Frequently Asked Questions
When the College began in 2002, there had not been a Catholic secondary school in the region for more than 20 years and so parents were not sure what made Catholic schools different.
As well as that, the staff of the new school were determined to take the opportunity of starting a school to make sure that we did things that were proven to be effective – rather than doing what other schools did.
So, because we are a Catholic school – and because we have been able to make a fresh start – Garin is different.
Below you will find quick answers to some of our most frequently raised questions ... and links for more detailed answers to these questions:
… The short answers …
As a small school, we keep our classes small so teachers are able to work with each student. Our current year 9 classes have 21-22 students. Because we do not "stream" students on the basis of their Maths and English as many schools do, we like to keep the numbers low so that teachers can spend time getting to know the abilities and needs of each student.
Looking after students
Garin does not have year level deans: instead the school uses vertical forms or whanau (20 students from all year levels) which meet every day. Providing the whanau teacher stays in the school, for the following five years they are the first person parents normally contact when they need to communicate with the school. We also have one Maori whanau class for students who prefer to meet in a Maori environment.
Our Well-being staff also support individual students and are able to link them to the best person to help them: a counsellor, health nurse, drug and alcohol, CAMHS etc.
We also have Academic deans: looking after academic success for seniors, for juniors, and for our Maori students.
Garin’s Gold Heartbeat Canteen
Students stay at school for our lunchtimes, and we do have an excellent canteen which has won gold Heartbeat awards for three years – and sells a range of popular and healthy food. A microwave and hot water are also available for students with their own lunch.
We begin every day and every school event with a brief prayer, and we try to have a full school Mass each term. We don’t have a chapel (yet), but we do have a regular chaplain, so we are always looking at ways to involve our students in making a difference, and in developing their relationship with their Creator. Our emphasis is on “Christian Living”: making the way of the Gospels part of our everyday lives. We like St James’ definition of religion: Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world. James 1:26
Garin is an holistic school and we expect students to be involved in a wide range of areas. On top of that we teach 14 subjects in year 9-10 where most other schools focus on 6-7 to prepare students for NCEA in year 11. However Garin students do really well in NCEA exams and always perform better than the national average for decile 8.
As you can see from these tables, the number of “Colours” earned by our students and teachers have increased from 17 to a very impressive 62 (and 45% of our students sitting NCEA gained endorsed certificates with more than 50 credits at Merit or Excellence).
One of the key ways we measure our success is in the award of “Colours” to NCEA students who gained all 80 credits required for NCEA with Merit and Excellence passes.
There are free buses from the towns and rural areas to the south of Richmond (Wakefield, Brightwater, Redwood Valley, Foxhill etc). There are heavily subsidised buses from Mapua, Moutere, and Motueka. Students from Stoke and Richmond normally take the healthy option and walk or bike to school. The College also organises and subsidises a contract with the local bus service for an express bus from the north of Nelson directly through Nelson to the school, at a cost of less than $200 per term.
We report to parents three times during the year. All parents get formal reports in terms 2 and 4, and all have the opportunity to sit down for a check in with teachers in term 2 for NCEA students, and term 3 for juniors. As well, we have a social event at the beginning of the year, and send out mid-term reports on students who have fallen behind. For details, see here.
We also ask parents to report to us on how well we are doing once a year. As well, parents are frequently in contact with Head Teacher John Maguire, whanau and classroom teachers.
We work hard to keep costs down because parents need to pay Attendance Dues to the proprietor (the owner of the land and buildings). This covers the cost of servicing loans on Catholic schools. As well, students need to pay for uniform, stationery, sports fees and gear, trips etc.
We also ask for a Parent Partnership donation to support curriculum expenses that arise during the year - and to help develop our school. For example, in 2014 we have installed a solar panel array with help from our proprietor, Archbishop John Dew. This will help with our electricity bills and also help with future-based education. For details see here.
Every human organisation seems to have people who misuse power or feel the need to control others - and this also happens in all schools. At Garin we work hard to identify these events, and educate the people involved.
We have found that most young people did not intend to hurt another person - and indeed, most stop when they realise their actions have hurt someone.
If that does not work, we use our behavioural management system, involve parents and, if the problem persists, we ask them to go to another school.
We regularly check with students through confidential questionnaires.
A true community builds links - and two ways we do that are through our calendars and newsletter. We try to let parents know when events are on so you can join us - and we try to let you know about the triumphs of our students so you can share our pride in your children.
The Calendar link is at the top of this page. And the school emails out a link to our newsletter every Friday - when it is published on this website. (Please make sure we have your up-to-date email address.)
Parents are always welcome to contact our Office or Head Teacher John Maguire if they have news about student achievements.
Staff put a lot of work into the weekly newsletter as part of their commitment to making sure you feel part of our community (and to encourage you to join in where that is possible.)
You can find the three-yearly Education Review Office reports at www.ero.govt.nz and use the keyword Garin.
In the junior school our core subjects are those prescribed in the New Zealand Curriculum plus Religious Education. You will see the range of those subjects if you look at the
overview sheet or the subject selection process for 2015.
There are several subjects many school offer that we do not. Universities have advised us that Accounting needs to be re-taught at university and they prefer strong Economics and Mathematics, and students wishing to study Agriculture or Horticulture are best served by gaining strong grades in the Sciences.
From the beginning of our school’s history we have avoided “options” in the junior school because opting for one subject means not having the opportunity to learn others. That means our year 9 students study 15 subjects, and our year 10 students study 13. There are no options for junior students.
Senior students have plenty of career-based options as they prepare for their next steps.
We have very few rules—what we expect is …
1. that everyone will work and let others work
2. that everyone will treat other people and property with respect
3. and that everyone will meet their commitments
As well, all students will normally eat lunch at school. If a student needs to leave the grounds during a particular lunchtime, they will also need a permission pass.
And the Board of Trustees mandates uniform and other expectations from time to time.
When schools group students by their academic ability it is normally done on the basis of their mathematical and language ability. We work to develop a much wider range of abilities, so we do not stream students. The research supports that stand and shows that usually all students do better in a mixed ability environment where each student is challenged according to their ability. (That also requires teachers to know their students well, and is a significant reason for our small class sizes.)
GATE: a doorway for gifted and talented students
This is our Gifted And Talented Education programme, opening a door or a gate into exciting new learning. We do not stream or band students so we have developed other strategies to ensure that students with particular gifts are catered for. As part of our testing in year 8-9 we look for students who perform particularly well – and they are placed in groups in each of the junior classes.
As well, we have programmes designed for students identified in our testing and other students identified by teachers, parents, and the students themselves …
Every term there are GATE programmes offered to junior students. Students have received world-wide recognition in robotics, stock market and enterprise competitions.
The Wider Curriculum
Most schools can see themselves primarily as learning institutions – but Catholic schools in particular also have to see themselves as communities: places where teachers work with parents to help young people become the whole person they were created to be.
So we don’t limit our time to six hours a day – community is full-time – and holistic education is full-time.
