Monday, 30 March 2015

Birthday visits to the Principal's Office, and thankfulness (2015 Term 1 Week 10)

Each year I have a standard question to prompt discussions with students when they come to see me for their birthday card and present. It isn't always easy to formulate a question that will work equally well for students in Kindergarten, Year 7 and Year 12. In addition, getting conversation out of some students is like drawing water from a stone, whereas others just need the slightest nudge to open a hydrant of words. In past years I have asked students to tell me the best thing about the school, something we need to change, what they are doing with computers for learning, and other such gambits.

Image result for kinder surprise

This year, following on from some reading about the value of thankfulness and gratitude in developing resilience (see here and here), I have been asking the students to identify something for which they are thankful. It has been fascinating to note the themes that are emerging. Despite the fact that I am asking around the time of their birthdays, when one suspects that presents and parties are priorities, very few students nominate those things. The most common response is to look towards relationships, whether family or friends. Many reflect on the privileges that they enjoy, whether material blessings or the opportunity for education or health. Many also express thankfulness for those who care for them, with particular reference (at least in my office!) to the teachers who work so hard on their behalf. I must say, it has been greatly encouraging to listen to our young ones; the absence of entitlement and self-centredness is heartwarming.

I am not surprised that the field of positive psychology and its child, positive education, is affirming the importance of thankfulness. My conviction is not just that the Christian faith is (objectively) true, but that it (subjectively) works in the human experience; the Scriptures continually call us to be characterised by thankfulness. The fundamental human response to God ought to be to acknowledge him and be thankful to him; tragically, we are prone to ignore him and be thankless. As Dostoyevsky put it, "I believe the best definition of man is the ungrateful biped." Bart Simpson shows us the biped in action!

However, thankfulness or gratitude are inherently healthy and helpful attitudes for us to cultivate. They lead us away from focussing on ourselves, they help us to focus on good things, and they help us to engage well with those on whom we are interdependent. Building a culture of thankfulness in our school and cultivating gratitude as a habitual mindset in our young people is one way to equip them for life. Even something as inconsequential as a birthday visit with the Principal is an opportunity for learning!

Speaking of thankfulness, I know that most of the students and teachers are thankful to have made it to the final week of term, with a promise of rest coming up in the Easter break. As always, it has been a busy time. Around 130 students have started school at Inaburra this year. Kindergarten have nearly finished their first term at school - most will have another 50 terms to go! Year 12 are slogging through their half-yearly exams as I write; their journey of school education is drawing to a close. The term has been full of learning, sport, performance, excursions, assessments and the many other elements that combine to constitute a term in the life of the school. My hope and prayer is that your children, and you, are able to be thankful for Term 1 2015, as well as for the approaching rest.

Finally, while Easter promises a break, chocolate, time with family and friends and many other good things, remember that it promises hope. The impetus that supercharged the small group of dispirited Jews following the death of their teacher Jesus was their conviction that God had raised him from the dead. In Jesus, God demonstrated that he would bring light from darkness and life from the grave. Whatever you do this Easter, don't miss the great hope that death does not have the final word.

God bless

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