Last week also saw the Kindy Concert, which was a wonderful celebration of the natural delight of our Kindy students and of their impressive learning this year. Thank you to all parents and family members who assisted with this huge event, the children themselves and of course, Ms Emma Schafer and Mrs Melissa Neal.
This week sees our Senior School students participating in SEL Day activities and our Junior School students involved in our annual Robotics Inter-House Competition.
We will end our school year with Messy Church for our Prep to Year 4 students and our Christmas service and Final Assembly, for Year 5 to Year 11 students, on Wednesday.
We wish to share with the school community the sad news of the passing of Old Girl and day one student Helen Barrett (1938).
Helen Barrett – after whom Barrett house is named – commenced at St Aidan’s on the very first day the school was opened in 1929, she completed her schooling as School Captain in 1938 before graduating and becoming a missionary. For Helen, attending St Aidan’s was a joy and a privilege, and led her to her calling to spread her Anglican faith via nursing and the education of young women in the Solomon Islands.
After completing her nursing training in Brisbane and Sydney, Helen was invited by the Bishop of Melanesia to join his diocese. She didn’t hesitate in her response, relocating to the Solomon Islands in 1947, and promising to assist for as long as was required.
Until the time of her return to Australia in 1984, Helen touched the lives of many Islanders. Working as a nurse and educator on Ysabel, Ugi, Guadalcanal, and Malaita Islands, she devoted many long hours to local schools and medical clinics, and even a school veterinarian. Occasionally confronted by locals’ superstitious beliefs and reliance on witch doctors, Helen’s determination to improve the education of young people never wavered. Among her many accomplishments, she coordinated activities of the Mothers’ Union, established the first girls’ school on Ysabel with the assistance of another nurse, treated locals at a remote village that was 20 miles’ trek to the nearest hospital, and tutored hundreds of young girls who were training to become nurses.
For her indefatigable work and undying support of women’s education, Helen was appointed a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1970 in recognition of her efforts in establishing this school and promoting girls’ education. Helen also received the Premier’s Award in 1992 for outstanding service to the citizens and community of Queensland, and the Archbishop of Brisbane’s Medal in 1997. She was named a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2002, in recognition of her service to the community, particularly in relation to the women and children of the Solomon and Torres Strait Islands through the Anglican Board of Missions and the Mothers Union.
Helen has remained connected with St Aidan’s throughout all of her travels and accolades, regularly attending our Annual Awards Ceremony and yearly Ascension Day celebrations, to the delight of our students. This year we were very privileged to have Helen, our oldest Old Girl and a Kindy student cut the cake for our 90th birthday celebrations.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Barrett family at this time.
Over the holiday break, we have a number of Facilities’ projects and programmes to upgrade and/or maintain our school environment. The toilets in The Link will be refurbished; the kitchen in The Link will be converted to a classroom; exterior painting of the Senior School; the fitted lounges in the Senior School library will be refurbished; four tennis courts at Ambiwerra will be resurfaced as well as on-going maintenance of Ambiwerra will be managed. I thank Mr Steve Fleming, Mr Howard Banks and the team for their hard work over the break.
Over the Christmas break, my family has made a pact that each of us put all digital devices away in a common drawer in the kitchen, for great chunks of time, daily. The intention is to not only allow undivided attention to each other but to give our brains a break from the way they need to work when using mobile phones, ipads and laptops.
When humans invented reading and writing about 5,000 years ago, our brains needed to re-wire to make possible more sustained and logical thought, perspective-taking and less impulsivity. In present day, under the influence of our smart phones and tablets, our brains need to be re-wired again.
We are reading less – and differently. On the digital screen we are reading fleetingly and flittingly. Our brains have what scientists refer to as ‘novelty bias’. Reading sets up a cycle of expectation and gratification. We are consistently distracted by what pops up, rewarded for each distraction with a tiny surge of dopamine. This attraction to the ‘new’ crowds out reflection, creative association, critical analysis and empathy.
“We know regular reading of long form prose is linked to better results at school and getting a better job later in life, but recreational reading has other benefits,” says Associate Professor Leonie Rutherford, from Deakin University’s School of Communication and Creative Arts.
“Reading fiction has been linked to important citizenship competencies, such as empathy and understanding of the perspective of others. Studies also show that readers have enhanced brain connectivity, sleep better and exhibit lower stress levels.”
At home, my family and I wish to ensure the time and space for deep reading, presence to each other and reflection. I have the same hope for our students over the break but at school too, so they may reap the benefits of the digital age by being disciplined and self-aware as they switch between screen and print.
Source: Lemov, D., (2019), “Book Reviews: Forgetting How to Read: A Neuroscientist Examines Reading in the Age of Screens: In Education Next, Spring 2019
Best wishes over the holiday break
Best wishes to all students involved in competitions over the break and for those maintaining their training over the holidays. In particular, I wish well students and staff travelling to Perth for the Australian All Schools Championships and the Nitro Schools National Final. We also send off our girls and staff who will be travelling to China and Taiwan. Finally, our best wishes to Junior School students who will be training for swimming over the break and our Senior School students who are attending the Swim and Cross Country camps.
Thank you to all in our school community for your support this year. I also wish everyone a safe and happy Festive Season. Finally, I look forward to seeing everyone return, refreshed and re-energised in 2020.
The offices in the Junior School and Senior School will be closed from Friday, 23 December 2019 to Monday, 6 January 2020.