really come into its own as all schools struggle to ensure students and teachers are as ventilated as possible.
Now there are challenges in outdoor learning. As any good teacher knows, a lesson needs to have a sense of integrity, a “skin” around it that holds the students and teacher/s in a unity with a common purpose in learning. In simple terms, everyone, both students and teacher, need to focus on the lesson and on their common task, otherwise the learning is less.
The four walls of the usual classroom space provide a physical boundary that gives one layer of the “skin” around a lesson. But as we all know, that’s not enough, and a lesson can so easily lose focus even within the most solid walls.
It’s the art of the teacher to create the intangible “skin” by drawing the students into the web of interest, enthusiasm and focused attention that every good lesson needs. Teachers create the “skin” themselves and learning this art, for an art it is, is the result of the sheer hard work that goes into training to be a teacher.
So taking lessons outside has a big challenge in one sense. How do you sustain student attention when you have kookaburras cackling, the wind on the trees, a distant chainsaw and the odd brush turkey wandering past, not to mention the visual distractions of a panorama of pleasant trees to look at? So the art of the teacher comes into its own in the outdoor classroom setting. Teachers need to be on their toes keeping attention and focus.
But the benefits are immense. At a time when clean air is a precious commodity, the sheer quality of fresh air at Middle Cove is impressive. The thick natural forest next to the waters of Middle Harbour create a highly oxygenated air flow which must make the campus one of the healthiest educational settings you can imagine.
Outdoor learning is nothing new to Glenaeon, it’s been part of our DNA since inception. Embedding learning in a natural environment was the foundational design of the school. One of the founders of our school Eric Nicholls, the junior partner of Walter and Marion Burly Griffin, first articulated his plans for a school in a natural setting as early as 1952, when he described his vision of creating a village-like series of classroom buildings in a bushland setting. His foundational design has echoed on in all the design principles that have shaped Glenaeon’s grounds ever since. Every window in the school looks out on to trees and green spaces.
How ahead of his time was that? Research that started at the University of Colorado in the 1990’s found some interesting results regarding health and wellbeing connected with “green” school yards. In general, and screening out such factors as socio-economic advantage, they found a connection between green spaces on a school campus and the health and wellbeing of its student population. The research is population research, so it covers many schools and many students, but it does suggest we have about as healthy a schoolyard as you can get. The Japanese “Forest Bathing’ movement with its associated research is demonstrating the physical benefits of extended time in forest settings, which is what our students enjoy every day.
The research is so pertinent in this time when air quality for students is such a hot topic. A local researcher is now working on the health of Australian high school grounds: Gweneth Leigh at the University of Canberra is completing a PhD on the how the design of secondary schoolyards has an impact on the wellbeing of students. She is hoping to raise awareness of how profoundly important green school grounds are for student wellbeing and health. Glenaeon is part of her study and we have shared our vision and practice of learning that is integrated into the natural environment.
Hopefully one silver lining from this challenging time might be a realisation that we need to take the inside out more often in schools. Students need their learning integrated into natural spaces for health and wellbeing reasons. If as a society we can learn that, it really will be a breath of fresh air.
Head of School
What a difference two days make! We deliberately delayed sharing our return to school plans with parents knowing that in the past, plans announced by the Premier have changed, and now even the Premier has changed as well as the plan! So we have both a new Premier and new plans, and all schools across NSW will be scrambling to catch up. An enormous amount of work has gone into our return to school schedules, planning which now has to pivot to accommodate the new return dates. We will be in touch with you shortly to outline Glenaeon’s plans for Term 4.
Schools are very empty places without students, so we await their return with great anticipation. When they do return, the Term 4 arrangements for schools will involve serious restrictions and mandates which mean we have to work within a framework that is not what we would normally choose. These mandates have a potentially fragmenting effect on our community harmony, and we are working very hard to accommodate all sections of our community.
There will be constraints in which we have to work, but we are confident that the school will manage the transition back to normal school life. The Public Health Orders are legally binding on schools: we do not make these rules, but we are obligated to ensuring they are in place. Within the constraints of these orders, we are working to ensure every teacher and staff member remains both safe and connected to their classes.
As the final term for Year 12, we wish all students and families in our senior year a successful period of HSC exams, and a positive ending to the school journey. There will be further details of our return to school in the next few days and in the meantime, I wish everyone a happy start to Term 4!
This week we celebrate the arrival of the warmth, the light and the new life that we call Spring. Days are getting longer, the sunlight feels warmer, and all around us we see new leaves, flowers and everything green seems to be growing. What a sense of joy and expansion!
We can’t come together to celebrate in our festivals this year, but every one of us can enjoy the sense of new life nearby, just by looking at it. Let’s have private festivals of joy, where we quietly look on all the growing around us and say a simple Thank You to a world of Nature that is not in lockdown like us, but is in fact expanding and flourishing. This is a time for gratitude and awe, such simple feelings that the season evokes. Whatever our age, the new life of Nature in Spring can make us feel happy, young and fresh.
These feelings just bubble up in us during Spring as a normal enjoyment of the season. If you want some science in there as well, it’s worth noting that there are many studies now showing connections between cultivating these feelings of awe over time with very positive mental health benefits. Some studies even suggest a positive impact of physical health.
Julia Baird’s recent book Phosphorescence gives a beautiful commentary on our deep need for these moments as a kind of inner nourishment for our souls. This lockdown season has shown us more than ever how much we need the feelings of awe and wonder, the phosphorescence that Nature provides. In Spring it comes in abundance. May Leunig’s little hymn be a kind of meditation for us on the power of Nature to bring us a “wisdom that will heal the world”.
End of Term:
It’s been a long and winding road this term, but we are about there. Thank you for to everyone for staying the course. There’s been a lot of strength of character on display this term, and we can be very proud of our community. Our teachers have been magnificent, going above and beyond on every front, and I thank them for the quality and richness of learning they have offered to our students even over the distance of remote.
To all families I wish you a well-deserved break, a restful and fulfilling holiday period, and we look forward to resuming our teaching and learning on Wednesday October 6th. By then we will have more clarity from NSW Health on the roadmap back to regular in person schooling, and we will provide you with a detailed plan for the return to school commencing on Monday October 25th.
Until then, best wishes for the break!
Head of School
Shared at last week’s online assembly for high school students…
Last assembly I talked about how even though we can feel we have no freedom in this difficult time that the pandemic has brought us, we still have the freedom to think thoughts which can lift us out of this trough.
I suggested saying these words every day: The world is majestic. These four, simple words can really start to change what we see in front of us. The world is majestic. Every morning there is a magnificent sunrise which is majestic, and it’s free and available to everyone. A blade of grass grows with such precision, formed on laws of growth that can be mathematically mapped.
I hope you’ve tried saying The world is majestic, a few times a day, and noticed how you start to see the world differently, and how you feel differently too. You start to see things that you may not have seen before. You can start to appreciate the simple beauty that is around us daily. This is an ancient practice, one that the Stoic philosophers of ancient Greece first described, though it’s been discovered in a slightly different form for the modern world, and Professor Carol Dwerk called it the Growth Mindset.
When looking at people though, a growth mindset can be a lot harder to apply. The majestic, the good is harder to find. With people you find everything is a bit mixed up. We’ve talked about how Australian history is a good example, where we find people doing many different kinds of things, some good, some bad and shocking, and some downright stupid. It’s all mixed up. The good things you have to look for. You have to go and search for them. It’s like precious metals in the ground: they’re not lying there for you to find, you have to search for them. You have to actively look for the good.
Now I was thinking about all this over the past week as we heard terrible stories from around the world about some awful things: the fall of Kabul in Afghanistan, the earthquake in Haiti and the gang violence that followed. But I was reading an article on the weekend about Afghanistan, and one sentence jumped out at me that I thought was worth sharing.
It was written by a young Afghan woman who came to Australia with her mother as a child, she went to school here and became a lawyer, something then she could never have done in her own country. This is what she wrote...
Not a single day goes by where small acts do not remind me to be grateful for the safety and security of Australia and how different life would have been if my mother had not fled with a single suitcase and four children, aged five and under, in 1989.
I was taken by two things: can you even imagine the sheer courage of a mother taking her four little children, with a single suitcase, and starting a new life in a strange country?
But I also noticed something about our country that we who have enjoyed its safety and security can sometimes take for granted. Every day she sees “small acts” that remind her of how grateful she is to be here. Small acts of kindness, care and helping others to be safe, that people like the rest of us probably don’t even see. She looks for the good because she knows what the bad can be. Australia is far from perfect, we have so much to change and improve, but for someone who sees differently, its pretty good. I thought it’s a lesson for all of us to look for the small acts of goodness.
The great thing about seeing small acts of good things is they make you feel good too. They are the best antidote to being down! The media call stories like these the “feel good” stories. Because that’s what they do, they make you feel good.
So as well as saying The world is majestic every day, think about looking for at least one small act of goodness every day as well, among your family, your friends, even strangers with their random acts of kindness. And you never know, you might just start to see human life as majestic too.
Head of School
In times of trial such as we are all now enduring, it’s natural and appropriate to look for help outside ourselves: a therapist, a professional, the government, the UN. But as well as appropriate outside help, we all have a resource that is often untapped and unused. We all have resources within ourselves. We just need to recognise them and to practise them. The contemporary interest in mindfulness is a version of something that has been developed by many philosophic and spiritual traditions. In times such as we are all facing today, it is worth returning to these inner sources of strength and nourishment that can sustain us all.
The Stoics were philosophers in ancient Greece who learned to deal with life’s challenges by separating what we can control (how we act), from what we can’t control (what life brings us). They taught that ultimately we are only free in how we respond to the things that come to us, the things over which we have no control.
Marcus Aurelius was an Emperor of Rome who kept a daily diary of his Stoic musings on life and the daily practice that enabled him to deal with the troubles of an empire: endless war, disease, rebellion, famine to name a few. His daily inner retreat gave him a strength to deal with it all:
People seek retreats for themselves – in the country, by the sea, in the hills – and you yourself are particularly prone to this yearning. But all this is quite unphilosophic, when it is open to you, at any time you want, to retreat into yourself.
No retreat offers someone more quiet and relaxation than that into his/her own mind, especially if she/he can dip into thoughts there which put him at immediate and complete ease: and by ease I simply mean a well ordered life. So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.
The doctrines you will visit there should be few and fundamental, sufficient at one meeting to wash away all your pain and send you back free of resentment at what you must rejoin….
Finally then, remember this retreat into your own little territory within yourself. Be your own master, and look at things as a human being, as a citizen, as a mortal creature.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 4, 3-4
I can’t say it any better than Michael Leunig, so here is his poem for Winter:
We give thanks for the blessing of Winter.
Season to cherish the heart
To make warmth and quiet for the heart
To make soups and broths for the heart
To cook for the heart and read for the heart
To curl up softly and nestle with the heart
To sleep deeply and gently at one with the heart
To dream with the heart
To spend time with the heart
A long, long time of peace with the heart
We give thanks for the blessing of winter
Season to cherish the heart.
While it's cold outside, it's time to feel the warmth inside, both in our homes and in our hearts. It’s the season of inwardness. Our MidWinter festivals celebrate and nurture this season’s feeling of the warmth of the human heart. The spiral of candles at the close of a festival is a unique joy in the turning of the year, an image of the community of individuals united with the common intention of creating purpose and beauty in the world. We look forward to sharing this inner joy with our students.