Because experience is one of the most effective learning tools, and because we do not focus on just the intellect of each student, we strongly encourage our students to be involved in school activities outside the normal curriculum. At Garin, this is not seen as “extra” curriculum or a parallel “co” curriculum – rather it is all part of the Garin curriculum. It is what we do to help parents educate the whole person that each student is.
As well as attending all of their classes and take part in all of our religious activities, we expect each student to be involved in sporting (or other physical activities, the arts (or other creative activities), and Christian service or (other supportive community activities). Only then can a student regard themselves as really educated. Through Club Garin we work hard to ensure that students involved in these activities have the best coaches and facilities we can find.
Community-building courtesies: Good morning. Thank you.
The glue that holds a community together is respect and politeness. Staff and students try to make a point of greeting each other – and thanking others when they have done something good for them. We hear thank you most often at the end of a class – and, strangely, when a student has made a mistake, and has to face the consequence.
Teachers have to be careful with homework – because not all students have experts at home to help, and because practising skills incorrectly will require re-teaching. What students can do – and need to do at home is:
- Review the day’s learning (because 70% of what we learn is forgotten if not reinforced within 24 hours)
- Revise recent work – because unless individual facts are put into a context or big picture, they do not make sense and so are forgotten
- Rest – students who stay up all night working or playing are not successful learners
Whanau – wrap-around care
Whanau is at the heart of our school. Whanau is the Maori word for extended family – and the whanau is the key grouping in the school. Students meet their whanau teacher every day in a vertical grouping of about 20. This gives the teacher the time to deal with each student in his or her care. It gives parents easy contact with someone who knows their child well. And it makes it possible for the school to care for the whole person of each child: learning gifts and issues, personal development, strengths and weaknesses, careers and future pathways – as well as the crises that occur in all our lives.
The student will normally stay with the same teacher for their time here – and that means parents quickly develop a strong relationship with that teacher.
Dr Mason Durie’s whare tapa wha model of pastoral care fits very nicely into the way we do things at Garin. He likens our health and happiness to the four walls of a house, each wall representing a different dimension: taha wairua (the spiritual side); taha hinengaro (thoughts and feelings); taha tinana (the physical side); and taha whanau (family).
All four dimensions are necessary for health, well-being, strength and long life.
We at Garin also have a holistic view of each student in our care, and it is the whanau teacher who is the focus of our whare tapa wha for each student.
… plays key role in Garin’s holistic curriculum
For any Outdoor Education programme to be truly successful it should encompass all areas of the curriculum and develop key relationships between staff, pupils and the environment.
Garin College’s Journey programme is an holistic five year programme, containing elements from all of the school’s curriculum areas—but with a special partnership between the challenges of the natural environment—and the challenges of the spiritual environment. The programme combines the physical challenges of outdoor education with the spiritual challenges of a retreat programme.
Basing in the amazing outdoor environment of the “top of the South”, using the expertise of our staff and local experts in running youth retreats and in outdoor education, we have developed a very special five year programme:
- Year 13: The Summit
- Year 12: The Ascent
- Year 11: Expedition
- Year 10: Navigator
- Year 9: Base camp
Who to talk to
We publish a list of staff emails in the newsletter each term so parents have easy access to teachers - but there are other key players:
The Board of Trustees: Lisa Dunn (Chair) John Pope (Deputy). Please contact them through the school (see details below), and we will forward messages.
The Head Teacher is John Maguire, firstname.lastname@example.org
Some more in-depth answers
How do we foster spiritual development?
… from the newsletter notes of previous Head Teacher John Boyce
This is one of the hardest questions we face, and I wish I could present this for you in more simple terms. But in a world with mostly secular values, most of us find it hard to be clear about what “spirituality” even means.
Are we a spiritual people?
As a leader in a new school that could not rely on old assumptions and definitions, I have spent quite a lot of time thinking and reading in this area. The Australian Catholic writer Denis McLaughlin clarified one part of the debate when he said:
Indeed, even if institutional religion appears to be eschewed by the majority of students in Catholic schools, research tends to confirm that Catholic schools seem to be significantly unique contributors to the nurturance of a humanity that is generating an authentic non-institutional spirituality.
What he is saying is that the majority of young people in Australia (and I think, New Zealand) no longer go to church regularly-for all sorts of reasons-but that does not mean that that they are not spiritual. Indeed my experience tells me that young people are as spiritual now as they have ever been. But the style and expression of that spirituality has changed.
I agree with Denis McLaughlin, and the research he is referring to, when he says that “Catholic schools seem to be significantly unique contributors to the nurturance of a humanity that is generating an authentic non-institutional spirituality.” The “non-institutional” means that they don’t get their spirituality from church-going-but they do seem to be getting it in part at least, from their experience in Catholic schools. That places a huge responsibility on our schools. Our students really want to make a difference in the world: you see examples of that in every newsletter in buddy swimming, Special Olympics, the Vinnies, Caritas fundraising and all the rest.
Now, what do we do to give all of our students the chance to grow and value aroha, and beauty, and wonder in the relationships of their lives?
Deus caritas est: God is love
My own understanding of spirituality is based on 1 John 4:16: God is love. To me, that means that every experience of love is an experience of God, and that experience adds to the depth and richness of our spirituality. In simple terms, especially in a school environment, this is summed up by American writer Tom Groome:
The essence of our spirituality is our relationship – not only with God, but also with self, others and the world.
The most important place most of us live in relationship is at home-so home is a very important part of the Catholic school environment. But because we spend so much time at school, the relationships found at school are very important: with teacher, classmates, in the classroom, the playground, on the sportsfield, and in all the other places we come together. As a Catholic school we look for these moments and do our best to create an environment where there can be depth in the connections.
We employ the best teachers-and that means more than looking for curriculum experts. We also look for people who share our vision of adults working alongside students. Our staff go out of their way to work with students in and out of the classroom-on camps, in tutorials, running sports teams and arts projects, and doing Christian service.
Inside the classroom we have always done our best to create an environment where good relationships will flourish. Research tells us that the size of a class doesn’t make all that much difference to the learning that takes place. Where it does make a difference, is in the teacher’s ability to interact personally with individual students. It also changes the style of education. With big numbers, the teacher becomes a deliverer of information, and discipline becomes a problem; but with smaller numbers teachers can help students learn and the environment can be more relaxed most of the time.
Our behaviour management is built on the principles of restorative justice: and that is all about the relationship between the person who gets it wrong, and the victim. Our whanau system is about relationships with more than just our peers. Our Journey programme is also designed to develop and enhance relationships with “self, others and the world” as well as God. But Tom Groome’s definition is deceptive in its simplicity.
The unseen world around us
Spirituality is not just about the relationship: it is more about what the relationship does to us. That is where we see caritas or aroha on a daily basis. It is through our relationships that the door is opened to the unseen world the poet Wordsworth wrote of:
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
Learning about ourselves, facing challenges, solving problems with the help of teachers or peer mediators, all add depth. But so does our curriculum-our emphasis on creativity, the imagination, our appreciation of beauty in all its forms, and the development of intuition and conscience, all come about through school relationships. But as well, all these experiences help us gain the sensitivities that enable us to feel the presence of the Creator in our lives-and to respond to that. And this is really hard stuff, because nearly every message of our world tells us that is not real.
