As we approach the conclusion of the first quarter of the school year I am, once again, amazed at the number and quality of activities and performances on display at St John’s D.S.G. This includes the skillful dramatic performances this week, produced and directed by Matric girls; the stunning recent swimming results; impressive music performances and academic achievements. I am constantly in awe of the resilience, talent and ability of our girls. It is indeed a privilege to be involved in an environment such as this.
Results, impressive as they may be, however, are not all that we strive for at St John’s D.S.G. In order to clarify our values and approach, I wish to share with you some points which I mentioned to prospective parents and girls at our recent Senior School Open Day. What is the ‘secret formula’, which has led to the above successes at St John’s D.S.G.? Not surprisingly, it is all about nurturing individuality.
Most Grade 7 girls are 12 years old. The average 12 year old girl, according to health centres, weighs 42.2 kg, and her average height is 149.8 cm, which is almost exactly 1.5m. So what is the significance of average, specifically in relation to schoolchildren?
In his book titled The End of Average, author Todd Rose has the following to say: “Our modern conception of the average person is not a mathematical truth but a human invention, created a century and a half ago to solve the social problems of the era.” As an example, he mentions aircraft cockpits designed over 60 years ago, to cater for the average pilot. Yet, not a single pilot fitted within the average range on all dimensions. It was only when adjustable seat controls were introduced, that pilots could perform to their potential.
So how is this relevant to schools? The average, it seems, is useless when deciding how to teach a child. It ‘creates the illusion of knowledge, yet disguises what is most important about an individual’. Yet the concept of average as a yardstick for measuring individuals is so thoroughly ingrained in our minds that we rarely question it seriously.
Maybe the world would be a better place, Rose suggests, “If we let people figure out their passions and what they’re good at and give them the knowledge and skills to do that.” Our education system, however, is not designed to do that. Instead, it moulds children and forces them to conform to norms and outdated mind sets. Yet there is no such thing as a ‘normal student’, as each child interacts differently to her environment.
Our strength at St John’s D.S.G. is that we believe that every child is unique, as opposed to a statistic measured against an average. We see individual potential and talent in every girl in her own right, and treat her in a special way, in order to facilitate the development of her full potential. This is only possible in a caring, small school environment, with small classes, in which every girl is known for who she is, as opposed to who society wants her to be. We build significant relationships, not only with the girls by getting to know them individually, but also their families. We are a value-based school with a Christian ethos, a focus on authenticity and on each girl’s interests and talents, as opposed to the image of the school.
Imagine a random piece of wood with an interesting shape. A carpenter or sculptor can craft this into a spectacular carving or statue. In the same way, I believe that a gifted educator sees the talent or potential in any child, and skilfully encourages the growth of this talent in the child. A factory, however, which makes wooden items such as simple tables, will only use wood suitable for this purpose, and turn it into as many identical tables as possible. Any wood not suitable for this purpose is thrown out. In the same way, many schools lose focus on the identity of each child, and mass-produce custom-made items who conform to the norm, or average, irrespective of the desires, wishes or talents of that individual. Like a sculptor creating a work of art, however, it is our job to recognise the talents and potential in each child, and help release her potential for all to see.
According to sculptor, Michaelangelo, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” When asked about his inspiration in sculpturing a statue of an angel, he said: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” In the same way, our task is to recognise the abilities and gifts in each girl, and to nurture these in a unique way, in order for her to realise her full potential. For some, this involves excellence in sport, academics or various performances. For others, it may simply be to develop self-confidence, good people skills, or to understand herself as a spiritual individual better. As stated in the Bible, in 1 Peter 4:10 ‘God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.’
We have much to be proud of at St John’s, including our amazing recent sports results and cultural performances, our new pavilion and the construction of our new Astro-turf, our best ever set of Matric results in 2017, and our record number of applications for places at the school. The truth, however, is that this is not what we are about. We care more about a sincere, child-focused, authentic education, which develops potential and assists the development of girls into confident, well-balanced leaders of the future, who are respected for who they are and their beliefs. When this is the focus, the results follow and speak for themselves.
It is, therefore, an incredible privilege for me and my staff to be given the opportunity to hopefully impact positively the lives of your daughters at this critical stage of their development. Thank you for trusting us with this, and I hope that you will see the benefits as she grows into a person of unique significance in the future.
Thank you to Mr Richard Gordon and Ms Glenn Flannagan for their enthusiasm and involvement as locums for the first term in the English and French Departments respectively. We will miss their presence next term!
At the start of Term 2, we will welcome Mrs Bernice Borain to the English Department. We also look forward to the return of Mr Dean Tyson and Mrs Nicolette Hohls from Long Leave.
Mrs Karen Currie (Junior School Learning Support and Remedial teacher) will be leaving us at the end of Term 2 and she will be greatly missed. Thank you also to Mrs Jocelyn Davis and Mrs Jessica Wortmann, who will no longer continue as itinerant music staff next term.
St John’s Festival 4 – 6 May The St John’s Festival will take place on the weekend of 4 – 6 May. There will be a number of activities over the weekend, including a P.A. Golf Day and a Quiz night on Friday 4th, sporting and Old Girl activities on Saturday, and the usual Chapel Service, Picnic Proms and Market Day on Sunday. This promises to be an enjoyable weekend, and I encourage the whole community to get involved. Please note that Sunday, 6 May is a compulsory day for all Grade 8 – 12 girls. Grades 11, 12 and Choir are expected at the Chapel Service at 8:30 and may leave after the Picnic Proms/Market Day at 14:30. Grade 9 and 10 girls are to be at the Picnic Proms/Market Day from 10:30 – 14:30. Grade 8 girls are required as per Mrs Singh’s instructions. Junior School girls and their families are welcome to join the Picnic Proms/Market Day anytime between 10:30 – 14:30.
Term 2 Public Holidays
Please note that Friday, 27 April (Freedom Day) is a public holiday and there will be no school. Parents, please do not request your daughter leaves school early on Thursday, 26 April, to facilitate travel arrangements, as it is a normal school day, with sport. Tuesday, 1 May (Worker’s Day) is a normal school day, with sport in the afternoon. Youth Day (16 June) falls on a Saturday.
Thank you for your many contributions to the school this term, ensuring that we remain a school of choice in the area. This is evident in the calibre and number of new applicants I have interviewed recently, who wish to join our St John’s family. I wish all members of the St John’s D.S.G. community a blessed Easter with your families.