Term 1 | Week 6
Recently some senior staff and I had the great pleasure of attending a fabulous community function in Young that provided the opportunity to introduce our new Deputy Principal, Mr James Boyd, to a number of our existing and prospective families. Such occasions are always highly enjoyable evenings and enable us to visit our families on their turf and discuss their experience of KWS, their children’s journey and the challenges and joys they face in their region.
Thank you to all those who attended and for the warm and encouraging welcome you showed to our prospective families.
I thought I would share with you an excellent column written by Dr Julie Townsend, the Headmistress of St Catherine’s School in Waverley that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on February 17, 2019. I do so because I found her experience as a parent struck a very strong accord with mine as I navigated the school years with my three children. The article, titled ‘School can be the best days of a parent’s life’ provides some wonderful advice and a perspective that is often gained through the experience of confronting the worries and challenges as we raise our school aged children.
Dr Townsend writes:
School can be the best days of a parent's life
By Dr Julie Townsend
February 17, 2019 — 8.30pm
Looking back at my children's time at school, I wish I knew everything would work out all right so I didn't waste time worrying.
I have three children, all very different academically, but they've each found their own path. There is so much opportunity post-school today, there really is a path for everyone.
As a parent, there is always something to worry about; when they don’t do well at school, if they're not chosen for something, when their peers are unkind to them. The trials of adolescence.
Being a teacher has helped me see everything is a phase, and we will get through it. At the time problems seem enormous, but they pass. Sometimes it is just a case of riding out a difficulty and not catastrophising it. When my children had difficulties I used to tell them to get up, keep going, and one day the sun would shine again. And it always did.
I’ve seen many changes in schools over 17 years as both a parent and a teacher. When my children first started school there seemed to be far less public comparison than there is now. Comparison of their academic achievement through NAPLAN, comparison of their schools through My School, comparison with their peers through social media. Life has become a public competition, and as a parent you have to work harder to counter that.
I never really took much notice of my children’s NAPLAN results because I’m also a teacher, so I know their limitations. And I don’t agonise over what teachers write in reports, either, because every comment is a reflection of both the personality of the teacher and their relationship with the child.
A significant change over the years has been the ever-increasing parental involvement at every stage of a child’s education. My son has just started university, and I was shocked to find they have a parent newsletter now.
As children grow up parental involvement in every single aspect of a child’s life becomes counterproductive as it inhibits a child’s ability to grow into a capable, resilient young person. If we don’t develop children who can function independently and deal with difficulty, we are storing up problems for their future.
As a parent, I understand other parents’ anguish, as I have been through it. Often when parents raise their particular issues with me, sometimes in anger, I know where their concerns are coming from. Because they love their child so much, they suffer when they feel their child does. And they often don’t have the full picture, so can come to the wrong conclusions, but you can understand why they come to the conclusions they do.
Behind parents’ anger is often just a sadness or vulnerability. We always advise parents to let the school deal with issues that occur between students. We are more impartial and can take the measures necessary to deal with conflict. Dealing with issues in anger is never helpful.
Ultimately, our role as parents is to help our children grow into a capable, ethical young people who can manage without us. At school, you will find many staff who will work with you to help your child become the best she can be. See your child’s school as your ally, not your enemy. It is full of good people who want the best for your child.
And don’t compare your child against other children. While some competition can be motivating, constant comparison against others is destructive because a child cannot be another person. They can only be themselves, do their best and find their own purpose in life. Our role is to support them in that. Your best comparison point for your child is your child, and how they compare with their former self.
Most of all, take the highs with the lows as part of the tapestry of life and enjoy each school day. They will be over before you know it, and you may well look back on them as some the best days of your life.
Dr Julie Townsend
Headmistress of St Catherine's School, Waverley.
I strongly concur with Dr Townsend’s sentiment and I hope you have found her article helpful. It certainly resonates with my experience.