Spirituality in the modern world
If we think about it, most of the problems we face in our homes, our community, our country and our world have to do with relationships. Our world doesn’t seem to value the tenderness, joys and fears of the human heart-so it might be fair to say that our modern world faces a spiritual crisis.
Certainly we would like more money, more goods, more security-but it is entirely possible to see these needs as the answers the world gives us to our real search: for love and relationship. We all look for love in relationship: and on top of that most of us are looking for some certainty in the bigger questions: is there a creator, and how do we build a relationship with our creator?
Adolescence is a key time in the development of relationships – and the search for a spiritual identity. We spend a lot of time helping students with this.
We also try really hard to provide students intensity of experience in our classes – but also through liturgies as relevant and innovative and communal as we can make them, through our Journey programme, by taking education out of the classroom, through our Enterprise education, through team sports and arts activities and Christian service-and through support for communal activities like World Youth Day.
Catholic schools in New Zealand were started in the poorest suburbs of our nineteenth century cities, and their goal was to lift the children of poor immigrants from the working classes into the middle classes and the business classes. These days that is not so much an issue. Today Catholic schools try to support students who need them – although our goals are no longer expressed in terms of class.
But still today we don’t give up on kids easily. Our staff and Board are all aware that sometimes a young person does need us-and we do our best to help when possible.
As an older Catholic, there are times when I look to the future of the Church and wonder what organised religion will be like for our students as they move through life.
Certainly the authority of the Church has faded as the world has changed over the last 50 years.
Mass-going has dropped. But it is important to remember that Jesus didn’t come to bring us authority or organised religion. He came to bring us the Good News and a new commandment: that we love one another. The Church has always been a very successful vehicle for that message. John’s understanding produced one of our earliest and most important teachings.
My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love-so you can’t know him if you don’t love.
Or, as another John (and Paul) wrote more recently, “all you need is love; love is all you need!”
How to make a complaint
At Garin we try hard to be approachable and to be responsive to our community. The normal person people talk to is often our Head Teacher John Maguire, and he makes a point of thanking people who come in with a problem.
He does that for two reasons: it is hard to make a complaint (because all of us worry that we might face conflict and nobody likes that!). And if we are a real school-based community, he sees it as important that parents and students are able to contribute to the development of the school.
And raising a concern is the most effective way to make sure the school knows there is a problem. Too often people who have a problem with something at a school, they don’t tell the school; they tell other people.
That way schools lose: they can’t fix it because they don’t know-and when people say negative things, the students hear that and they start to think their school is second-best and so their learning suffers.
And the parent loses: because nothing happens to remedy the situation or prevent it happening again.
At Garin we want a win-win. We want students to recognise that Garin has employed an excellent group of teachers, and we want our community to be happy with us and proud of us.
If you have a concern with something the school is doing, please see either a teacher or Mr Maguire. The Board has requirements of what Mr Maguire needs to do about that if you see him.
You could also see a Board member, but the Board will normally refer that straight back to the school.
If you have a concern about the Head Teacher, you can either see him directly-or you should see the Board Chairperson. The Board has a policy of what that person needs to do next.
Some parents worry that if they complain, their children will suffer. That will never be the case at Garin. We welcome your concerns, and the time we like them is early, before a small problem gets blown out of proportion.
We have simple “Effectiveness Check” and "Complaints" forms which let us know when things haven’t gone as well as we would like. They are available at our office or you can get a copy here.
Our Academic Culture
… from the newsletter notes of previous Head Teacher John Boyce
When Garin College opened in 2002 the Board, the staff and I knew that our first five years would be devoted to creating our culture. What did that mean?
Part 1: Developing holistic education
First, it was about creating a real Catholic community. The problem we faced was that there had not been a specific Catholic community for a big group of young adults since Redwood College closed in 1981, so no-one coming to the new school knew quite what to expect. I knew that it would take a whole generation (year 9s of 2002 graduating after five years) for that understanding to grow from a cutting into a firmly-rooted tree.
So in these years we concentrated on becoming an holistic school. Catholic schools are more than certificate-generating institutions. Catholic schools pride themselves on working with parents to form the whole of each person: not just the intellect – but also the physical, the emotional, relationship, values, attitudes, and spiritual sides of each student. As St Paul told the people of Corinth:
God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit … Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful.
This verse has two great messages: we all have spectacular gifts – and – when we use our personal gifts, we show off God.
Teachers new to Catholic schools (and in 2002 that was just about everyone!) had to re-train themselves to gain a new understanding of their role in the development of their students, and to provide experiences designed to make this holistic growth happen.
This is a huge job. Garin staff agree when they come to Garin that they will work hundreds of hours outside the classroom to help students become all the things they were created to be.
A young person develops all the many facets of their total personality, and the bank of skills and attitudes that will see them through life, by working alongside adults-in the classrooms (and we have small classes so teachers can get around each student more often)-but also outside the classroom: in tutorials, clubs, sports teams, choirs, productions, as well as supporting others in our community and world who need our backing. These hundreds of interactions gradually add colour and depth to the cartoon, and make us fully realised people.
It’s not just recognising a person’s gifts: it is about how we live our lives, how we relate to each other, and how we see the world (or “Creation” as we like to call it). Our standard is seen in the actions of Jesus-what are called “gospel values”. Jesus stood up for people who were looked down on or those unable to help themselves. He acted with love in everything he did. He was just. He fought hypocrisy. We see clear examples of compassion, hospitality, justice (especially for those who cannot demand it for themselves), dignity, community, commitment, and inclusiveness.
Our first priority was to build a community with alternative values, and a new way of looking at the worth of each created individual and our role in the world.
Parents in those early days commented on the difference in the second year-but it took time to develop a culture that didn’t rely on the teachers for reinforcement. These days our students and parents stand up for the Garin culture and tell us if they don’t see it.
Part 2: Our academic focus
Our focus on the whole person is now part of who we are. We all understand that, and believe in it.
Over the next three years we will take the next step. Over the next three years instead of spreading our focus across all aspects of our holistic curriculum, we will maintain what we have-but concentrate more on the intellectual development of our students.
We are a school-and we need to make sure we check and develop our systems to support academic success for each student. That is not a one-size-fits-all goal. Each student has their own pathway in life, and their own personal learning is needed to move to the next level. Our goal is to make sure each student and family knows exactly what the student needs, is aware of the pathway to their goal, and gets the support he or she needs to get where they need to be.
For some, that is a scholarship, for others NCEA level 1: for some work experience, and others the minimum qualification needed to pick up an apprenticeship. But for everyone there is academic or practical learning to be done-and proof of learning to be earned.
We are a decile 8 school. Already we are well above the national average pass rate for decile 8 schools in NCEA. Our teachers are not satisfied with that because they see students who could be aiming for higher goals, others who take too long to get where they need to be, and some who give up and settle for easy options.
That is our focus for the next three years.