MidWinter festivals through the school:
Class 3 – Year 12 over Tuesday and Wednesday June 22/23
Classes 1 and 2: Thursday 17 June - 11.30am – 12.40pm
Kindergarten: Tuesday 22 June
Tuesday 22 June 5.30pm – 7pm
Thursday 24 June 5.30pm – 7pm
Unfortunately, this year we have COVID restrictions on numbers in the Sylvia Brose Hall at Middle Cove. While we can run festivals for the students, due to the unique nature of the MidWinter festival seating, we are unable to hold our community MidWinter festival in the evening. We are unable to maintain physical distancing and the numbers cap on the building. At least we can run the festival for the students unlike last year. We apologise to parents and former students for this year and hope that 2022 will provide an opportunity to hold our community MidWinter festival once gain.
Welcome to Peter Candotti as Chair of the School Council
Lee Hill retired as Chair of the Glenaeon School Council, our Board of Directors, at the recent AGM of the school’s company. Lee has served the school with great distinction for 10 years as a Director and four years as Chair. His professional skills in business and marketing have been invaluable in supporting our work in managing the school and in guiding the School Council’s role as our governing body overseeing budget, risk and strategy. Lee has given unstinting of his time, no more so than last year when he was central in guiding our financial response to the pandemic. He leaves the role with our gratitude and thanks for his service.
We welcome Peter Candotti into the role of Chair of Council. See below for Peter’s full biography and connection to the school. Peter has been an incredibly supportive parent over a very long time and his professional skills will be very much appreciated in steering Glenaeon into the next stage of our journey. Welcome Peter!
End of Term
As the last newsletter of Term 2 2021, I wish all families a restful and refreshing time over the break. There will be a very large building program underway as we replace the deck around the Sylvia Brose Hall. This work will continue for a number of weeks into Term 3, and we will be advising staff and parents around traffic movements on the drive and basketball courts. May the time of our winter break be as regenerating as possible for all staff, students and parents!
In our last Newsletter Dani Finch outlined how our program of 5A’s meets the six 21st century capabilities. But there’s a sixth A, though we don’t talk about it much.
Julia Baird’s recent best-seller has brought it into the open and it’s time to talk about it. Her title says everything: Phosphorescence: On awe, wonder, and things that sustain you when the world goes dark. The book has sold 150,000 copies in Australia and was the publishing phenomenon of the pandemic year. In the year when so many things went dark, her beautifully written book spoke to so many people about how to seek and find the extraordinary in the ordinary, the inner light in the ordinary world around us. Julia’s book told her own story of survival through extraordinarily challenging difficulties of pain and loss, and how she built reserves that in the face of these challenges, brought her “immense beauty”. She touched death numbers of times and she learned a number of lessons to cope.
A key lesson? “Seek awe, and nature, daily”.
As I read her book, I thought again of a constant question in my mind: how can we prepare children to find that feeling of awe, the sustaining sense that life is spectacular and grand, and we all have a place in it.
If this is such a human need, why aren’t schools making it a part of daily life? How can schools make sure that awe, and nature, are part of every child’s daily education?
Her book is a reminder that we all need bread as much as stones to nourish our inner lives. Feelings of awe nourish our inwardness. How sad that the language of education is yet to embrace this profound and essential human need as a fundamental for schools, just as much as other subjects.
Glenaeon draws on the rich heritage of Steiner education to embed feeling of awe and wonder in our daily school journey. Here are some of the ways we do it:
Morning verse: we start each day with a mindful reflection on the great powers of life. In a little touch of daily awe, a simple non-denominational verse starts our work for each student and teacher/mentor/guardian with a reminder that we are part of a bigger whole, that our lives are woven into a grander design than our minds can sometime fathom.
Stories: the special moment in a primary class day is story time, usually just before morning Recess. When all is quiet, a candle is lit and the teacher tells, in person, a story from world tales or their own imagination. For a teacher there is no more special moment in the day than seeing this crowd of expectant faces, waiting to be moved and touched by the power of imagination. So many of the stories carry the curriculum and in primary school even Maths and Science lessons can be woven out of and developed from a well-crafted story. Right up into high school, our classes enjoy a moment of wonder as the story unfolds, and the mind is taken to far off places and remarkable deeds.
Poetry: Our commitment to spoken poetry through the school says so much, just as a poem compacts meaning into a few lines. How much awe is in these 29 simple words?
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower.
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
Festivals: a man of aboriginal descent recently told me how impressed he was at his children’s Steiner school because they celebrated seasonal festivals, such as MidWinter when the children carry a candle and build a communal spiral of lights on the year’s darkest day. He hadn’t found other institutions so connected with the rhythms of the year, something which to him as an indigenous person was so fundamental. Our western style seasons have of course been simplistic and blunt compared to the nuanced and embedded aboriginal consciousness, but at least we have a feeling of awe and connection with the turning of the year.
Nature: “the quiet healing properties of Nature” writes Julia. Our Middle Campus is a haven in the busy north shore, with a backyard that includes the exquisite Scotts Creek as it winds through mangroves to Middle Harbour. Our Outdoor Education program explicitly takes students to wild outdoor places where as well as stretching themselves against the forces of rivers and rocks, they can sit and absorb the quiet majesty of wilderness. The power of place is a sense in itself, and needs regular educating.
Cuttlefish: “For me, cuttlefish are symbols of awe” says Julia. Our Main Lesson curriculum charts a course through the rich stories of history, Science, Maths and literature, finding an implicit sense of wonder in our human connections with the world’s phenomena. How special it was to read Chapter 1 in Julia’s book which is titled Lessons from a Cuttlefish. We traditionally start our study of animals in Class 4 with the cuttlefish and examine their remarkable structure. Implicit in our scientific study is a sense of wonder at the extraordinary way the cuttlefish moves through the ocean.
The 5A’s of the Glenaeon journey educate the whole human being: Academic, Aesthetic, Artisan, Altruistic, Active Wilderness. But holding them all together is the sixth A, the special sense that life is grand and powerful, and we all have a place in it, the sustaining sense of Awe.
Head of School
Term 2 provides a time for rich, concentrated learning when, supported by wintery days, we feel an increased sense of inwardness and a strengthening of our capacity for engagement with ideas, analytical questioning and reflection. At school we make use of the season’s supportive influences and use the winter terms in particular to deepen and extend the students’ academic capabilities. Embedding knowledge and honing skills are emphasised as Year 9 and 10 students prepare for their mid-year examinations, practising memorisation techniques and working to crystallise their understanding into coherent responses under timed conditions, and main lessons such as Mathematics in Nature in Year 7 and The Chemistry of Salts in Year 10 bring the elements of ‘wonder’, then ‘judgement’, then ‘understanding’ seamlessly into harmony as students observe, question and arrive at concepts through a natural learning progression. At the Year 11 and 12 level, a period of solid work is entered into where a significant amount of new content is brought and where the need to determinedly further their abilities through rigorous practise is understood.
In all of the endeavours mentioned, focus is on bringing ‘willing into thinking’ but the opposite is also required and nowhere is bringing ‘thinking into willing’ more essential at this time than in the HSC year. While students juggle the competing demands of diverse course requirements that entail the amassing and understanding a large body of information and the expert demonstration of their knowledge, significant developments must also be made on all projects. Throughout Term 2, practical components of Design and Technology, English Extension 2, History Extension, Music 1, 2 and Extension, Science Extension, Society and Culture and Visual Arts become fully realised and refined, ready for early Term 3 HSC Showcases and NESA submissions; we greatly look forward to seeing the fruits of their labours!
The go-between or oil that enables our application of ‘will’ to result in our capacity for ‘sustained, directed thought’ and the employment of our ‘thinking’ to produce ‘meaningfully guided action’ is, however, the strength and quality of our ‘feeling’ … and, in particular, feeling relationships with what we encounter that inspire and embody wonder, interest, intrigue, aesthetic sensitivity, determination or meaning.
At Glenaeon, teachers are acutely aware that one of their key tasks, therefore, is to present students with daily opportunities for the engagement of their emotions, sometimes subtly and sometimes profoundly. Depictions of beauty, narratives enhanced through dramatic detail, inspirational accounts of lives well led, the fineness of a mathematical formula accurately applied, the lightbulb awakening of a scientific discovery or the exquisite depiction of a personal revelation in a piece of eloquent prose or poetry are all examples of how our feeling life can be activated. When these encounters are brought to the students, their emotions are awakened in ways that allow immersion in learning that links human experience with content matter. Lessons become relevant and material that has the potential to remain detached becomes meaningful. An inspired interest in a topic provides impetus for sustained grappling with complex elements, namely ‘willing in thinking’, and a sense for beauty (or morality) enables actions to be moderated by thoughtful considerations, in other words, ‘thinking in willing’. And it is during these cooler months, when we are less likely to be drawn into the expansiveness of the natural environment, that we are perfectly placed to work on these three aspects of our being. The meaningful interplay between thinking, feeling and willing therefore becomes a focus so as to provide students with learning opportunities that foster inner growth and academic development.
Deputy Head of School (Years 7-12)
Welcome back to everyone and best wishes for a great start to our new Term!
The good news is that COVID restrictions have eased for schools and we are getting close to a return to what we all remember as “normal” school, pre-pandemic.
- Parent/carers can drop off on campus (no sign in required) however it’s assumed that this is for a short period of time. Castlecrag has particular requirements which will be communicated directly to parents of Kindergarten to Class 2.
- If you are picking up your child early before the end of day, you must sign out at Reception. We need to maintain accurate records of attendance and we appreciate your assistance in this matter.
- Visitors should maintain 1.5m physical distance from other adults (including staff) where practicable and other visitors when on the school site and at school pick-up and drop-off times where practicable
- At all times where there are people gathering, personal hygiene, physical distancing, cleaning and record keeping requirements apply
- Visitors must comply with sign-in arrangements
- Visitors must be excluded if unwell, even with the mildest of COVID-19 symptoms
Glenaeon has an overarching COVID-19 Safety Plan in place for the school and the standard precautions remain:
Hygiene and Illness procedures – remain the same as always
- Stay at home when unwell and get tested.
- Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly.
- Maintain respiratory hygiene.
Life will probably never return to the normal we knew, but with COVID plans in place, and accurate record keeping, we look forward to maintaining a semblance of the happy community life we all enjoy. These new guidelines enable us to confirm and continue planning our key community activities involving parents: the MidWinter Ball Event and the Family Fair in November. Our school festivals can now go ahead, as can in-person meetings. We will maintain some convenient aspects of remote learning such as some Zoom interviews in High School, but overall we can look forward to a resumption of face to face and in person meetings. Hallelujah! Our human community resumes!
This week Year 9 and 10 will be with a range of presenters undertaking a whole day workshop on respectful relationships. The program LoveBites comes with a very strong reputation in preparing adolescents to navigate the issues of managing relationships and consent. As many schools have found, our existing programs in Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) are strong, but not strong enough. The LoveBites program provides a deeper dive for students, in a safe and secure setting, to really understand the significance of appropriate and inappropriate behaviours, and how to ensure our relationships are healthy and respectful.
In Term 1 there were sessions with DAYSS (Drug and Alcohol Youth Support Services), a well-respected program for both high school students and parents on managing alcohol and substance issues. We also continue to share with parents the workshops and education sessions offered by Headspace, a national youth mental health service. Our Wellbeing program has had a strong start in 2021 and there will be further initiatives and parent education through the year.
