With a federal election coming up, I believe it may be timely that we consider and ask ourselves more deeply what the outcomes of an exceptional school are these days.
I would argue that it goes far beyond academic results. Of course results are very important and we all strive to have the highest expectations in learning, and know that good literacy sets our kids up for a more successful life. But is this just the tip of the iceberg in order to produce our next generation of citizens, workers, community leaders, relational partners, mothers, fathers etc?
Teachers, principals and schools have never been put under as much pressure as we are today. We have NAPLAN, My Schools Websites, greater government pressures, conflicting media and higher parental expectations to name a few. Whilst all are important, in my opinion, none of this has deeply helped schools improve their educational standards and has made our schooling system less compassionate, less loving, less personalised, less creative and less fun. I think these pressures may have in avertedly been placed on our students too, leading to higher levels of anxiety, stress and lower wellbeing. So what do our governments and systems then do? They throw more money at the new problem, a reactive approach on a problem that our systems have unintendedly fostered, rather than look at the deep-rooted issues that may be behind this.
I believe the attributes of love and relationship are just as important in raising our next generation, possibly contributing more authentically to student growth alongside any of the other influences that schools face today. If a child feels genuinely loved, is authentically listened to and feels as if they truly belong, then this opens up endless learning opportunities and a self-belief they are worth it.
If we achieve students who attain great academic results but lack a love of themselves, each other and community, how successful have we been?
With so many educational experts out there spruiking their methods for our attention, we should not underestimate the witness and exposure to our children of love and compassion that should be experienced and shared with others. This can often take the form of tough love too in which I think the Rolling Stones best sum it up with ‘You can’t always get what you want’.
In an ever increasingly complex world that is requiring greater and more difficult decision making, technology that can be harmful, more scrutiny on one’s body, an influx of addictive and damaging substances, heightened anxiety and depression, now more than ever is the time that we look at how we holistically influence and nurture our most precious and vulnerable assets, our children.
Image by Kat Smith