We are developing tools to involve parents. You are involved in setting the pathway when you fill in the goal-setting sheet that accompanies this newsletter. We are setting up learning blogs for each student to help you keep in touch with their pathway and progress along it. We are hoping to be reporting on progress fortnightly by next term.
Parents know what they want from their partnership with us. As Paul told the Galatians:
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard-things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
A more recent reflection on holistic education
There are two words that keep coming up when we try to explain Catholic education: “holistic” and “integral”. The first refers to all the aspects of the whole person – and the second to the integration of all aspects of each person. Pretty much the same thing. Jesus described it as the fullness of life. John 10,10.
Pope Francis recently described Catholic education as a path that leads to the three languages that a mature person needs to know: the language of the mind, the language of the heart, and the language of the hands. All in harmony.
Francis’ metaphor is new to me but I do like to think of education being about the integration of languages because for most of us language is at the heart of community, of relationship, and of love. These things make us human. So to be fully human we need to look after our minds, our hearts, and our actions. Each, and all-together, are essential to us becoming the people we were created to become.
The language of the hands is crucially important. Jesus reminded us the real person is revealed in his or her actions. We can say we believe in something – but others will know the truth by the fruits of our belief: our actions.
For instance, we can call ourselves Christian or Catholic, but if our words and actions show us to be arrogant or judgemental or hypercritical or greedy, then we are not.
We might be baptised, we might go to Church regularly, we might put our envelope in the plate – but the language of our hands and the language of our hearts betrays the fact that our Christianity is at best superficial.
In a Catholic school students and teachers work together to foster the three languages that a mature person needs to know: the language of the mind, the language of the heart, and the language of the hands.
That is who we were created to be. Australian Jesuit teacher and bishop Greg O’Kelly demonstrates that has been consistent from pre-history to now. His conclusion studying humanity from Cro-Magnon art through to the twenty-first century: There can be no full humanity without the dimensions of creativity, of love, of thought and of worship. To be fully human we must develop on all fronts.
He says to help our young people mature we should guide them on what Teilhard de Chardin called that most difficult of journeys, the journey within. Or, thinking of the Pope’s statement: the language of the heart.
Often – most recently today – I have heard our young people described as “good-hearted”. A great place to start – and Francis would be proud!
Catholic Social Teachings in a school
The Catholic Church has a 2000 year old tradition of considered teaching - often on issues of social justice, equity and decision-making. Here are some of the key teaching that are the foundation stones of Garin College
Respect and care for the individual human person: te mana te tangata
We are inclusive – seeing each person as God-formed. We are holistic – seeing excellence as reaching potential rather than as an objective value (when we think of academic success or success in any other field.) We have a responsibility to search for and nurture ALL of the gifts and talents each child has been given (we acknowledge the multiple intelligences, and we seek the well-being of each person).
Promote the family: whanaungatanga
We work and inform the family as much as possible about the academic and personal development of each child. We need to see ourselves as partners with the family (even if we disagree with them).
Work for the Common Good: he painga ma te katoa
Pope John XXIII defined the common good as "the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily" ( Pacem in Terris). Leaders need contact with diverse opinion so they are aware of diverse needs (each of us has a natural ethnocentric view of our world, and we need to make ourselves walk in others' shoes).
Observe the principle of subsidiarity: mana whakahaere
In a Catholic environment decisions should be made as far as possible at the level of the people affected, or including the people affected. When a “higher authority” makes decisions it is often seen as patronising, irrelevant or condescending. It also leads to alienation as people feel a loss of control in their lives, and to a growing sense that they are not responsible for their own welfare or for the health of their community. In our situation this means consultation and collaboration. Our ideal is the servant leader: a leader working primarily for the good of others.
Respect work and the worker: nau te rourou, naku te rourou
Providing opportunities for growth and development so each person grows towards the person they were created to be. We recognise that each person has something unique and important to contribute to society. We are called to be active members of our local and global communities.
Pursue peace, and care for the poor and vulnerable - prioritising social justice: he whakaaro nui mo te hunga rawakore
This is often seen as raising money for good causes, but primarily it is something that is sought moment by moment in every aspect of our lives. It touches every relationship, every policy, every attitude.
Live by Gospel values
The values articulated or demonstrated in the Gospels: peace, outreach to poor and disadvantaged, hospitality, care for the individual, putting people first, putting children first, love, forgiveness, reconciliation, justice ...
For a useful outline of Catholic social teachings go to the Vatican's Compendium.
… from a Prizegiving address by previous Head Teacher John Boyce remembering the sudden death of Asher Clayton that year
Every year at this time, I try to speak about something important that is coming up in the life of the school. This year I have decided not to do that because later in the ceremony I have asked two of our school leaders to address us and I want us to go away with their words, not mine, hanging in our memories.
But I do want to take a moment to reflect on the death, earlier this year, of Asher Clayton.
Asher was the second of our students to die before finishing their time at Garin. The other was Matt Gardner in 2002.
I don’t want to talk about Asher himself – but to share my thoughts on the importance of his life to us in the Garin family.
Tonight we are here to celebrate the gifts God has given to us. At Garin we challenge ourselves to help students develop all of the gifts God has given each of us.
Tonight you will see academic gifts recognised. You will see sporting and cultural gifts celebrated.
You will see recognition of excellence, personal growth and contribution – as the front of the programme tells you.
But not all of the gifts that each one of us brings to the Garin family are so clear and obvious.
Asher and Matt reminded me that some of our gifts are not seen in achievements. Some just require us to be here. I won’t mention names – but each of our students knows other students who bring out the very best in friendship just by being at our school.
We all know students who allow us to be caring, loving and sensitive by just being at our school.
And our friend Asher Clayton taught us that sometimes being with us can show us the depths of our own caring and generosity, and compassion – qualities that we didn’t even suspect we had. What a gift he left us! He didn’t have to do anything or achieve anything. He just had to be the person he was created to be – and share that with us.
And we see that every day. I am incredibly proud to be part of our community – to see students and teachers sharing themselves so openly – and leaving us better people just by knowing them.
Asher did not win a cup at last year’s prizegiving – but his life has made every person who knew him a better human being.
Many of you will not receive an award tonight. But remember, Asher showed us that sometimes our achievements are not as important as the grace that we bring to the community, and that our God-given gifts which can be recognised at a prizegiving, need to be seen alongside just being the wonderful person God created each one of us to be!
In our modern world we are very caught up on the obvious, measurable, and reportable gifts.
Asher reminded me – and proved to all of us – that the qualities the modern world sees as weaknesses – the heart conditions, dyspraxia, loss of eyesight or hearing, learning difficulties, Downs Syndrome, old age – and the everyday disabilities we all cope with: uncertainty, self-doubt, loneliness, and insecurity – are also God-given. They are part of the wonderful people we are: they are gifts that help others grow.
Asher showed us that what we may see as weaknesses can, in fact, be the very qualities that change other people’s lives and help them become the people they were created to become.
On the front of your programme I have a section of Psalm 8 that speaks to me about why we all doubt ourselves – and then, the actual truth of the human condition.