The Bird Panel:
During the break our Maintenance team caught up with many small jobs that can get overlooked during a busy term. One special job they undertook was to install the Bird panel: a beautiful rendering of our bush landscape featuring ten different species of birds that inhabit our Middle Cove campus. The project had its genesis when I visited the Newcastle Waldorf School in January and saw some panels they had painted that depicted bird species which had their habitats decimated during the 2019-20 bushfires. I asked Art Teacher Donna Miller and our local ornithologist and Science teacher Dr Stanley Tang whether we could do the same. They were both enthusiastic and we arranged a session of the Teachers Seminar PD days in January to be devoted to painting a panel depicting some of the 100 or so species of birds that inhabit or visit our campus.
The session proved very successful. About a dozen teachers spent hours painting the panels at the seminar, and then later during Term 1 completed a sophisticated rendering of our bushland and some of its bird species. The panels turned out to be enormous, and when put together, measured 4.8 by 2.1 metres. They now adorn a wall of the Alice Crowther Building next to the café.
Stanley Tang spoke at our first assembly for the term on Wednesday, describing the ten species on the panel, and something of their colours and habits. He gave the High school students a challenge to see how many of the ten species they could recognise, as many are tucked away in the painting of the bushland habitat. How gratifying it was to come up immediately after the assembly and see a gathering of five students intently searching the panel to see all the birds. It’s a great piece of work that both adds a beautiful aesthetic to our building, as well as celebrating our bush and birdlife. Congratulations to our creative teachers, and come and enjoy next time you are on campus!
If you're reading this piece in the Glenaeon newsletter, chances are that we first met when I interviewed you and your children as part of the school's enrolment process. I enjoy those interviews deeply, getting to know each student and family as I run through the prescribed questions covering academic strengths and challenges, hobbies and interests, musical experience, sport and health information. Each interview, I ask parents to tell me what has drawn them to Glenaeon and a Steiner education. Alongside a variety of responses about creativity, academics, co-education, and Outdoor Education, a large majority of you have responded something along the lines of; "We are seeking a warm, nurturing environment where our child will be known and cared for". And yes, spot-on, that's us! But, and it's a big but, we do hard things at Glenaeon.
Being nurtured, cared for and deeply known does not equate to being comfortable, at ease or always happy! From Little Kindergarten to Year 12 and beyond, Glenaeon kids do hard things that sometimes make them sad, angry, unsure, or afraid:
- In Kindy, it might be saying goodbye to mum and dad even though you want one more hug.
- In Class 3, it could be practising your reading, writing and times tables every day even when you don't feel like it, or standing up for what's right in the playground.
- In Class 6, it might be reciting a lengthy poem in front of an audience or controlling your temper when things don't go your way.
- In Year 7, it's joining us from another school and learning to draw, paint, and play an instrument alongside classmates who have been doing those things for years.
- In Year 8, it might be reciting a Shakespeare soliloquy or abseiling down a cliff face.
- In Year 9, it's volunteering your time to help with something that might not be cool or pretty or fun.
- In Year 10, it's getting up on stage with a microphone and singing and dancing like you're on Broadway.
- In Year 12, it's sitting under a tarp in the bush out near Coonabarabran for 48 hours with only your thoughts (and your pre-developed singing, dancing, and artistic skills) to keep you company.
Being nurtured and deeply known is not about wrapping our kids in cotton wool or placing them in an environment where they are always content. Quite the opposite, it's about creating opportunities where they get to do hard things and fail at them in a school community where we make it safe and possible to get up and try again.
Our students are musicians, artists, orators, performers, hikers, essayists, philosophers, and friends. These skills and attributes don't come easily to any human. Yes, our students are known and nurtured. And yes, they do hard things.
Deputy Head of School (K-6) & Registrar
"Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well."
Our key focus this year is articulating and promoting our Wellbeing and Pastoral Care program. Glenaeon’s founding vision was unique for its era: education in itself should be health promoting with student wellbeing at the centre. At the time in mainstream education, wellbeing and emotional health were seen as collateral damage in the war on academic achievement, like civilian casualties in a war. Since then mainstream education has made a 180 degree shift in its concerns, and student wellbeing is now rightly front and centre for all schools.
Our Wellbeing program has always been an implicit and essential part of what we do. Glenaeon’s vision, based on Steiner education, was that all learning should contribute to whole and balanced human beings. Our wellbeing focus was embedded in all that we did and in this we were ahead of the curve. For example, we were criticised 20 years ago for being “too positive” towards our students. Today many schools have Positive Education (TM) programs, and compete to be more positive than most. Our positive program continues to be implicit and embedded in all classrooms.
Our Wellbeing program aims at promoting health in all that we do. The word health comes from the old German word “hale”, which means whole, a link we hear in the old saying that someone is “hale and hearty”. The word health implies wholeness, and balance. So Glenaeon’s picture of the well human being, whether that is a growing child or a mature adult, is one of health and balance in all the elements that make us human.
What is unique to our Wellbeing program is our clear picture of the growing child, and a clear articulation of the specific personal qualities and elements we are educating. Our curriculum comprises five foundational programs Academic, Aesthetic, Altruistic, Artisan and Active wilderness. Each program addresses one aspect of the whole human being. Together they educate the whole.
Let’s look at what each educational program contributes to a young person’s wellbeing:
Academic: Healthy Thinking: our academic program educates our thinking, and we know only too well what a part thoughts play in our wellbeing. They can be positive, uplifting, growth-oriented, or they can negative, destructive, fixed. We think all the time, and the continual trend of our thinking plays so profoundly into our wellbeing. The evidence is even there on how positive thoughts even affect our immune systems. Our Main Lesson method aspires to build thinking that is deep learning, a thinking that sees every “Big Idea” main lesson topic set within a context, a story that is unfolding and whole, rather than a collection of random facts.
Aesthetic: Healthy Feeling: our feelings define our responses to life, our inner world. They are more than “emotions” (such as anger, fear, lust). They are the subtle dream-like inner experiences by which we navigate our path through life. Our Aesthetic program of the creative and performing arts aims to build a rich feeling life through music, visual arts, speech, drama and poetry: the arts give our inarticulate inner life a language of expression, a subtly differentiated body of feelings.
Altruistic: Healthy Relationships: Our classes are not just collections of separate learners. Each classroom is a community, and we understand that we learn best in relationship. Our teachers work to deliver high quality learning embedded in high quality relationships. On each step of the Glenaeon journey, every student is accompanied by a teacher providing pastoral care, starting with the small but warm classes of Kindergarten. One class teacher for the primary years is a lesson in relationship over six years. Mentors and Guardians in high school are the representatives of the school watching out for each student in our care. And not just pastoral care: students are learning how to manage their relationships with others. In our Service program, students learn to “live for others” in supporting vulnerable groups in our society, from the elderly to aboriginal children.
Artisan: Healthy Willpower: our energy in life is determined by that intangible thing called “will”, a key factor in success in life. Every successful person, in whatever field, is characterized by a strong and focused will. Plenty of people have talent, not so many have the willpower to turn talent into successful enterprise. Our Artisan Program of serious traditional and modern crafts (textiles, wood, metal, stone, plastics, glass) is more than learning skills to make useful and beautiful objects: the practice of the skills builds something deeper, the power to get things done!
Active Wilderness: Healthy Movement: The evidence is now incontrovertible on how important healthy movement is for wellbeing and health generally: regular movement even delays the onset of dementia. Wholeness is when brain and body work as one, in a well and healthy human being. Activity begins in Kindergarten and infuses not just every classroom, but as many learning experiences as possible. Movement First is an old Steiner education mantra, expressing the understanding that in a healthy person brain and body work together, and learning that is moved first, is learning that leads to more effective understanding later. Morning Circle, Sport and our Outdoor Education program all build specific aspects of healthy minds in healthy bodies.
Such is our positive proactive curriculum for promoting wellbeing and health at Glenaeon. But life is not perfect.
- What happens when we need to step in when things go wrong?
- What support do we have available to respond to difficulties?
Every difficulty can be a learning experience for a young person, and our aim is to provide support that promotes personal growth and development.
Student Wellbeing Coordinator:
This year we have appointed Emily Fam as our inaugural Student Wellbeing Coordinator, working across the school. Emily is a very experienced mental health social worker who will be available to provide support to students who are referred to her by teachers, or in the high school through self-referral. We look forward to Emily’s contribution in upholding our wellbeing and pastoral care program.
Head of School
A warm welcome to 2021 for all families of Glenaeon, both continuing and new. The students of Class 1 to Year 12 commenced Wednesday. Kindergarten Thursday, and we now have a school fully occupied and humming with enthusiasm for the year ahead.
In January the school ran our annual week long Glenaeon Class Teacher Intensive of professional training, this year online. The remote access seemed to increase the enrolment even further, and 250 people from around Australia and internationally zoomed in for a week of professional teacher learning sessions.
In preparation for your children returning to school our teachers spent two days of professional development on the very important theme of Being Well: How a Glenaeon education fosters wellbeing and connection in students and staff. We considered how the many elements of a Glenaeon education work together to build a learning community that is in itself positive and promotes wellbeing.
New Year, New Faces
This year there are a number of changes in organisation and people. Our Enrolments Registrar Chandra Kennedy resigned over the summer and in her place we have made a small restructure. Deputy Head of School (K-6) Dani Finch has been undertaking all non-Kindergarten entry enrolment interviews for some time now, so this moment represents an opportunity to formalise her role as Registrar, with appropriate backup support:
· Dani Finch title will become Deputy Head of School (K-6) and Registrar, managing the Enrolments office and interviews while maintaining overall responsibility for the primary school;
· Katherine Arconati (Class 5 teacher) will step up as Faculty Coordinator for Primary: she will be supported with additional assistance in the classroom and will be responsible for primary curriculum and faculty coordination, thus freeing Dani from these responsibilities;
· Clare Gordon our Events Coordinator (2 days) will go full time and take on the role of enrolments officer, managing all the paperwork and back up in the Enrolments office. Her position will be Events and Enrolments Coordinator.
It’s a great pleasure to be introducing our new teachers for 2021. They have very diverse backgrounds and all bring a commitment to quality education at Glenaeon:
Jennifer Stone is our Class 1 teacher. Jennifer has just completed a Class Teacher cycle at Kamaroi School, but she has a long connection with Glenaeon. As well as working for us as an assistant some years ago, her daughter completed K to Year 10 here.
Ian Munns is our new Head of Music. Ian has a distinguished record as a musician and educator. He has most recently been Director of Music at Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School in Melbourne, and before that at MLC, Sydney for many years.
Alison Totterdell,Mathematics: Alison is recently qualified and has been working at St Ignatius, Riverview. Her first degree was in Science and she has an interesting background in indigenous land management.
Amelia Gonzalez, English: Amelia comes from Abbotsleigh, and earlier at PLC, and has many years of HSC experience under her belt. Her two daughters have attended Kamaroi and one will be joining Year 7 this year.
Andrew Webster, HSIE: Andrew has wide experience in a range of Histories and HSIE subjects, including being Head of Ancient History at Hills Grammar School: he will take over Society and Culture in Years 11 and 12 while Ella Pooley is on maternity leave.
Angela Sutton, Head of Learning Support: Angela hails for the US originally, and has worked in Special Education and Learning Support internationally. Most recently she was Head of Learning Support at the Australian Independent School, Jakarta, Indonesia.
