The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

What Really Matters

As I type this, I have just returned from the Year 9 camp at Rottnest. It is a hard week, but one that is critical to our capacity to know the boys and so helpful in enhancing the relationships which will hopefully sustain them through their final years at school, and even beyond that.

It is a unique experience, having the whole year group undertaking a series of activities in such a special environment. What I saw over there reinforced my view that we have staff who really care about the boys – who care enough to take some time to sit and talk with a boy; to check in on a boy in the evening if he is struggling; to laugh and have a joke; but also to challenge poor  behaviour  when they see it, not turn a blind eye to it.

Rottnest is a wonderful place to top up on our fill of awe and wonder – not just as we observed the spectacular thunderstorms that rolled their way down the coast on Tuesday afternoon, or in the crystal-clear water and the fine white sands of amazing beaches or the abundance of fish and coral under the water and birdlife on the land, but also in the kindness people show to one another – palpable reminders of the goodness that resides within.

In the evenings, we ran a Wellbeing session, and I went through the 3 Rs –  Respect, Resilience and Relationships  – which are the three central pillars of our Wellbeing  programme  at Scotch. We continue to refine this model and to embed it across the school. These three elements constitute the foundation of education in the 21 st  century, replacing the original 'three Rs' – reading, writing and arithmetic. Respect, Resilience and Relationships underpin all learning, whether that is in the classroom or elsewhere, and they comprise a distinct set of skills which enable young people to cope and to thrive and to contribute at their best as often as possible.

The Three Pillars sit very neatly with what happens at Rottnest. Under the pillar of  Respect , I spoke with the boys about the importance of self-respect, which shapes our interactions with other people and with the environment – two important elements of being at Rottnest. Learning how to respect ourselves and our bodies and do what is best in the long-term is critical to our ability to function well and contribute meaningfully. Teenage boys find it hard to think long-term when there is something exciting on offer in the short-term, even when it seems obvious to us that engaging in such activity is not in their best interests. Under the pillar of  Resilience , I spoke about the idea of going a little bit further each day, just a little further than the day before. Resilience does not have to be built in one sudden, substantial event. Indeed, it is more effectively built by overcoming a series of small challenges, whether that is making your bed in the morning, having a cold shower or going without something for a while. By pushing ourselves to do things we don't want to do but need to do, by doing things that take us outside of our comfort zone, by going a little bit further than we thought we could or than we did yesterday – this is how we become resilient. Under the pillar of  Relationships  – I spoke of the importance of developing a sense of belonging and connection as well as learning to value others. We spoke about emotional regulation and the good old Pre-Frontal Cortex, and I challenged the boys to perform one targeted act of kindness for someone while we were on the island.

At the end of the session, we get the boys to write a letter to their Year 12 selves, the idea being that they start to think about the sort of person they want to be in four years' time. These letters are collected by the House Head and returned to each boy at the end of Year 12 when they attend their final House dinner.  

There are three statements we use (which come from Telethon Kids' Institute Researcher, Donna Cross) which we hope every one of our boys will be able to say honestly about themselves:

  • I have people around me who can help
  • I am a person whom other people can like or love
  • I can find ways to solve the problems I face

I said to the boys at Rottnest that they might not always like what we do or the standards we expect of them, but we do it because we care and we have a good understanding of what works best for young men. If we didn't care, we would most likely let them do what they wanted. That is the easiest pathway, particularly in the short-term and particularly if all we wanted was to be liked. But it is our role to do what we think is right and what is in the best interests of our boys for their long-term development.