First the doubt when we see ourselves so small when compared to the greatness of creation …
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers-
the moon and the stars you set in place-
what are we that you should think about us,
human beings that you should care for us?
you made us only a little lower than God
and crowned us with glory and honour.
And Asher allows us to add …
… not just some of us, each one of us
We are about to present awards to our year 9 students. To you, and all who receive awards tonight, I ask that, as you receive your recognition of excellence, personal growth and contribution tonight – receive it humbly, knowing that all round us there are other gifts that cannot be noted in this event.
The Character of a Catholic school
Previous head teacher John Boyce explores his vision of Catholic education as the new school started in 2002.
As we start our work turning a collection of well-designed buildings into a real Catholic community – and Nelson’s first Catholic secondary school for 20 years – I ask myself why I am teaching in a Catholic School – and what parents get when they choose to send their children to a Catholic school.
I have found the thoughts of our own Bishop Peter Cullinane and the American Tom Groome very much in tune with what I want from Catholic education, and you will find their thoughts echoed here.
Jesus’ favourite title was “teacher” – and when he gave his friends their final instructions, he told them to “Go and teach.” So, I feel privileged to be a teacher and when I finish my letters I am proud to sign myself as “Head Teacher”.
But to be a teacher in a Catholic school?
I have chosen to work in the Catholic tradition because of the culture that is the foundation of any Catholic school. If we are doing our job of being a truly Catholic school, then the philosophy behind the school, the ethos we should have, the way we do things – should be distinctive.
The Catholic Church has a powerful philosophy of education based on 2000 years of teaching and thinking – in schools and universities – but also through the Church itself, from the pulpit, through our teaching Orders, and through our liturgies, sacraments and mission work.
It seems to me that this teaching is based on a special understanding of who we are. Education in a Catholic school is based on the belief that our Creator made each one of us with all our gifts and talents and abilities – and parents and teachers work with each child to discover and develop those God-given aptitudes. This understanding of who we are is an incredibly powerful and positive foundation for our schools.
There is a whole genre of film from Blackboard Jungle and To Sir With Love, through to modern films like Dangerous Minds and Music of the Heart where audiences enjoy seeing confirmed that it doesn’t matter how outwardly bad or disadvantaged some young people may be, they are saveable – and given the chance, they are lovable.
In a Catholic school this positive attitude to children is based on a belief that each one of us is created in the image of God – on a belief that God gave us life to be embraced and enjoyed – on a belief that people are essentially good – on a belief that God created us, and works through us to build the kingdom, and that with God’s help we can improve our own and others’ lives.
Some of the things that make our schools special for me are the ways we encourage the development of the whole person, the philosophy of life behind a Catholic school, and our emphasis on social justice in a Catholic setting. But I also believe in our philosophy of helping students to think for themselves, and our schools’ role in preparing young people for life.
In the newsletter articles on a Catholic Education (see the menu on the right), I look at some of these themes.
Encouraging the development of the whole person
If each of us is a unique creation of God, then there are all sorts of things that follow from that belief.
For a start, it means that each person is essentially good. It also means that Catholic schools celebrate the whole person – all the gifts and talents and abilities of each person. We also believe that each person has – because of our divine origin – certain rights.
But as so many wise people from Gandhi to Pope John XXIII have insisted, each right has a corresponding responsibility. And Catholic schools are also about the responsibilities we have as people created by God, and about taking responsibility for our own actions.
Teachers in a Catholic school will not accept the final responsibility for the development of the gifts of the whole person. We believe that each one of us has the major responsibility for our own development and salvation: and so we try to help our young people to do things for themselves: to take responsibility for their own success and happiness.
Genesis tells us God got us started with a “breath” of life. In a Catholic school, we work to foster that act of creation and help each member of the community become fully alive.
And what is a fully alive person? For me it is a fully balanced person – an energetic and positive blend of the intellectual, the physical, the creative, the moral, and the spiritual. Excellence is important. When it comes to the gifts of our Creator only the best is good enough. So, we expect excellence in academic results. We expect those with physical skills to use them and produce excellent results. And each week you see some of these in our newsletters.
The creative side of being human is also crucially important to us. We have academic subjects to develop the brains God gave us. We have sports to develop our bodies.
But human beings are so much more than bodies and minds. Through our imaginations and our creativity, we can see into the life of the world. The insights, sensitivity and sense of beauty and wonder we gain through music and art, through speech, drama and dance give us the senses to glimpse the magic of creation – what the Pope calls “the extraordinary side of the ordinary”.
Through debate – in the auditorium or in the classroom – and through writing and defending a point of view, we come to learn what is true to us.
So for me, the creative arts are a very important feature of a Catholic school.
Through all of these aspects of our schooling, we help each student develop the mind, body, spirit and strength, the sensitivities and insights, and the ability to see the people and the world around us as part of God’s Creation. As St Iraneus said, “The glory of God is the human person fully alive!”
That life – and the whole of creation – is a gift from God. In the modern world, we have come to take it for granted – to be careless in the way we treat the people and the world around us. In a Catholic school, we have the reason to treasure and prize that gift-and to see, in the world and in the people around us, the wonder of creation.
Preparation for Life
All schools educate and Catholic schools do that well, but we are about much more than simply academic education.
I have tried to show what is distinctive about education in a Catholic environment – and really it comes down to the philosophies and beliefs behind Catholicism.
Because we believe God created each one of us, we try to respect each person, and to teach them about the rights and responsibilities that each of us has.
Because we are not created one-dimensional creatures, we educate the whole person: academic, physical, spiritual, emotional, and creative. We find ways to develop leadership, confidence, and community spirit.
We see ourselves as part of a larger creation, and responsible for working towards leaving our world a better place. We try to help students experience the support, responsibility, and sense of achievement that can come through working in teams or in communities.
We try to help each person work out what is right and wrong – and then to act on that. We expect each person to think for themselves and to take responsibility for themselves: for their actions, for their development and for their own happiness.
Happiness is a key goal for a Catholic school.
We want our students to have the very best chance of a happy life. We want them to have the qualifications they need, the healthy bodies they need, and the ability to form faithful, loving relationships.
We help them develop the community-building skills and attitudes they and the world need, and the determination to build a better world.
We try to foster the sensitivities, appreciations, and sense of responsibility they will need to lead worthwhile and fulfilling lives, and an attitude that refuses to accept second best. And we look for ways to help them develop a relationship with their Creator that they will need if they are to remain people of hope throughout their lives.
I am proud to work in a Catholic school, and I am excited about working to develop this special character at Garin College, because our schools present a vision of hope for our students, and for our community in New Zealand.
At Garin teachers sign up to a set of clearly stated values and expectations. Click here to see Working at Garin.
Social Justice in a Catholic Setting
Like the good Samaritan, we must decide who is our neighbour. We must decide what our responsibility is to others. Catholic schools often look at our community, and at the world we live in, to see how our neighbours are faring.
The Church places a huge emphasis on community – not just in schools, but in parishes, religious orders, dioceses, the whole Church and the whole of humanity. St Paul described us as all being part of the body of Christ: we all share in the mission of Jesus to be priest, prophet, and leader.