Emily Fam, Student Wellbeing Coordinator: Emily will be our inaugural appointment in this role. She is a mental health social worker who has significant experience in counselling and advocacy work with vulnerable young people in a range of settings including out of home care, and drug and alcohol dependence.
Kim Mann, Sport/PE and Compliance Officer : Kim will be coming from Kamaroi School where she has worked in compliance and administration for five years. She is a trained PDHPE teacher and will assist in a number of classes. She is already a parent in the school with a daughter in Year 8.
Alice Livermore, Library, Careers and Spanish: Alice will be working for three days per week as our senior librarian and also covering our Careers Information service for Years 9 to 12. She is in addition a Spanish speaker and former Spanish teacher, and will teach that language as one of the three language options in Year 7.
Raphaela Mazzone will be Year 8 Guardian and Main lesson teacher. She has been a high school teacher at Mt Barker Waldorf (Steiner) School, where she was also a student herself. She is also nearing completion of a Postgraduate Diploma in Psychology from UNE. She is a professional artist and also a fine musician.
Melanie Harper will be assisting/teaching in Kindergarten, to support Sarah David who will take the one Kindergarten class while Catherine Pilko takes Little Kindergarten covering Junko Nicholas’s maternity Leave.
It’s been a busy start to the term and year, but what else is new? We look forward to an exciting year of learning, one we hope will be as restriction free as possible. With all good wishes to all families and students for the year ahead!
HSC Results 2020
Statement from Andrew Hill, Head of School
I congratulate Glenaeon’s Class of 2020 for their outstanding results, achieved in this most difficult of years. The quality of the results is testament to their effort and resilience, the unstinting support of their parents and families, and to the tireless work of Glenaeon’s dedicated teachers.
The Class of 2020 displayed enormous flexibility in how they responded to the impact of COVID-19 on their studies, adjusting remarkably well to remote learning during the days of school learning lost to the pandemic. The Year 12 teachers were equally flexible and displayed remarkable dedication in going far beyond the ‘extra mile’ in providing resources and support for the students. We are especially grateful to the support shown by parents who demonstrated unfailing commitment to their children.
Glenaeon remains proudly non-selective, committed to supporting all students to achieve their best in this final credential of schooling. Some of the most heart-warming results are hidden in the details but we know them and acknowledge them: the stories of those students who overcame significant personal difficulty to achieve well beyond their own expectations.
Within this framework we celebrate the hard work of the Class of 2020 in achieving an overall ranking of 64 on The Sydney Morning Herald’s 2020 School Rankings. Glenaeon’s average over the three years of 2018-20 is 62 among the more than 800 high schools in NSW. Overall 63% of examinations sat resulted in a mark over 80 (Band 5/6 or E3/E4).
I congratulate the Distinguished Achievers whose results placed them in a Band 6 or E4 (Extension subject) result, a score over 90. Congratulations to Dux of the cohort Joseph McCormick who achieved an ATAR of 99.55 and an All Rounder result (Band 6 in all 10 units).
There were an impressive number of top Band 6 results in STEM subjects:
- Chemistry: 57% achieving Band 6
- Physics: 50% achieving Band 6
- Mathematics Extension 1: 75% achieving E4 (top band)
- Mathematics Extension 2: 100% E3 and E4, all achieving notional Band 6
Numbers of the Class of 2020 made quite remarkable improvements in their results over the course of the year and we congratulate their achievements even if they do not appear in the Distinguished Achievers List.
Our broad and balanced program aims to build leaders who can foster creative change in society through collaboration and diversity. I look forward to all our students using their results to step out into the world in a spirit of service to others, learning to offer their talents and skills for the greater good.
To the Class of 2020, can I say it’s been a year of challenges and I warmly congratulate you on how inspiring you have been in meeting these challenges in such a positive, heartfelt manner. Thank you, you have done so well!
Head of School
2020 HSC School Rankings
Glenaeon was placed 64th in the State on The Sydney Morning Herald’s 2020 School Rankings, based on top band results as a proportion of examination papers sat. Our average position over three years (2018-20) is 62nd, placing us within the top 7.5% of high schools offering the HSC in NSW, which includes 18 selective state high schools.
Joseph McCormick – ATAR 99.55
All-round Achievers List (Band 6 or E4 results in 10 or more units)
Joseph McCormick – We congratulate Joe on his outstanding achievement which saw him gain a Band 6/E4 result (above 90) in all of his courses:
- English Advanced
- Mathematics (completed in 2019)
- Mathematics Extension 1
- Mathematics Extension 2
Top Achievers in Course
Taro Tomishima - First Place in Course for Japanese in Context (studied through the Saturday School of Community Languages)
- Encore (Music): Ruby Vella (violin)
- ArtExpress: Lone Bromley, Kauri Palmer, Max Perkins
- SHAPE (Textiles and Design): Zebedee Maguire (studied externally through Sydney Distance Education High School)
Chiara Candotti: Principal’s Award for Academic Excellence for German Continuers from the NSW School of Languages. Nominated for the Caltex Best All Rounder Award and the Reuben F Scarf Award for commitment.
Significant Achievement (Band 5 or 6 / E3 or E4 results in a course)
63% of examinations sat resulted in an HSC mark over 80 (Band 5/6 or E3/E4)
100% of students in the following subjects achieved in the top band (Band 6 or E4)
- English Extension 2
- Music 1
- Music Extension
100% of students in the following subjects achieved in the top two bands (Bands 5/6 or E3/E4)
- English Extension 1
- German Extension
- History Extension
- Japanese Extension
- Mathematics Extension 1
- Mathematics Extension 2
- Music 1
- Music 2
- Music Extension
- Science Extension
- Textiles & Design (studied through the Sydney Distance Education High School)
Distinguished Achievers List (Band 6 or E4 result in a course)
18 of 38 students were noted on the distinguished achievers list and received 40 mentions between them. Of the 190 examinations sat, 21% resulted in a top band outcome (this figure rises to 23% if we include three E3 results in Mathematics Extension 2 which are considered to be notionally Band 6).
Particular congratulations must go to the following students who have been recognised on the Distinguished Achievers List 2020 (Band 6/E4):
- Jeremy Bacon – Mathematics Extension 1
- Lone Bromley – Visual Arts (accelerated Year 11 student)
- Chiara Candotti – German Continuers (studied through the NSW School of Languages), German Extension, Mathematics Advanced (2019)
- Elicia Ferguson – Visual Arts
- Finn Gladstone – English Advanced, Music 2, Music Extension, Science Extension
- Philippa Grimshaw – English Extension 1, English Extension 2, Modern History, History Extension
- Nelson Hall-Whitington – Mathematics Advanced, History Extension, German Extension
- Tanwen Hutton – English Advanced, English Extension 1, Mathematics Advanced, Mathematics Extension 1
- Joseph Iversen – Music 1
- Joseph McCormick – Chemistry, English Advanced, Mathematics (2019), Mathematics Extension 1, Mathematics Extension 2, Physics
- Marcus Norfor – Mathematics Advanced
- Kauri Palmer – Visual Arts (accelerated Year 11 student)
- Max Perkins – Visual Arts
- Justin Takayasu – Chemistry, Mathematics (2019), Mathematics Extension 1, Mathematics Extension 2 (E3 notional band 6), Physics
- Taro Tomishima – Chemistry, Japanese in Context (studied through the Saturday School of Community Languages), Mathematics (2019), Mathematics Extension 1, Physics
- Ruby Vella – Music 1
- Keaun Wild – Chemistry, Mathematics (2019), Mathematics Extension 1, Mathematics Extension 2 (E3 notional band 6), Physics
- Mitchell Windon – Music 1
The end is nigh (of 2020 that is), and this newsletter is the last for the year. What a year! Without comparing our challenges with those of earlier generations, as D H Lawrence put it in a classic poem after the end of WW1, We have come through!! Not unscarred, but we have come through and are still standing and moving forward. This moment is one to thank every single member of the Glenaeon community for their good will, and hard work. We have come through together and demonstrated the resilience and community spirit that Glenaeon stands for. My personal thanks go to all staff, students and parents for your support through this most trying of years. Our Executive team for Risk Management has carried the core responsibility for emergency management and I pay tribute to their collaborative work over the past nine months of the pandemic:
- Deputy Heads of School Dani Finch and Elizabeth Nevieve,
- Preschool Director Peggy Day,
- Operations & Facilities Manager Chris Scrogie,
- Finance Manager Rohan Wijesinghe
Educational Executive members Brigitte Tietge-Rollans (Daily Coordinator) and Catherine Pilko (Castlecrag Senior Teacher) have served the school to ensure all our day to day processes have continued unabated despite the severe pressure of the pandemic. All our staff members have gone the extra mile above and beyond the call of duty, and I thank each and every one.
COVID-19 has had an impact on our Christmas festivities, so our traditional and much-loved Carol Service and Shepherds Play have been cancelled. In their place the following will occur at the Middle Cove campus for students and teachers. Unfortunately, our COVID controls mean that parents are unable to attend, so we will be recording and distributing parts of the following:
- Christmas Gala Concert on the Oval: Wednesday December 2nd 9.30am
The Spring Festival was such a success in the round on the oval that we will be hosting a Christmas end of year event with the same format. It will be an opportunity for all the music ensembles to perform, as they have been starved of opportunities throughout 2020. Students from Class 3 to Year 11 will be seated in the large circle format and we will enjoy music with a Christmas flavour. Performing will be:
- All Class and Year ensembles from Class 4 to Year 8: Strings, Woodwinds and Concert Bands
- String combinations from high school: violin trio and cello duets
- Glenaeon Big Band
- Glenaeon Jazz Combo
There are 25 items on the program, almost all with a Christmas flavour. We are so sorry parents will not be able to join us, but in the outdoor setting, you will probably be able to hear us in Roseville.
- Christmas Festival: Tuesday December 8th through the day
In place of the Carol Service there will be a number of short assemblies (similar to the Winter Festival) in a carol service format with two or three year groups in each. There will be readings, an Advent wreath with candles and some beautiful carol singing (COVID controlled of course).
Farewell Joy Day
The end of year marks the end of Joy Day’s association and key supporting role in Parent Education at Glenaeon: see later in this Newsletter. Joy has a long association with the school. Her son Max graduated from our Year 12 in 1999 with a stellar result in Mathematics, an ability which went on to earn him a University Medal from the University of Sydney and then a PhD from the University of Oxford. Joy’s four step daughters with husband Malcolm Day (a long term Board member of the school) all graduated from Glenaeon.
Over the past eight years Joy has volunteered an immense amount of time in contributing ideas and organising energy to our Parent Education program. Along with Mary Heard and Catherine Pilko, Joy prepared each term’s program with care, insight and understanding of what was needed to support our parent community. She was foundational in establishing Raphael’s Rooms, our adjunct therapeutic program, and in 2019 she almost singlehandedly carried off our Waldorf100 celebration day at Castlecrag. Joy’s immense passion and dedicated action for Steiner education in general and Glenaeon in particular has inspired countless parents and teachers. I will personally miss Joy’s infectious enthusiasm for new ideas and perspectives that could contribute to a better and wider understanding of what the school stands for.
Joy, we thank you and wish you all happiness in the next phase of your life. I cannot imagine you motionless, so look forward to seeing you bring a grandchild or two to Playgroups, and continue your association with Glenaeon in some other, less demanding ways. Thank you!
