Principal's Blog - 6 December 2018

04 Dec 2018

Dear members of the Marcellin College family,

As the end of another academic year comes quickly upon us I would like to thank all members of the Marcellin College family for their support, hard work and continued trust. I am grateful to our dedicated staff who continue to walk that extra mile in support of our boys. I am appreciative of our wonderful parent community who show such great faith and trust in the College as well as the more practical expressions of support through involvement in the many volunteer groups at Marcellin. Mostly, I am grateful to our boys. I give thanks for this marvellous group of young men who constantly surprise and inspire me through their actions and efforts in support of Marcellin College. I have great faith in them and I know that St. Marcellin himself would describe them as good Christians and good citizens.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support and encouragement of all of us here at Marcellin. It is my prayer that all our staff, boys and their families enjoy a safe, restful and holy Christmas break and that we return refreshed and eager to tackle the challenges and opportunities that the New Year brings.

Below you will find a copy of the speech I delivered at this week’s uplifting House Graduations:

We all need a little inspiration in our lives. It gives us a lift when we are feeling a bit low. It motivates us to reach for higher goals. It pushes us to achieve our best. Put most simply it can make getting out of bed each morning a little easier.

I ask you parents this evening, what inspires you? Is it the actual work you do each day? Is it the desire to provide the best you can for your family? Is it a particular interest or hobby? It could be a piece of music or a great story? It could be your children that inspire you to be the best you can be.

I think often what most inspires us is people. Great leaders, talented sports people, or musicians, or artists. Or selfless people who give of themselves without wishing anything in return. I can think of many people who have inspired me to be the person I am today. I am sure you can too.

Right now though, in this place at this time in my life what inspires me most, apart from my beautiful family, is the staff of Marcellin College. They inspire me through their passion for learning, their desire to continue to develop as life long learners and mostly, their dedication and commitment to ensuring that they leave no stone unturned in connecting and engaging with your sons in learning.

I speak with many boys everyday who are inspired by particular teachers. It could be because of the teacher’s knowledge or the methodology they employ in the classroom. Typically, though it is because they see that the teacher loves what they do through their commitment to providing a quality learning experience for the student.

In his ground breaking study Visible learning Professor John Hattie listed 195 influences that are related to learning outcomes from very positive to very negative effects. He discovered that by far the most significant influence on learning outcomes for students was Collective Teacher Efficacy. That is the collective belief of the staff of the school in their ability to positively affect students. A school staff that believes it can collectively accomplish great things is vital for the health of a school and if they believe they can make a difference then they very likely will.

Having said all that our staff would be the first to tell you that being passionate and knowledgeable about the subject they teach is only part of the story. They will tell you that engaging young men in learning is also about developing excellent pedagogical or teaching practice.

In a recent newsletter article I spoke to you about the research which has been conducted into the state of education in this country. In a report from the Grattan Institute it is suggested that 40 per cent of all Australian students are disengaged from their learning. At another public policy think tank, the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), Dr Jennifer Buckingham, a research fellow with expertise in early reading instruction, tells us that "One in four Australian kids in Year 9 is just at the minimum standard of reading and that minimum standard is very low.”

At the very heart of problem lays a state of disengagement with students reporting four reasons for it:

  • a poor sense of autonomy ("Why don't I have any say in what I have to learn?")
  • competence ("I'm hopeless at Maths and now my parents and teachers know it, too")
  • relatedness ("I don't like my teacher: why don't I feel like I fit in here?")
  • relevance (“How is knowing a + b = c ever going to help me in life?)

I know we are a great school. I know that our staff work extremely hard to support the learning and wellbeing of our students. I know to that that we are not immune to these national trends. As an inclusive learning community we need to reflect on the level of disengagement that exists in our own school and develop whole school strategies to meet this issue head on.

Some of this development will require a bold and courageous approach. As a school community we are currently engaged in a process which will change the way learning is delivered here at Marcellin. A process which will see students engaged in more personalised learning with greater breadth and depth. Learning which focuses more heavily on the development of literacy and numeracy skills in a more integrated environment. Where teachers will act more as coach, mentor and facilitator, where students will be encouraged to become more independent learners in preparation for real world environments. 

These are only a few of many ideas and concepts we are exploring as we  discern and discover ways of continuing to engage and connect our young men with learning. I look forward to presenting you with more information in this space in the new year.

Mark Murphy