Even death is not an obstacle: we see death as being a change – but not the end of life – and all of us as being part of the community of saints.
All that means we have to build and sustain a life-giving, just, and positive community.
In our Catholic schools we consciously work to help our students become aware of the injustices in the world – and of the responsibility each one of us has to make the world a better place, the responsibility to make a difference. Very few of us can do that in a big way – but each one of us has a responsibility to change the little bits of the world we live in. So we sponsor orphans, collect for the food bank, support the St Vincent de Paul Society, and do what we can to help the victims of war, natural disaster and injustice.
We try to make our schools life-giving-and as educators we try to help our students develop a sense of responsibility for building a better community, and to be people who will fight injustice wherever they see it.
As one graduate of Catholic schooling, Robert Kennedy, put it – “Many people see things as they are, and ask why. I see things as they never were, and ask why not.”
Taking Responsibility for Ourselves
Fifteen hundred years ago St Augustine said “Never be so foolish as to send your children to learn what the teacher thinks!”
Teachers help students to learn facts, develop skills, to develop a feel for language and number, and what is right. But we don’t tell them what to think. We work to help children become responsible, caring, fully alive adults and citizens through the standards we set, by holding each person responsible for their actions, by the examples we set in the way we treat each other, through the ways we help students to find out things for themselves and do things for themselves. We work to help our students learn what is right and must be defended – and what is wrong and to be challenged.
Catholic schools try to help students to take more responsibility for their own development and our schools have hundreds of stories about students testing themselves, taking on additional challenges, working really hard to produce excellence on their own and in groups, and using their initiative to help others. We look for ways to encourage students to take responsibility for helping their community become a better one.
The idea of an “informed conscience” is an old one in Catholic tradition. It is one that Catholic schools work very hard on. These days the world tells our young people that they should do what feels right for them.
Our message is that there are rules for the good of everyone. We believe that there are “right” ways of behaving – and consciously help students build those into their characters.
Religious Education is the foundation of the Catholic character of our schools. This is where students learn explicitly about the Gospel, Catholicism and Christianity, and the implications of that in a life well lived. It is where they learn the principles that underpin what we do individually and as a school. It is where they name and define the values that they will hold for the rest of their lives; values that help them make their own contribution towards the special character of the school and their communities. And that contribution makes the special character of a Catholic school dynamic and progressive: our young people are constantly re-defining it through their own idealism, understanding, and intuition.
So, from a Catholic school parents can expect high standards and strong discipline. You can expect teachers, students themselves, and parents to be involved in the formation of the young adult. You can expect challenges whenever the commandment of love is broken in big or small ways. And, as they move through the school, you can expect young people to be challenged more and more to think for themselves and take responsibility for their actions, and for their own education and development as Christian people.
As a small school, we keep our classes small so teachers are able to work with each student. Our current year 9 classes have 21-22 students. Because we do not "stream" students on the basis of their Maths and English as many schools do, we like to keep the numbers low so that teachers can spend time getting to know the abilities and needs of each student.
Garin does not have year level deans: instead the school uses vertical forms or
whanau (20 students from all year levels) which meet every day. Providing the whanau teacher stays in the school, for the following five years they are the first person parents normally contact when they need to communicate with the school. We also have one Maori whanau class for students who prefer to meet in a Maori environment.
We also have Academic deans: looking after academic success for seniors, for juniors, and for our Maori students.
Depth and Breadth of Learning
Our school Curriculum policy states a basic underlying principle of learning at Garin:
Quality and richness of experiences are vital for student learning and development. (ie at Garin we emphasise quality of learning experience, and studies in depth rather than a shallow breadth of study undertaken in order to cover requirements. BF Skinner: Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.)
“Quality and richness” “depth” – words that resonate in the hearts of teachers!
Our experts in this field are Howard Gardner of Harvard University, and Benjamin Bloom of the University of Chicago. These two educationalists did very influential work of the nature of intelligence and the nature of learning.
Gardner was the researcher who popularised the view that “intellect” is not limited to the traditional tests which identity mathematical and linguistic gifts. Schools traditionally “stream” students using these tests. Gardner pointed out that people have all sorts of gifts – there are geniuses who are ImageSmart (with Visual/Spacial gifts), BodySmart, Number/LogicSmart, NatureSmart, Sound/MusicSmart, WordSmart, PeopleSmart, and SelfSmart.
(For an overview of MI research, and to test yourself. Click here.)
Garin does not stream students – partly because we only have three or four classes at each level and streaming would not be fair, and partly because intelligence tests are all about number and words – and there are so many other ways to be smart.
So all of our teachers use Gardner to identify gifts – and Bloom to cater for them in their classroom.
Benjamin Bloom developed a list of increasingly sophisticated ways to approach any topic.
Every students needs the first two all the time: Knowing and Understanding. That is the bottom line for all teachers; it is the minimum requirement of every teaching point, every lesson, every unit of work.
But every assignment, and a lot of the questions must also allow students to go into deeper ways of really learning:
- Applying information in the real world
- Analysing or seeing the patterns
- Synthesis: putting ideas together with other learning, often to create new ideas
- Evaluating the worth, or usefulness, or authenticity of the new learning
- Designing, improving, or creating based on the stimulus of the initial learning
These last five are where deep learning takes place – they are where students (and teachers) internalise information and turn it into learning.
Does it sound like an impossibility to arrange learning so that students get a broad, general education-while at the same time providing opportunities for depth of study (because those are the moments the students will remember all their lives)?
It is not impossible: our teachers and our Gateway (Gifted And Talented Education) programme gives teachers, parents and the students themselves the opportunity to test their talents in and out of the classroom, and soar – while also helping those without huge academic gifts to identify, value and foster the gifts they were born with. Each one of us needs this self-awareness if we are to become the people we were created to be.
A no-anger, no-blame school
If a school’s behavioural management system is not well-organised, there is often a lot of frustration, blaming, and a lack of morale among staff and students.
We are determined not to let that happen at Garin.
Why do schools need a behavioural management system?
Because young people are still learning what is important for them, and can become distracted. When that happens in a class of 25, the teacher needs a simple way to deal with the distraction without stopping the learning of the other 23-24. If the teacher does not have a simple and effective system, there will be frustration, anger, and maybe shouting. The other students stop learning because the teacher is not focussed on them.
We cannot allow that. We also strongly resist sending students away from the learning environment.
As well, we do not believe in "punishment". That inevitably creates resentment and resistance. People sometimes don't like the consequences of their actions - but everyone sees that consequences are inevitable. All mature people learn from consequences: punishment is often seen as revenge or vindictive - and so does not help us learn.
- We train our teachers in different ways of planning and different control strategies – but once they have tried that, their first priority is to the other students – so they place the student to one side of the class and give him or her a sheet to fill out. We call this a “Think Sheet” and it is designed to help the student think about – and take responsibility for – their own behaviour and learning. If that doesn’t work, we try another strategy and parents are automatically informed.
- We try not to start with blame – we have found it is better to discuss the issue, resolve it, and get on with learning. That usually works.