End of Year
- Issue #13 of AEON our school magazine will be delivered home via your eldest enrolled child by the last week of term: please enjoy a good read of the articles chronicling our journey this year.
- Reports for Class 3 to Year 10 will be issued by email in the last week of term. If for any reason you do not receive one, please contact the Middle Cove office.
Wednesday December 9th is the last day for students and there will be communication from teachers regarding activities and clean up for each year level. Teachers have professional learning days over Thursday and Friday (10th and 11th) concluding with our staff Christmas party on Friday evening. The School office at Middle Cove will close on December 23rd and reopen on January 11th 2021. Term 1 will commence on Wednesday January 27th.
May I wish all families a fulfilling Christmas period and a restful break over the summer. See you in 2021!
Head of School
The Year 12 showcase yesterday was a huge achievement. It was a magnificent experience to walk into the Sylvia Brose Hall and take in the sheer quality and volume of project work in the subjects of:
* Visual Arts,
* Design and Technology,
* Science Extension,
* English Extension 2,
* Society and Culture,
* History Extension.
The students deserve congratulations for the vision and hard work they put into bringing their creative labours to completion over a whole year. The works are for the HSC, and will be marked, but the learning that each student went through will live on as a foundation for the rest of their lives. Their works did not exist a year ago, and by creating substantial works in whatever their subject, out of nothing, they have changed the world, and themselves, in the process. What better way of learning that an individual can change the world, for the better, one small work at a time.
What does watching a screen do to a child or young person’s mind? It’s the question that’s been hotly debated for decades since movies, TV, video, then laptops and other devices, and now phones, have become so embedded in everyone’s lives.
Does watching a screen reduce the capacity to make independent thoughts? When we hear a story, we make pictures in our mind, mental images, of what we hear. Does seeing a fixed and vibrant artificial image on a screen reduce the ability of a child to create their own inner mental pictures?
There is a significant body of research now suggesting that it does. In a paper titled Screen-time influences children’s mental imagery performance, recently published in the academic journal Developmental Science, researchers have found further evidence of this link.
Taken directly from the paper, the research highlights are:
- Screen media provide children with ready‐made and visually dominated mental images, hence may reduce multimodal mental imagery.
- Using a longitudinal cross‐lagged design with 266 children we tested the effect of screen‐time on mental imagery, controlling for a host of variables.
- Greater screen‐time is linked to reduced mental imagery in children.
There are important issues for our future in a screen dominated world. Genuinely independent thought requires practice in forming those mental images. The more a child is presented with artificial images, the less practice they have in building the “muscle” of independent image generation.
Glenaeon’s primary school is device-free for this very reason. At a time when young brains are growing, we ensure that the muscles of inner mental activity are kept active. We build that mental image muscle through fostering an active image life in our students: stories, poetry, drawing and painting, sculpture, theatre, and all the active learning that goes into Main Lessons are important elements in this building of mental image “muscle”.
You can read the full research article here:< https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/desc.12978 >
Annual Glenaeon Parent Survey
Our annual parent survey will be in your inbox. The survey is an important opportunity to gather information on how you view the school and any suggestions for improvement.
One of the questions is your response to the School Leadership team. Leadership of the school is vested in the Glenaeon School Executive which comprises two overlapping groups carrying responsibilities for both compliance and education.
The Executive Risk Managers carry responsibility for critical incidents (such as the pandemic this year), risk, strategy and compliance, and meets weekly.
The Educational Executive carries responsibility for broader educational decision-making, and also meets weekly.
The Glenaeon School Executive is currently made up of the following people and roles:
- Andrew Hill: Head of School (RM/EE)
- Liz Nevieve: Deputy Head of School (7-12) (RM/EE)
- Dani Finch: Deputy Head of School (K-6) (RM/EE)
- Peggy Day: Preschool Director (RM/EE)
- Chris Scrogie: Operations Manager (RM)
- Rohan Wijesinghe: Finance Manager (RM)
- Catherine Pilko: Senior Teacher Castlecrag (EE)
- Brigitte Tietge-Rollans: Daily Coordinator (EE)
The survey is completely anonymous and there is no avenue for personal identity to be tracked back to anyone completing the survey. The survey is running over these final two weeks of Term 3, and there will be a number of reminders sent out as part of the survey process. As they say on the phone, “Your views are important to us….”
Dani Finch’s lovely article on friendship in the last Newsletter reminded me of how central the human value of friendship was to our school founders in their design of the school. It’s no accident that friendship flourishes at Glenaeon, friendship is designed into the system.
How this came to be is one of the beautiful small stories in Glenaeon’s big story.
Over the past few assemblies I have been telling the story of Glenaeon to our high school students. To make it simple, the history can be told as a biography. Like people, Glenaeon had a mother and a father, metaphorically speaking of course. We even had a grandfather and grandmother.
The school’s “mother” was Sylvia Brose, the pioneering and courageous woman who was not just the school’s founding teacher but was the guiding inspirer of the school for its first four decades. Sylvia was born in New Zealand of originally German heritage. She initially wanted to be a doctor and started medical school with that high aspiration. But her first task in the medical faculty was to cut up a rabbit, a gruesome task for a young woman who loved animals. She decided against that career and on coming to Sydney retrained as a teacher and taught at Frensham in Mittagong.
She was repelled by the brutal side of education in that era. Students were pitted against each other through the relentlessly competitive exam system which began in primary school, teachers were mechanistic providers of centrally determined syllabuses. Sylvia had a vision of what a school could be: a place of deep, joyful learning, where students are friends rather than competitors, and teachers are inspired and loving guides on the learning journey.
The turning point of her life was a meeting with the woman who could be thought of as Glenaeon’s grandmother: Marion Mahony Griffin, wife of Walter Burley Griffin. This couple, so famous in Australian history, are effectively Glenaeon’s grandparents, or at least “intellectual godparents”. Partners in the great Frank Lloyd Wrights’ Chicago studio, they were the architects who won the international design competition to plan Australia’s new capital city Canberra. After Canberra they came to Sydney, and in Castlecrag they planned and built a suburb based on their unique approach: local materials, people engaged in a vibrant community life, buildings embedded into nature, all infused with a contemporary design.
Marion introduced Sylvia to the work of Dr Rudolf Steiner whose schools were just beginning to be established across Europe. In Steiner’s vision of education, Sylvia found the kind of school she was looking for, fulfilling all her ideals and setting the course of the rest of her life. She trained in the UK, and returned to Sydney to found what became Glenaeon in 1957. She passed away in 2001, after being awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for services to education, in recognition of her pioneering work in building Glenaeon to the school we cherish today.
Sylvia framed her vision of friendship as a series of circles: concentric circles radiating from a centre, and that’s how friendship can work in a class. Each of us will have a circle of our closest buddies, and then radiating circles of those who are friends, though not as close. But even to those who are not friends as such, the outside circle, we still respect and understand them.
In this picture she captured the essence of Dr Steiner’s approach to education, what we now call the Altruistic program that runs through Glenaeon from Kindergarten to Year 12. All our teachers work to ensure every class and year group is a community of relationship, a series of circles of friendship.
At our last assembly, I challenged Years 7 to 9 to step up to Glenaeon’s vision of friendship, to play their part in building the concentric, radiating circles. I asked them to think of everyone in their year group as all friends, just some closer than others, and some further away than others, but all known, respected, understood.
Sylvia’s remarkable vision for a school lives on and it needs work to stay alive. How powerful her vision was for the future, for the time we live in now! In this fragmented covid era, we need all our relationships to be truly supportive, and every student needs to feel they are embedded in a web of support, of relationship, of friendship.
As for the rest of the story, Glenaeon’s “father” and "grandfather”, well, that’s a story for another time.
Welcome to Term 3!
Teachers began the term on Tuesday with a Professional Development session that introduced the professional learning program for the term. We looked again at Glenaeon’s Quality Teaching Framework and reviewed some of our core principles of learning.
It’s been fascinating to see how Steiner’s’ intuitions of 100 years ago regarding how we learn best have stood the test of time. Brain research in the 21st century has provided an evidence base for the key learning strategies we employ in introducing new learning content to students.
We’re sometimes called an art school because of our use of visuals and “mental” visuals in the classroom: drawing, images, stories, drama, sculpture. Art school? No, we are not an Art school, we are a cutting-edge school using evidence-based strategies for promoting deep learning.
The latest research shows there is a holy trinity of the most effective learning strategies, and they are play, story and sleep. Surprising? Well, anyone who examines their own learning styles should notice the power of these three strategies in how we remember things.
Watch this YouTube clip of Dr Jared Cooney Horvath of the Melbourne University Graduate School of Education explaining the latest research on the power of these three learning strategies, and then think about how we teach Main Lessons.
Main Lessons (three week blocks of daily learning) are the core of our curriculum as a Rudolf Steiner school. From Class 1 through to Year 12, their powerful pedagogical impact derives from a methodology that utilises in an age-appropriate way, picture, story and sleep in a rigorous way to introduce and consolidate learning.
- Image or Picture: we only really understand a concept when we can make a picture of it: abstract concepts (e.g. anything from the alphabet in Class 1 to the development of democracy in Year 9) should be introduced in pictures. This is one of the reasons why we teach children to draw before we teach them to write: so they can create pictures of their learning, starting with the alphabet.
The struggle for democracy in Europe is an abstract series of events in history: some key images bring these assorted facts into a focus that deepens the understanding.
- Story: stories are meaningful sequences of images which provide a context to a particular picture. Stories can be cultured stories (i.e. from cultures around the world such as fairy tales, legends, myths), historical stories and events, or biographies: after all, each person’s biography is a story. Even a high school Maths main lesson becomes a story: the teacher weaves all the images and pictures of content into a meaningful block or “story” that gives a context to all the content.
- Sleep: our unconscious “dreaming” works to process information received by our conscious mind. Used properly by teachers, recall after a night’s sleep embeds new learning in our long term memory. The unconscious processes of deep sleep work in a mysterious way to process the day’s learning. Teachers can use a specific method of active recall to bring back into consciousness the key elements of what has been learned the previous day. Our Main Lesson methodology with its sequence of daily learning uses this powerful learning process to actively promote deep understanding.
Over the coming term teachers will identify one strategy for improvement that he or she will work on over the term, followed by an observation and review of the progress made. We look forward to some great learning for teachers, and of course their students, in Term 3.
We end the term and the financial year at almost exactly the same time this year. The COVID-19 crisis has made this term unlike any other term in memory, and, at same time has put many families under extreme financial pressure. Having come through the term and managed our remote learning above and beyond expectations, we now face the task of how we can support those families who need it.
Our EOFY Annual Appeal this year is aimed very specifically at supporting those families who need financial help to maintain their enrolment in the school. You can help by donating to the Glenaeon Foundation.
Your donation to the Glenaeon COVID-19 Bursaries Scholarship Fund will help fund the continuing education of COVID-19 affected students. Our ask is only of families who can support, to help those that can’t. Your little bit goes a long way and if everyone gives what they can afford, we can keep our children learning together.
This year we are aiming to raise $100,000 to help our families. We have already raised approximately $87,000 and if you are yet to give, we ask that you consider a donation before the end of the financial year. All donations of $2 and over are Tax Deductible.
Please make your donation at www.glenaeon.nsw.edu.au/donate by June 30, 2020.
For donations by credit card over the phone, EFT or cheque, please contact Clare Gordon 02 9417 3193 or email@example.com
Thank you for your solidarity, support and generosity to help our own in 2020.
