Last Newsletter I promised to dedicate this one to our themes for the year, and I will. However, before that, I do need to take a moment to comment on the highlights of what has been a superb first few weeks, and particularly to comment on the Commencement Service, the opening of the new junior building, and our 30th Birthday Party.
It was wonderful to hear Mr John Spence, founding Deputy of the College, speaking about the school’s history at Commencement, and equally wonderful to welcome so many of the Founders to our 30th Service. Emmanuel’s growth from its humble beginnings stands as a testimony to the faith of those founders and founding staff, and also, as John pointed out, to the faithfulness of the God after whom the College is named.
It was also great to hear from one of our former students, Dr Lucienne Rickard, now a major, international, exhibiting artist, and Mr Jock McIlwain, former Alderman of the City, and patriarch of the Gold Coast canal system, at the opening of our new building. Both Lucy and Jock encouraged our students to find their creativity, because it is creativity which lies at the heart of the kind of problem-solving that will lead to success. Jock also exhorted the students to be open to training, to learning, and “to dream big dreams”- an exhortation which carried particular weight coming from Jock, a man who not only “dreamed” such ideas as the Snowy River Dams and our own canal system, but saw them through to completion.
And then there was the picnic party - what a fabulous way to begin our year of celebrations, and what a fabulous way to reaffirm the centrality of community to this school.
And that subject - community - is directly linked to our key words for this Gallipoli Centenary year: “mate” and “team.”
The choice of these key-words is no accident. As Mitchell Johnson said in a recent video, Gallipoli was where the deeply Australian concept of mate-ship was forged, a concept which encapsulates the loyalty, tolerance, altruism, and desire to encourage and motivate, which have always impressed and inspired me personally, and without which there can be no team, and no meaningful community.
And it is these values - tolerance, encouragement, altruism and motivation - which are also central to our major educational project this year: the conscious development of what educational theorist Robert Marzano calls the “High Reliability Schools” framework. Marzano’s thinking is deceptively simple, and stated in the cold language of educational research can sound pretty underwhelming: HRS, “based on 40 years of educational research, [simply] shows how best practices work together and provides indicators to empower … schools to measure their progress on attaining five increasing levels of reliability.”
However, when put into practice Marzano’s framework provides a structure which encourages the kind of creativity and consistency that can enable our students to both dream big, and genuinely excel.
Central to Marzano’s theory is the team. Marzano and others insist that not only does team-work mean our children can effectively multiply their brainpower, but it also enables them to learn, practice, and come to value the qualities of mate-ship Mitch Johnson espoused - values that we re-express in our compass.
In our opening chapels this term Mr McQueen, our Senior Chaplain, encouraged the staff to “place Christ at the centre of all that we do.” At the centre of our compass, surrounded by our eight values, is the cross. That cross was described by the theologian Jürgan Moltmann as the symbol not just of salvation, but of the way we should live our lives: with our heads pointing to our Father, and our arms reaching tolerantly, encouragingly, altruistically, motivationally sideways to our neighbours; or, to put it another way, by “’loving the Lord your God with all your heart …' and, 'Loving your neighbour as yourself.'"
“Mate” and “team” are more than just conveniently chosen key-words; between them they encapsulate the very heart of Emmanuel - the heart of knowing, loving and serving we celebrated at our 30th Birthday Party, and the heart we hope our children will embrace.