- If it doesn’t work, we will try a few other things – but if we still are not returning to learning, we ask parents for help – because it is serious: here is a student who is not learning.
In the classrooms teachers have several principles to ensure students are well-behaved and working.
- The first is good planning. A well-balanced lesson with clear objectives and a range of sequenced activities will assist student learning and the development of a sense of purpose.
- The second is “rich tasking”. Teachers look for a variety of activities to engage students with different preferred learning styles. They try to cater for the different gifts students have. Our experts in this field are Howard Gardner of Harvard University, and Benjamin Bloom of the University of Chicago. These two educationalists did very influential work of the nature of intelligence and the nature of learning. You will see an outline of how we use them here.
- The third is to treat students as individuals and speak with them quietly about their actions and our expectations.
Then we have a range of strategies ranging from a quiet reminder and eye contact, to changing seats, to staying in after class.
But then, if the problem remains, the teacher must put other students first, and we move into a more formal system.
Caring for Kids – well-being at Garin
Cardinal Hume sums up our philosophy:
Education, in its broadest sense, is concerned with lifelong inner growth, with achieving of personal wholeness and integrity, with the development to the utmost of personal gifts and creativity. It is one of the teachers’ tasks to help develop their pupils’ ability to form relationships and to be part of a living and loving community. That part of the teacher’s job is highly skilled, vitally important and sometimes lost sight of. One of the secrets here is to recognise that a school is not an institution, but a community.
We take pride in our pastoral care of students, and the Student Services faculty works at the heart of our school. Under the guidance of faculty head Mike Rose, the faculty oversees staff training in behavioural management and pastoral care of students, supporting students through counselling, reading and special needs. They support the whanau teachers, and gather data on students and make sure their needs are addressed. They look after careers counselling and vocational training courses, our peer mediation programme and peer support-where senior students give their time to help students in junior classes.
As a Catholic school we recognise the “whole person” of each student – and we try to acknowledge all the needs (and gifts) of students. In fact pastoral care involves all the things young people need to help them grow into confident, skilled and positive people with the very best chance of having a happy adult life: we try to wrap all of our supports around a student who needs our help.
That’s a huge task-so how did we go about it?
The Garin whanau teacher is the most important person in the pastoral care of your student. That is the person who is responsible for getting to know each student in terms of all aspects of their pastoral care; that is the person parents normally contact first with a concern. Staff meet in groups every Tuesday to discuss the strengths of the students in their whanau classes, to look for patterns of absences or lateness, to discuss work levels, and changes in attitude and behaviour, and to make sure we are moving forward with each student in need.
We have our own systems for course selection and careers advice, reading support and special needs, vocational education, chaplaincy, and all the rest. And we have our support agencies: we have very good relationships with our Public Health Nurse (who understands the requirements of working in a Catholic environment), counselling services in the community, training organisations, vocational education providers, and all the other support groups in our community.
Pastoral Care is a cornerstone of Garin College - and we put a lot of time and energy into making sure we do everything possible to look after each of our students.
Te Wairua o nga Mahi Toi
The Spirit of Creation in the arts (An opening address by previous Head Teacher John Boyce)
Have you ever had the experience when something happens that tightens your diaphragm, closes your throat so that you can barely speak, and brings tears to your eyes?
When I look back at those moments in my life the flashes that have moved me have always been moments when I am experiencing beauty or something close to perfection.
Sometimes it is a moment of natural beauty – something not ordinary – something extra-ordinary.
It might be one of those perfect seconds when everything feels right:
- when a backline move works to perfection,
- a gymnastics routine is so good that it appears to be in slow motion,
- when a baby smiles or walks for the first time,
- or it might be a moment of artistic expression.
And the important instants in our lives also seem to be governed by emotion – birth and death, love and loss, getting or losing a job we really wanted.
Throughout the ages, people have experienced those moments of beauty – and been affected by them. The Romantic poet John Keats wrote that … Beauty is truth, truth beauty,- that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
He is saying that there is a real honesty in moments that move us – and in our response – and perhaps there is an honesty that is not always present at other times when our brains govern our perception and response to what we see and hear.
Eleven years ago our first dance/drama teacher Rebecca Reid, our Head of Arts Rebecca Monopoli, Arts coordinator Nicky Sowry, Head of RE Mr Mellor and I sat down to plan our first arts festival – something we hoped would give students the chance to be extra-ordinary and to see extra-ordinary events away from the routine of everyday school life. Our theme for 2002 reinforced that ideal: You are God’s work of art.
I thought we would end up with singing and music, dance and drama and speeches. But from that very first year we were stretching the boundaries: our Vinnies were looking for a fund-raiser and RAW (Recycled Art that is Wearable) became part of the arts festival.
Since then Mahi Toi has found new forms of creativity every year. Matua Simon Pimm came up with a title that fitted with the new Catholic school and our goal of being extraordinary: Te Wairua (the spirit of creation) o nga Mahi Toi (in the Arts).
We were to find other “wow!” instants in our sport, service, arts events and Journey – but Mahi Toi is still the main way we help you to find moments of beauty and wonder – moments beyond the ordinary.
That can only happen when a student takes a risk and gives us their very best performance – and that will only happen with a knowledgeable and supportive audience. The Arts are always a partnership between performer and audience.
For the next two days you are all partners in creativity and risk-taking. And if each one of us plays our part, we will all have moments where we will be amazed, moments of “where did that come from?” moments when a seemingly ordinary kid you thought you knew well does something wonderful.
For organising this event – thank you to the Arts faculty – and special thanks to the team of Rachelle Tomlin, Dan Moon, Kyle Proffit and Rosemary Dammerhan who have been here till midnight for the last few days. A big thank you to them: don’t let them down.
But don’t short-change yourself either: have a great and memorable Mahi Toi.
Leadership at Garin
There are three key principles as foundation for staff and student leadership at Garin:
1. Servant Leadership:
Jesus gave us the model when he knelt at the feel of his disciples, washed their feet and told then they could not be leaders if they were not willing to serve others. Garin leaders always strive to create opportunities for others to grow.
The evening meal was being served; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. … “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.
A servant leader is humble and willing to do the humble tasks.
But serving others in a leadership context is also about working to enable others to become better people. Many leaders see their role as “using people to get the job done”. In a Catholic context we need to reverse that. Leaders “use the work to get the people done!”
2. Participative leadership:
Leadership at Garin is not “top-down”. Everybody is a leader when they act on their conscience – and we try to provide opportunities for adults and students to participate in leadership. Instead of having a single head student, we have eight School Captains – a boy and girl in charge of Christian Service, the Arts, Sport, and Learning. We have a broad School Leadership Team of teachers too – and all staff have the opportunity of presenting a paper for consideration.
3. Kotahitanga (consensus):
We see voting as an adversarial form of decision-making, so we prefer to take a little more time to gain broad agreement before we act.
Bullying and Harassment
Garin parents and students are all aware that one of the things we work very hard at is bullying. Every school has bullying at times.