Term 3 will see a return to more normal school operations in most activities, and one of those returning activities welcomed by students and staff alike will be the reopening of our café in the trees at Middle Cove.
The café has been a real joy over the past four years. As the founding café managers, Sharon and Lorna have established and built a wonderful atmosphere around the café, providing healthy, nourishing food for students, staff and parents in a lively and friendly atmosphere. But all good things must come to an end, and Sharon has let me know that due to personal and health reasons she and her husband Peter, and Lorna, will not be continuing in 2021. We are seeking a new operator, or team, to take over the café and you will find an Expression of Interest in this Newsletter. There will be time to identify a new manager, and effect a handover during Term 3 and 4.
Annual Report 2019
Our Annual Report for 2019 is now complete and will be available on the website from Wednesday July 1st, with hard copies available at each of the school campus offices. It feels like Ancient history after our recent crisis, but 2019 despite its challenges in Term 4, was a very productive and successful year for Glenaeon. You can read the full story in the Annual Report.
This Newsletter will be the last for Term 2, and what a term it’s been. But we’ve come through! Time to refresh and regenerate, and so I wish all families, staff and students a restful winter break and look forward to seeing everyone again in more normal circumstances in Term 3.
“He who knows the why of his life can bear almost any how” Friedrich Nietzsche
If the COVID crisis has taught us anything, it’s to ask questions about our way of life. What will sustain us through a time when all the material certainties are gone? We all face dark times in our lives, but the COVID crisis has taken us through dark times together.
The experience has marked a generation and there seems to be a sense we can’t go back to being the same. The old certainties have been dissolved. If anything is telling us we need a new compass for direction, the COVID crisis has.
As many commentators have written, people have needed a new sense of purpose and direction to get through the COVID time, a sense of meaning. The sense of meaning gives purpose in the absence of outer constraints. So how can education ignite the inner spark that will sustain our students through this time, and on their future journeys?
Glenaeon’s long-term mission of providing a meaningful education has never been more needed. Here are just some of the meaningful moments a Glenaeon education uniquely gives to students growing up in a post COVID world:
- The Human Story: our Steiner curriculum sits as another tier of learning integrated with NESA syllabuses, providing an imaginative experience of the global and historical journey of humanity. Over the years of the primary and early high school, our students pursue the huge story that charts the rise and fall of epochs across the globe. They are given confidence to take their place as global citizens ready to play their part in the next chapter of the grand narrative that is human life.
- Creating beauty: all our students learn the creative arts, to draw, paint, sing, sculpt and act, but we are not an art school. We simply teach our students the arts so they learn to think in multiple perspectives, to realise that life is an unfinished composition, and that they have a creative voice to express their joy, and pain. Most importantly they learn to create beautiful moments that will provide them with endless fulfilment throughout life.
- Designing and making useful things: our students learn to make things, both useful and beautiful, designed by themselves, from sewing in Kindergarten, knitting in Class 1 to blacksmithing in high school. Have you noticed the many articles from the COVID time on the upsurge in artisan activities? People have wanted to make things, to take a stand and push back against a feeling of helplessness. Here is one from Saturday’s Herald on the resurgence in knitting: “For Millennials in particular it’s the idea of something wholesome but mindful and productive. It’s amazing the sense of achievement from finishing something. A lot of people use it for stress relief. It’s in line with cooking and baking. She says knitting also helps balance out the amount of time spent scrolling on smartphones: “You have to be using yours hands to knit.”
- Learning to collaborate, not compete: what has been the stand out learning politically through COVID time? The most successful world leaders have brought diverse people together and built community. They have practised the art of collaborating. Our non-selective, non-ranking classrooms prepare our future leaders to work collaboratively and to build community, a skill learned every day in every class. Take this verbatim comment from our 2019 Year 12 parent exit survey: Glenaeon has a very positive, engaging and accepting student culture; its bully-free, which is astounding in today’s Sydney”.
- The Healing Presence of Nature: during the COVID time, so many people have resorted to the healing power of Nature, whether forest, or gardens, or just green spaces. Our campuses are designed to embed our students in Nature, and Middle Cove’s unique bushland valley is a healing space in itself. Our award winning Outdoor Education program (Best in NSW 2019: Outdoors NSW) challenges students to go beyond their physical and personal limitations to reach a level of resilience and strength that continues to astonish their parents.
- The Power of Play: We are most human when we play, said Schiller. From self-directed play in the early years, to intense sport and games in high school, our students bring a sense of the playful to all that they do. Play liberates us from fixed forms but enables us to live with and within boundaries. Play gives joy in life and release from the restrictions of drudgery.
- A Touch of Transcendence: a sense of something higher, the phosphorescence of life, weaves through our classrooms, our school and our community life. We are inspired by the sublime moments of all cultures, including our country’s roots in The Dreaming.
And through it all, Glenaeon provides an academically enriched and rigorous education: we were in the top 7% of NSW high schools, HSC results over 2018-9.
So have you ever wondered how school could be both mainstream and meaningful? We’ve been doing it for over 60 years, and it works. COVID time has made us more relevant than we have ever been. Meaningful Lives.
How wonderful to have everyone back at school! The campuses feel alive again as our buildings and grounds resonate with youthful voices and laughter. We have a lot to catch up on, and much to be aware of as we both enjoy the company of all our students while keeping our strict hygiene controls in place. Thank you to all parents for your patience and perseverance though this very challenging time. We have much to look forward to as we return to normal schooling, and normal life. This week is also Reconciliation Week and we posted our own Glenaeon Acknowledgement of Country to mark this significant moment in the year. See School news below.
Poetry as a Script for Living in this Coronavirus Time
Sometime last year I was commiserating with a colleague in the staffroom about a pile of work that we both had still to do when it was already dark and late. Without thinking I just said:
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
They are the final lines of Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, a poem taught to me and my class in Year 8 at Normanhurst Boys High by an American exchange teacher. They express exactly the frustration and exhaustion of knowing there is a pile of work still to do before rest.
Earlier in the day I was returning from driving a friend to the airport when I watched an enormous and perfect rainbow gradually stretch across Mascot and all points east. It was a magnificent sight which made me feel happy, and into my mind came the opening line of Wordsworth’s sonnet:
My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky…,
The two moments on the same day reminded me of the very special power of poetry. Some things just need special words, and I needed them then. And how we need them now!! I was reminded today of how much we need the boost that poetic words can bring as I read Vicki Laveau-Harvie in The Guardian (UK) describing her own feelings during COVID-19 time:
Walking home recently under grey skies, I stopped to watch the afternoon light fail. I could have looked at my phone for comfort, but I found myself instead listening to Shakespeare spooling through my mind, words not remembered since school but intact, beautiful, despairing:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time.
This was a gift. I breathed easier, bathed in the vitality of poetry, the saturation of meaning that gives it weight. The aptness. I needed this…
We all need it Vicki, and the power of a short and simple poem to uplift, to inspire, to heal a tired heart, is one of life’s mysteries. She calls poetry “concentrated meaning”, a good phrase to capture its intensity, and its power to transform difficulties like the coronavirus world which is having such an impact on our mental health and wellbeing:
Poetry may be the antidote to what many of us feel: we are glued to screens, numb with fear, lost in elastic expanses of time. Poetry’s density can steady us. It contains worlds.
Yes, worlds, and a script for living. At last, a mention of the power of poetry to help us through the coronavirus time.
Poetry is alive and well at Glenaeon. A Glenaeon education is also an education in the spoken word, in living poetry. From nursery rhymes in Kindergarten, through action verses and poems, ballads and narrative poetry, right up to Shakespeare and beyond in High school, poetry is learned by heart and spoken aloud, to experience its power and cadence.
We don’t just do poetry as an outcome in the subject of English, to tick off the Poetry Outcome in each stage of the English syllabus. Poetry for us is “concentrated meaning”, and learned by heart so that it becomes a gift for each student to carry through life.
Sadly, often today poetry is something to analyse for meaning, something to deconstruct and just to read, not speak out loud. Who then remembers those precious words and carries their power through life?
A few years ago the writer and columnist Nikki Gemmel wrote a piece in The Australian bemoaning the loss of learning poetry by heart:
My kids don't learn poetry by heart in their Aussie schools. In London they were forced to, for an annual, compulsory, school-wide competition. Five-year-olds were reciting mostly nursery rhymes but the older kids were diving into Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Lear. It was wonderful to witness. The sheer skill of it; the way their little minds would absorb the poem's rhythm, beauty, narrative muscularity. I wish they'd do something similar here…
Well Nikki, they do at Glenaeon. Here poetry is alive and well, and learnt by heart. The cadences can soothe our fears, give a voice to our deepest feelings, and a warmth to our hearts. In this coronavirus time, poetry with its concentrated meaning can give us nothing less than a script for living.
Hangout for the Homeless
Thank you to everyone who supported this project of a sleep out in support of homeless people last Saturday evening, and there are very many of you. It was intended as a small, humble project to remind us to think about others who are doing it tough in the pandemic, rather than a fund raising project as such. The main aim was to encourage some participation, and sleeping slightly rough was a simple gesture of solidarity with the homeless. With a signup fee of $5, I thought if we raised even $150 that would also be a great contribution to the cause.
The total raised so far this morning is $2,319. What an astonishing result! Special thanks to teachers who really challenged students our high school students to get behind the appeal, and did they ever do that!
My warmest thanks to all the many parents who donated, and/or slept rough on Saturday night, as a contribution to this very vulnerable community in our midst. We hope to stay in touch with Kids Under Cover and hear more of their good work.
Kids Under Cover is an organisation that helps prevent young people ending up on the streets in the first place. They work to support young people at risk of becoming homeless by providing simple accommodation close to the family home where the young person can be separate but secure. Space makes all the difference. They build and provide simple, small structures that are flat packed and can be erected in a day to provide studio accommodation in a back yard. They provide scholarships to get the young person back into education and the workforce. Over the past 25 years they have built hundreds of studios across Australia and assisted nearly 2,000 young people.
What a joy it was to see Year 12, then Year 11, and Kindergarten at school this week! All three year levels have been back in action: the seniors full time, and Kindergarten for two days. A school without students is an empty place, devoid of soul like a skeleton without flesh and bones.
To see the garden of Kindergarten pulsing with life again as the Kindy’s ran and played was, to quote Oscar Wilde, “a wonderful sight”. It reminded me of that moment in his The Selfish Giant when the giant looks out his window and sees that the children have returned to his garden:
"He saw a most wonderful sight. Through a little hole in the wall the children had crept in, and they were sitting in the branches of the trees. In every tree that he could see there was a little child. And the trees were so glad to have the children back again that they had covered themselves with blossoms, and were waving their arms gently above the children's heads. The birds were flying about and twittering with delight, and the flowers were looking up through the green grass and laughing." (Oscar Wilde, The Selfish Giant)
The teachers are very much looking forward to having the Kindergarten move to three days back, Class 1 for two days, and the rest of the school present for one day next week. We will review our staged transition back to full time school after that day of full attendance, and any changes to the next stage of the plan will be communicated directly.
In preparation for the full return, we have strict controls in place:
- Environmental cleaning has been upgraded to ensure all high traffic surfaces are cleaned three times each day;
- Protocols on hygiene such as hand washing will be emphasised to students and hand sanitizers will be available in all classrooms;
- Any student or staff member who shows any symptoms of illness must stay at home;
- Any student who has a family member with a compromised immune system may stay at home if he/she wishes and complete school work at home;
- Isolation procedures including temperature checks will be in place for any student who develops symptoms of illness during the day; and
- Parents are not to enter any campus of the school unless there is an urgent need.
On Monday and Tuesday next week, all regular supervision duties for drop off and pick up of students, including the traffic controller on Eastern Valley Way, will be in place. The Traffic Management plan for Middle Cove will be back in force, and we request all parents meeting younger students at both campuses to maintain appropriate social distancing.
When the news of the lockdown came through with the directive to Stay at Home, my first thought was, what about all the people who don’t have a home? Every night some 100,000 people in Australia spend the night homeless in some form, most sleeping rough, on the streets or in shelters. Of these 100,000 the estimate is that 40,000 are young people.
There are a number of organisations doing wonderful work to support the homeless. But becoming homeless is an end result, and it’s a hard road back to any kind of normality.
Kids Under Cover is an organisation that helps prevent young people ending up on the streets in the first place. They work to support young people at risk of becoming homeless by providing simple accommodation close to the family home where the young person can be separate but secure. Space makes all the difference. They build and provide simple, small structures that are flat packed and can be erected in a day to provide studio accommodation in a back yard. They provide scholarships to get the young person back into education and the workforce. Over the past 25 years they have built hundreds of studios across Australia and assisted nearly 2,000 young people.
Hangout for the Homeless is their fundraiser on Saturday May 23rd. They are asking people to support the homeless by sleeping out yourself, either outside or even on the floor, just not in your regular bed. Try to experience at least a moment of not having your own comfortable bed to lie in. It costs just $5 to register, and we’ve created a Glenaeon team. When you register, you can join the Glenaeon team.
You can seek sponsorships from family and friends to sponsor you for the night. You can donate as much as you able, to support young people keep a roof over the heads, and hope in their hearts.
[If you are participating in this fundraiser please submit your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can share in our next edition]
“Greetings” in Dharug, one of our local indigenous languages which is staging a comeback.
The literal meaning is “I see you come from far away”, so it’s particularly appropriate as we say welcome to all families and students as we come back to term in this unusual year of 2020. What will Glenaeon’s own comeback be?
As has been said countless times recently, the situation is fluid and the term ahead uncertain. Last Friday I wrote to all parents and staff (Update #12) outlining the three stages of our return to school plan over Term 2.
Since then two reports were released over the weekend that changed the situation for schools:
- The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), the gold standard in Australian health advice, published updated advice that the “venue density rule” is not realistic or applicable in schools and confirmed the very limited evidence of transmission by students in schools.
- The NSW government’s transmission of COVID-19 research showed a negligible transmission rate in schools so far in NSW.
In the light of these new reports, and with strict controls in place, we have decided to revise that initial plan with the following arrangements.
Stage 1 will now include
- a full return to school for Year 12 from next Monday May 4th
- A full return to school for Year 11 from Monday May 11th
- Remote learning will continue for Kindergarten to Year 10.
Stage 2 will commence as planned on Monday May 18th (Week 4) with partial returns for all other year levels.
The nature of that return for all classes and year groups, and for how many days per week, will depend on developments over the next two weeks. All students will be invited to enjoy a return to school in some form in Week 4.
Stage 3 will commence with a full return of all students at a date to be determined, which we hope, and anticipate, will be later in term 2.
Of course these plans could all change if there is a sudden spike in transmissions in the community. We will update all parents regularly with our plans so there is as much certainty as possible in this uncertain time.
I emphasise that any return to school is based on the strict controls we have in place to ensure the health of all students and teachers, controls which are all guided by AHPPC advice:
- Social distancing will be managed as much as is possible for student-teacher interactions and through protocols on movements in confined spaces;
- Environmental cleaning will be upgraded to ensure all high traffic surfaces are cleaned three times each day;
- Protocols on hygiene such as hand washing will be emphasised to students and hand sanitizers will be available in all classrooms;
- Any student who shows any symptoms of illness must stay at home and continue to learn remotely;
- Any student who has a family member with a compromised immune system may stay at home if he/she wishes and continue to learn remotely;
- Isolation procedures including temperature checks will be in place for any student who develops symptoms of illness during the day
- Movement of parents and other adults on school campuses will be staggered and strictly limited to essential needs.
The clouds have been dark and dreary but they have had silver linings. Like any crisis, you are reminded of what matters in life, and what you hold most dear.
There have been some voices advocating the triumph of technology, and how this crisis will catapult education into a new technological era. Will it really? The message from so many people is how much students are missing their teachers, their classrooms, their mates, and well, they are quite simply missing school. That’s real school with real human beings around them.
We are also reminded of what school is fundamentally about. Schools can get drawn into so many extra things, all of them fine and uplifting. In these times we are reminded that school is about learning, and learning as a whole person. What has been so inspiring to me over the past month has been observing Glenaeon’s teachers working so hard in lifting their instruction from just delivering content, to building real, living experiences in learning.
Above all, this time has continued to affirm that we learn as whole human beings. The technology has served us well as a tool, but it is not just our brain that learns in front of a screen. The warm, beating heart of a living classroom made up of a community of students and teachers is education at its best, and we look forward to a swift return to that happy state.
We end the term in a very different place from where we began. How the world has changed, and with it, all our lives! Who would have predicted our move to online learning in so short a time? Who could have predicted how excellently our teachers from Kindergarten to Year 12 have transitioned to a mode of delivery so different from their natural form? Who could have predicted they would do so in such a seamless manner without skipping a beat?
I confess to being not just impressed but somewhat awe-struck that the school has moved so fast, so quickly, and so well. Thank you to all our teachers for the work, and to all our parents for the support and good will you have shown us. Glenaeon Learning Online (GLO) is a thriving marketplace of learning and education.
Teachers are reviewing how the platform works and how we can refine and develop for the future. The advice from government is that remote learning in its present form will continue in Term 2.
Now however is the time to rest for everyone and our teachers look forward to a well-earned rest and recovery, as I am sure all parents and students do too. I wish everyone in the Glenaeon community a restful and refreshing break.
May the Easter message of renewal, of death in life, and life in death, be as fresh and real as ever. I share with you a meditative verse by Rudolf Steiner, given over 100 years ago, but perfectly suited to our time.
A Verse for Our Time
We must eradicate from the soul
All fear and terror of what comes towards us out of the future.
We must acquire serenity
In all feelings and sensations about the future.
We must look forward with absolute equanimity
To everything that may come.
And we must think only that whatever comes
Is given to us by a world-directive full of wisdom.
It is part of what we must learn in this age,
namely, to live out of pure trust,
Without any security in existence.
Trust in the ever present help
Of the spiritual world.
Truly, nothing else will do
If our courage is not to fail us.
And let us seek the awakening from within ourselves
Every morning and every evening.
Looking through the items in this edition of the Newsletter made me wistful for what has passed. The Power of Play seminar for example took place only three weeks ago, yet it seems like ancient history. The Kindergarten Harvest Festival was already pared back in the first phase of social distancing, and at two weeks ago it seems like a long time ago.
We are mourning a world that has passed as we try to orient ourselves in a world that is to come, and is still unknown. We feel the loss of what we took for granted, and so much of what we took for granted were things that define our humanness: social closeness, direct communication, gathering together in community. The new world has such a different feel, so distant, so coldly technological, so isolated.
Yet look in this Newsletter and you will find some wonderful human responses in our own community to this new world: the creativity of our primary teachers as they take their teaching into new spaces, the wise and beautiful guidance from Mary Heard in Simplicity Parenting, the very generous offer from parent Paul Borrud to provide transport for those who need it. This is also just the beginning of our responses, and after we have adjusted and found our feet, I am certain there will be many more.
But first we need to find some meaning in this new world. The path to finding meaning has stages to it, as outlined in this very pertinent article from the Harvard Business Review. David Kessler co-wrote the classic text on managing grief, and he has added an important final stage to the stages he then described, the stage of finding meaning. For a school that promotes Meaningful Lives as the foundation of our teaching and learning, this article is a useful aid in helping us find meaning in our grief for what the world is going through now.
For those in the community that could not make our Power of Play in Nature forum last week, I am pleased to share my opening remarks.
"I’m very aware that I’m the warm up band at this gig, so I will be brief and just restrict myself to two key points. The first is why Glenaeon is hosting this seminar.
Education is continually changing. Just think student wellbeing. When I went to school, mental health and wellbeing were non-existent issues as core school concerns. If students couldn’t manage, it was seen as collateral damage to the main battle for academic achievement, like civilian casualties in a war. Now there has been a 180 degree turn around. Mental health and wellbeing are front and centre. Every school has an obligation to manage, support and facilitate student mental health. That transformation has happened in a generation.
Consider positive education. Some twenty years ago, I and my school were criticised by a mainstream teacher from a university for being “too positive”. This was about the year Professor Martin Seligman’s first book The Optimistic Child came out. Now just think what Seligman’s Positive Education has become. Today there are many schools which have based their entire wellbeing program on Positive education, and there’s even one nearby that calls it Visible Positive Education. Twenty years ago we were criticised for using positive methods, today you are criticised if you do not use positive methods. That’s a total turnaround in twenty years.
How does change happen? It happens the same general way that positive change happens. First there are problems with the current model or the current understanding of what is generally understood should happen in schools. Cracks and internal contradictions start to happen; new expectations start to emerge. At the same time there is a growing body of research suggesting a new and better way.
Let’s look at our current model. Australia has spent more money on education in recent years than ever before. Australian children spend more time in formal school instruction than all other OECD countries: our school day is the longest in the OECD (something about which Australian parent may be very surprised!). Australian children begin formal literacy instruction at an increasingly earlier age: there is two years’ difference between us (age 5) and Finland (age 7).
Yet what are the figures showing us? Results in NAPLAN and PISA testing show at best a plateauing, at worst a decline in Australian student performance. The recent NSW government review of curriculum received submissions from almost all stakeholders that there is a perceptible decline in student engagement in learning and assessment, particularly in high school.
In other words, we are doing and spending more, and the results are getting less. That sounds to me like an internal contradiction! We need to do something differently.
Next week we celebrate our end of year by coming together as a community for a non-denominational festival of the season, next Monday December 2nd in the Pitt Street Uniting Church in the city. Our Carol Service involves every student from Class 4 to Year 11 (though missing Year 10 who will be in Tasmania, and of course Year 12, some of whom are in Nepal on a service and rafting trip). There is an important role to play for every student who we expect to attend in full school uniform. Students should arrive by 6.15 pm at the latest, for a 6.30 pm start. I am sure the service will send you home uplifted by the music and the spirit of the evening.
Today we farewelled our Year 12, the Class of 2019. Entering the Hall at 9.30 am as Glenaeon students, they left the Hall at 11 am as ex-Glenaeon students, or GlenX.
It was a particularly beautiful assembly with some exceptional musical performances from both the music students in the group, and a choral piece from the whole year group.
In reflecting on what the school has brought them, I mentioned some of the many ”small things” that make up a Glenaeon education, the many small things that together make a large, meaningful and organic whole. Small things can have a big impact and I shared a story of how one small thing that we do at Glenaeon helped a young doctor become a better GP.