We see bullying as “repeated unwanted actions or words directed at another student or group of students”. Harassment is a form of bullying. So is sexual harassment. These behaviours are never acceptable in adults or younger people.
Adolescents are finding out about relationships, and they are strongly affected by their friends and peers they admire-and both of these factors mean that there will be times when things go wrong.
That excuses nothing, and you can always expect us to deal with bullying quickly.
Dealing with dysfunctional relationships is a key task in a school as we prepare our young people to take their places in the world-in the world of work, in positive relationships, and in the longer term for many students, in a marriage. People who are handicapped by an inability to form good relationships are handicapped in all of these key areas.
People make mistakes-and our normal first response is educational. We try to help both parties see what happened and why it happened (and try to make sure it won’t happen again). Jesus’ golden rule is frequently quoted:do unto others…
If we find that the problem has not gone away, we have to conclude that our coaching has not worked, and then we move to other consequences. One of the tests we watch for here is to make sure the person who did the bullying does not make the same mistake again by victimising the person who was the victim.
There are all sorts of student words we hear in this regard: words like narking or grassing. That assumes that it was the victim who has reported the problem-but that is not often the case. It is more often parents or friends. But if there is retaliation, it is clear that the bully has learnt nothing, and so we have to take the consequences to the next level. And that may well be a stand down or suspension.
Our students do not accept bullying behaviours; they know that all citizens are responsible for the quality of their environment. If a student (or an adult) sees people or property being damaged, they have two choices: they can
1. stop it - or
2. report it
The Strength of Catholic values
… a newsletter reflection by previous Head Teacher John Boyce
I don’t understand. Things are falling apart everywhere we look and no-one seems to have the answer. This week we heard about a brutal beheading, children bombed, riots, a popular actor’s suicide – terrible things.
Epidemic of hopelessness
Closer to home we all know lost children, family violence, drug use, depression …
Earlier this week I saw a beggar on the streets of Wellington with a sign that began “I’m hopeless.”
We see people misusing power and influence to re-create the world as they would like it.
We thank God when these things don’t affect us – but everything does affect us in some way: we get to live in uncertainty, with conflicting values all around us – and each of us knows people caught up in the consequences of crazy thinking and crazy actions.
There are answers – but they are unpopular, and would result in the overthrow of everything we may fear, but still feel comfortable in because it is the world we know.
What we want is peace; peace on earth certainly, but mostly peace within ourselves: the end of worry and fear and uncertainty.
Christianity (and Islam and Buddhism and any number of world religions and philosophies) provides an answer – and pretty much the same answer. Peace is the goal. The path is actually living the Way outlined by Jesus. Lip-service won’t do it. Half-hearted won’t do it.
And, unfortunately, living the Way surrounded and influenced by the power and imagery of the media, in the middle of a society that has been converted by consumerism and market forces is almost impossible.
That is why churches (and church schools) exist: to provide a tiny oasis of calm and support for people trying to live the Way Jesus showed us. Unfortunately churches are human institutions – and they too tend to slide back into ownership and control and accumulation. They too, often end up generating fear and resentment – the very things that kill the peace they seek.
Again we can thank God that we can repeatedly renew ourselves and our institutions. I think that is why John XXIII and now Francis are so loved: they pull us back from the dangerous whirlpool of worldly influences and remind us of our ideals.
I have come to believe that just about every emotional and psychological problem I see in children and adults is based on wrong thinking.
Our world teaches us, ramming it home, that we are not safe unless we have more, we cannot be loved unless we change the way we look, that outsiders want to manipulate and control us, that everybody envies and hates us. We are shown (and believe) that we live in a world of fear, mistrust, hatred. We believe that we are not good enough as we are.
So many people hate and fear the world they think they see about them. So many hate themselves because they have heard how inadequate and ugly and stupid they are.
Every year at this time I find myself quoting Marianne Williamson in what I believe is one of the best statements of Christian belief I have ever read. She says that we refuse to believe that we are created in God’s image – because that sounds too incredible : It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
I believe that too many of us just cannot accept that – and too many of our most sensitive young people have been sucked into the whirlpool of modern values – and that is eating away at us. This week I will try to give an answer – and show how a Catholic school tries to rebuild hope and purpose.
This week’s reflection comes in two parts: my touchstone – and then, what that means for us (and anyone who wants hope and peace).
For me, the key verse in the book of Genesis (and possibly the whole Old Testament) is that God created humankind in his own image; in the image of God he created us.
That verse is why I teach in a Church school. It is why I am Catholic. It is why I am a teacher. It drives everything I do and believe. As I said to students earlier this term, that does not mean (thank God) that God looks like me, or is limited to my intelligence. But I believe that it does mean that there is something in me that is Godlike – something that is part of God. And so Marianne Williamson is quite literal when she says: You are a child of God. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
Knowing that each of us is made in God’s image underlies everything Jesus taught us about how to live our lives. It is why we must love our neighbour (and our enemy) – who is, like us, God-like. It is why we must forgive our brothers and sisters.
It is why we must reject the values of the world – because the values of the world distract us away from truth. Jesus was tempted with stuff, with power and with fame. He refused to swim into the whirlpool. He explicitly rejected possessions, security, resentment, accumulation, money, and holding on to anger.
If we want peace, happiness and fulfilment, we need forgiveness, love and simplicity. It sounds easy and do-able – but our fear of scarcity and our resentment of people we imagine have slighted us are deeply engrained. Worse: our frantic brains have been conditioned by our world to scramble frantically after security and domination and control – the very things that destroy peace.
We seem to live in the disappointments and resentments of the past – or in our fears and fantasies for the future. Jesus was very clear about the need to live in the present moment where those things do not exist. (And they don’t: try it.)
That is what the Martha and Mary story tells us. That is the meaning of living for the day and asking for our bread one day at time. Jesus did not ask for a year’s supply: that would create problems. Today has enough problems of its own.
We live in the past – but think about it. Is there any way that the past still actually exists? It’s gone. But we keep trying to live there, replaying our resentments. The future is worse – not only does it not exist – but that is where we replay every imaginable fear from death and disfigurement to loneliness and poverty. Now is all there is – and the only safe place.
Jesus told us explicitly what to do to avoid the trap: we will be blessed if we do not judge, if we live simply, live quietly, live justly, show mercy, avoid temptation to follow the world’s ways, support the troubled and marginalised, make peace.
Jesus left us only one pass/fail assessment, only one way to be saved. We must love those who need love - our neighbour, especially the deprived, the lost, the sick, the imprisoned – because whatever we do for even one of them, we do for Jesus – very plain and explicit. We need to sow optimism and hope if we have any expectation of reaping that.
There are two reasons this is important: first, these people were also created by God in his image and so are part of us. But as well – this is the only way we can break free from the life-sucking whirlpool we live in. The only way we can detach ourselves from our fear and grudges.
So at Garin College we try to help each member of our community see themselves (and each other) as God sees each one of us: brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous. We believe in J.O.Y.: loving Jesus, loving Others, loving Yourself - no joy without JOY!
Problems always arise when we don’t accept that, and continue to live in the whirlpool.