Here is the story in full: Dr Andrew Keyworth built a thriving family medical practice in the Newcastle area. He attended Glenaeon from Kindergarten to Class 7, and when I asked him to reflect on the role the school had played in shaping the person he is today, he gave me the following interesting statement. The bold paragraphs highlight how drawing helped him become a better GP:
Our much loved teachers Christian and Liza Lillicrap suffered one of the most ultimate of losses last week, and our community is the lesser for it. As we grieve with them, we remember Theodore in all his joyous and mischievous energy, but also his profound depths of thought and feeling.
On a personal note, I started at Glenaeon in 1994 with a Class One, in what is now the Class Three room in the Vera Jacobson Building. One of the children who made their way down the stairs from Kindergarten to the Class One room for me to meet them on an auspicious day in December 1993 was a little girl called Dillon Cross. She was a lively, imaginative girl who seemed to have the sun shining out of her on a permanent basis, such was her happy, joyful nature.
What a series of Spring festivals we have enjoyed?! The weather was kind to us this year and in sparkling Spring sunshine on the round oval, the Maypole was woven most beautifully by Class 5 at Middle Cove.
After the Acknowledgement of Country, I welcomed everyone with some words from the Dharuk language, the indigenous language that is nearest to Glenaeon and still living: Warami inyari, meaning Hello, how are you?and the high school answered very loudly, Budyari! meaning, we’re good!
Dr Rudolf Steiner was at the forefront of sustainable practices. A group of farmers were concerned at the introduction to chemical farming after World War 1. They noticed that the natural vitality of the soils on their farms grew gradually weaker every year as they put on phosphates, even though the farm’s output increased. They found themselves in a cycle of needing more chemicals to maintain their production. They asked Rudolf Steiner a question: how can we farm in a way that keeps the earth sustainable and healthy?
His response was to travel to a farm in what is now Poland where he gave eight lectures about soil, the earth and sustainable farming practices that used no chemical intervention.
These lectures, the first known presentation of organic agriculture, were held in response to a request by farmers who noticed degraded soil conditions and a deterioration in the health and quality of crops and livestock resulting from the use of chemical fertilizers.
As we celebrate the origins of Steiner education 100 years ago, it’s also worth re-examining the remarkable work of Dr Rudolf Steiner himself. Here’s an interesting article from the New York Times I came across some years ago which describes an exhibition of Steiner’s work.
Douglas Brenner is a Steiner educated student himself and is now a well know author and writer on design topics in the US. His article gives a personal reflection on the originality and remarkable diversity of Steiner’s work across so many disciplines.
Remember our Glenaeon celebrations of the centenary of Steiner education at Castlecrag on Saturday September 14th. Details are on the flyers later in the Newsletter.
Please share this event with family and friends who may be interested in a glimpse into the wonderful world of childhood that Steiner education promotes and delivers. We welcome all parents and friends of the Steiner education impulse, a healing and enlivening impulse in the world.
Soul Man: “…each encounter makes me want to deepen our acquaintance”
New York Times, April 7th, 2010
By age 12, I had a rote reply for grown-ups’ quizzical looks when they heard I went to a Steiner (Waldorf) school: “It’s based on the ideas of Rudolf Steiner.” Blank stare. “He was an Austrian philosopher who believed in teaching the whole student — mind, body and soul.” Luckily no one ever asked me to elaborate, because I’d have been at a loss for words — except to say that we students got to do lots of drawing and painting, which I loved, but we couldn’t skip Eurythmy class (yuck). Any serious discussions of pedagogic method and what Steiner called his “spiritual science,” anthroposophy, took place out of earshot in the teachers’ room. My only mental picture of Steiner (1861-1925) came from a dim black and white photo showing a stern mouth and X-ray eyes that made me glad this guy wasn’t our headmaster. Oh, well, I reasoned, as soon as I enter the real world after graduation, it’s Goodbye, Dr Steiner.
In fact, decades later, I keep bumping into him, and each encounter makes me want to deepen our acquaintance. A gardener I met praised the ecological marvels of biodynamic farming, a Steiner innovation. An art historian introduced me to the Goetheanum, a temple-like edifice that Steiner — an expert on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s theories of natural metamorphosis and the physiology of colour — designed to anchor the anthroposophical colony in Dornach, Switzerland.
Glenaeon receives NSW Outdoor Education Program Award: Congratulations Scott Williams
Last weekend was the annual conference of Outdoors NSW, the peak body of all Outdoor Education professionals including coordinators for schools, adventure operators and guides. Our own Coordinator Scott Williams along with teacher Kristen Gardner was there representing Glenaeon.
Each year this peak professional body makes an award for the most outstanding Outdoor Education program conducted in a NSW school in 2019. Scott had submitted a very fine application outlining Glenaeon’s unique and extensive program running from Class 4 to Year 12, and it was a great moment to learn that Glenaeon received this award. Within our community we all appreciate how outstanding the Glenaeon program is in practice, but to have this publicly acknowledged by the peak body of Outdoor Education professionals in NSW is a great honour.
Main Lessons are one of the most distinctive aspects of schools working out of the impulse of Dr Rudolf Steiner. Our Main Lesson practice is both a method and a content:
Main Lesson Method: Deep Learning
We learn best when we are engaged, when we have time to be immersed in a subject, when our feelings are stimulated, when we can be active in our learning. Dr Steiner’s suggestion was quite simple: all these characteristics of healthy and effective learning can be met if lessons are organised in blocks of teaching over an intense period. So we organise key teaching and learning into significant blocks of time that are spread over a three week period. This extended period enables students to go deeply into a topic, to be immersed in it, to make connections between disciplines. Above all, it enables students (and teachers!) to be deeply and inwardly engaged with a topic in a way that is not possible in the relatively short time of a single period.
Such short periods are ideal for rhythmical learning, where subjects need regular repetition to build a specific set of skills (eg basic skills in English and Maths, Languages, the creative arts, Sport).
In the core subjects of English, Maths, Science and Humanities (History/Geography) the secret of the main lesson success is the daily work. Taking in new material one day and sleeping on it, allows our deep unconscious to embed learning more deeply in our mind. Picking up the learning the next morning ensures a freshness and vitality in how a student embraces the content of the main lesson. Over the three weeks, this daily process builds what has become the “holy grail” of contemporary educators: deep learning.
Our School Concert last Friday was a standout. Head of Music Christian Lillicrap deserves our warmest thanks and appreciation for leading such a committed and talented team of performers (students) and backstage organizers (teachers) to produce such a gift to our community.
Highlights? There were many, but in fact every item was a highlight in its own way. From the class choirs to the Chamber Strings, the Big Band, and the Year 10 band, they were all musically impressive and entertainingly fabulous. But the Beginners ensemble was an absolute gem. The sheer joy and pride of these students who have only been playing for six months, but could get up on stage and communicate their enthusiasm so unselfconsciously, was a joy to behold.
The finales to the two halves of the concert were the heart stoppers for me personally. Hearing our unofficial “School Anthem”, John Rutter’s For the Beauty of the Earth, is an ever enriching and moving experience, and it was again on Friday night. At the very end, the finale to Scriabin’s Symphony #1 for orchestra and choir was simply a tour de force. The grandeur and magnificence of the music, bringing together every student from Class 5 to Year 12, left the audience powerfully affected.
You might have noticed a stream of articles and news stories recently as schools and educators discover that play in nature really matters. Below is an example.
D’oh! Isn’t it obvious?!
It’s the latest in a long line of “new discoveries” that are well established practices at Glenaeon. Play in Nature is so fundamental you wonder how it is that “research” is needed to demonstrate this alarmingly obvious point. At Glenaeon we regard play in Nature as a fundamental right of childhood. The physical, emotional, social and mental benefits are so obvious:
• Natural environments are open and undefined, fostering imaginative and creative play
• They foster social play that builds social skills and community rather than competing for the next turn on the swing
• They are filled with trees that exude nutrients and uplifting micro-organisms
• They look better than garish plastic play structures.
Our School Concert reminds us why we do music. Music brings beauty to our lives, it moves us, it gives expression to our feelings, and as such, it is meaningful. Everyone needs beauty, and meaning, and that’s why we do music, and why everyone does music at Glenaeon. All our students from Class 5 to Year 11, plus our Year 12 Music students, will be on stage on Friday August 9 and we invite you to be part of this entertaining and uplifting evening.
Without music, life is a journey through a desert.
– Pat Conroy (American writer)
Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart.
- Pablo Casals
The legendary cellist Pablo Casals was on to something. Our lives need beauty, and poetry, to fulfil and enrich us, and to make meaning out of the myriad of what life brings us.
How do we build meaningful lives, how do we make meaning from all that comes to us in life? How do prepare our students to live and to love, in the deepest and broadest sense?
This month marks the 100th anniversary of Dr Rudolf Steiner’s first training course for teachers as they prepared to open the world’s first school based on his methods. In September 1919 the school opened, and 100 years later we are enjoying the fruits of their pioneering labours.
Six years after this moment, the lectures of this first training course were published, and in the Foreword, Dr Steiner’s widow Marie Steiner summed up the essence of the complex, organic whole that is Steiner education with the classic words:
“Our highest endeavor is to produce young men and women who out of themselves are able to give meaning and direction to their own lives.”
How contemporary they now sound! At the time, schools were either based on the old, grammar school model of classical languages and learning, or the newer industrial model producing technical professionals and workers for industry. Many schools were founded on a religious base with the aim of producing more adherents loyal to that religion.
Here Dr Steiner is proclaiming an education that would foster individuals able to build their own meaning and direction out of themselves. He was founding a new education that was for the future, and that future is now, the 21st century.
Last Saturday’s MidWinter Party was a wonderful evening of fun and community. We owe some key parents of Year 7 a debt of gratitude: not just for organising the Ball, but for taking the risk of holding it offsite at the Treehouse Hotel, and in the process, reinventing what is a much loved event in the school’s calendar.
Recently the School Council commissioned architectural firm Gresleyabas to conduct a review of the Glenaeon’s Masterplan for our Middle Cove campus which was initially approved by Willoughby Council in 1995. Substantial work has been achieved over the past two decades, but as we consider the priorities for future projects, a fresh look at the broad shape of the Masterplan is timely to ensure we continue to meet the needs of our students and teachers, both currently and for the next generation.
The show was sheer joy from beginning to end. No matter how well you knew the Gilbert and Sullivan show and its inspired silliness set to sumptuous music, you would have been swept away by the Year 10 production. The brilliant quality of the voices, the laugh-out-loud funny scenes, the wonderful dancing, not to mention the incredible intensity of the stage movements, all made for a perfect entertainment of a show.
This week brought a very special surprise. I received a call from the office of Mr Trent Zimmerman, our local Member of Parliament for North Sydney, to tell us that Sam Street in Class 6 had won the primary section of the North Sydney School Speech Writing competition. Sam had entered the competition run by Mr Zimmerman, and his entry was selected from hundreds of other entries from primary schools across the North Sydney electorate.
There are new words to describe overprotective parents: it used to be the helicopter parent who always hovered, but now it’s the Snowplough parent who intervenes and removes all obstacles. Another term is the Concierge Parent who sits at a little desk by the door and smooths over every difficulty that may face a growing child, whether younger or a teenager. There is widespread concern that such parenting contributes to the “Snowflake” generation of young adults who can “melt” at the slightest difficulty or crumble when confronted by an obstacle.
After the shocking event in Christchurch, there will be questions that every school and every family will need to consider. Evidence from previous such incidents is clear, that the more people watch television footage of these events, particularly children, the more likely they are to experience psychological distress, even trauma.