From the Principal’s Desk – Week 4

Mrs Mary Anne Evans

Mrs Mary Anne Evans

Welcome to NEGS’ News. This week, and not unusually, I received a letter thanking the School for the fact that three young NEGS’ girls (under the watchful eye of Ms Ingrid Steddy) attended St Peter’s Cathedral on Mother’s Day, to hand out a small gift to each mother. The letter went on to say “It was such a wonderful surprise and a beautiful gesture…these young ladies who obviously went to great effort to care for mothers they don’t even know…they touched the hearts of all the mothers at our church”.

I share this insight with you because, beyond the signs and advertisements, the lived experience of coming to school at NEGS must be an enriching experience for each student, but it must also reflect the values that we espouse and the culture that we are committed to building. In the instance listed above this certainly seems to be the case.

Last week, significantly, was National Boarding Week. It was an opportunity to celebrate what boarding means in our school and what boarding means for those students who board, their families and the staff who support them. Our very origins as a school are based upon Florence Green’s vision of NEGS as a boarding school for girls from the bush i.e. regional and remote areas of NSW and Queensland.

In 2018, we remain true to this vision, but in a contemporary fashion. NEGS continues to be a proud boarding school, rather than a school that has boarders. A healthy, vibrant boarding community is at the heart of our decision-making at the School. The growing demand for Boarding places from families across Australia is also a healthy sign. There is no better training in resilience than letting your daughter experience boarding. A gift for life.

With the controversial sitting of the NAPLAN examinations nationwide last week, NEGS was among the first schools nationwide to transition to NAPLAN Online. Indeed we were the only private school in Armidale chosen to participate in NAPLAN Online. Significant planning, development, research and trialling have been ongoing under the watchful gaze of Mr Tony Jones, Director of Teaching & Learning, to get NEGS to this point and apart from minor hiccups, it appeared to be an overwhelming success.

Whatever one’s personal view is of NAPLAN, it is important that the data generated ultimately makes a difference in the classroom – to the learning of individual students and to the pedagogy of the individual teacher. At NEGS, we will continue to seek to use NAPLAN data, as well as data from other sources, for these purposes and to measure improvement over time.

Friday was the AGM of the NEGS Board. The work of the School Board is largely unseen, and yet it is vital to the overall governance and stewardship of the School. Board members give of their professional skills and personal capabilities to serve the needs of the School in a voluntary capacity. To the members of the School Board – Mr John Cassidy AO, Ms Fiona Campbell-Wright, Mrs Erica Halliday, Dr Alex Ball, Mr Chris Hancock and Mrs Rebecca Cadzow, and on behalf of the School, I would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude for all that you do – we are deeply grateful.

Looking forward, we have our Year 9 Survival Camp, Coonabarabran Horse Expo, NSW Hockey Player Pathway trials, the School K-12 Athletics Carnival, musical recitals/productions, winter sports, Park Run, the NEGS Winter Ball and a myriad of other activities and occasions. In considering these many events, there is always the need to remind ourselves, and the students, that at the core of all of this activity must be productive, engaging learning and teaching. This is the daily work for a good school. Our students are expected to learn, with guidance from parents and teachers, how to manage the demands of their school work, as well as their participation in a rich co-curricular program.

Overwhelmingly the 2018 school year has started very well. Along with the students, we need to build upon this strong foundation and seek further enhancement, in small ways as well as large, in all that we do.

Finally, I have attached for your interest an adaptation of an article published in “The Washington Post” that caught my eye. I felt it had relevance to all of us as we attempt to be the very best parents we can be. I hope you all find it as interesting as I did.


The compelling case for being an ‘intentionally lazy’ parent

By Scott Lutostanski April 10

Last year, I was working with Charlie, a typical kid. He was a bright student, taking a few honors classes and scoring around the 90th percentile on standardized tests. He ran cross-country in the fall and played lacrosse in the spring. He had a group of close buddies that he hung out with most weekends. But every Wednesday when we met, he shared different variations of the same problem: a test that he bombed because he forgot to study, a missing piece of equipment for lacrosse that caused him to sit out of practice, a paper that he procrastinated writing until really late on Sunday so he had to pull an all-nighter, or a completed homework assignment that he forgot to bring to school.

As bright as he was, Charlie was underperforming academically.

Like many kids, Charlie was struggling with executive functioning, a neurological skill set that is critical for academic, job and relationship success. The skills are mainly controlled by the frontal lobe of our brains — the part that allows us to set and work toward goals, regulate our emotions, solve problems and make decisions. Recent research suggests these skills can predict success as much as, if not more than, an individual’s intelligence.

Parents, teachers and professionals are all trying to help kids build their executive function skills, asking questions such as, “How can we support and develop students’ abilities in these areas?” Educators are being taught strategies and interventions to incorporate the skills in their classrooms: posting schedules, making to-do lists and providing outlines or organization checks and rubrics that detail assignment requirements. This is a crucial step — but parents need a framework to reinforce these skills at home.

That framework is what I call “Intentional Laziness Parenting.” Essentially, it means to deliberately be disengaged. This may sound counterintuitive, but it gives children the independence to try, do, and maybe even fail a little, on their own. And intentional laziness parenting is not actually lazy at all. It’s difficult and requires both mental and physical determination from the parent.

Executive function skills include organization, time management, planning, thinking flexibly, paying attention and emotional regulation. The average fifth-grade student isn’t directly taught how to keep track of her assignments, plan a night’s worth of work and then complete the task. They’re expected to know how to do this, or to figure it out. Similarly, students are rarely taught how to plan a large project over a six-week period, or even how to pack, prepare and plan for a busy day of school, sports practice and dinner at Grandma and Grandpa’s.

Unfortunately, executive function skills aren’t generally practiced. With other activities, there is an intense focus on skills. Serious tennis players have a swing coach. Singers work with a voice coach. Football teams watch hours of film to strategize how to beat an opponent. Musicians rehearse the same piece of music over and over, spending extra time on sticky spots. Most people don’t think of organization and time management as skills that can be practiced and improved, but they are.

Intentional laziness parenting allows children to practice and develop those skills. It means that parents can’t function as their child’s frontal lobe. Instead of doing things for children, parents need to structure activities or tasks to push the child to take ownership. Rather than jumping in and rescuing a child, parents need to thoughtfully plan a structured starting point and then step back — and be intentionally lazy.

Another possible lesson would be allowing a child to prepare for a weekend away at the lake with her friend’s family. They’re going to leave Friday right after school, so she needs to pack a bag for the weekend and bring it to school. It would only take a few minutes for a parent to pack a bag for her. But an intentionally lazy parent would do things differently. There are a few options for providing the bunny slope here. One would be to have her make a list of everything she’ll need (or even have her dictate a list that the parent can write). Or the parents could have her lay everything out on the floor before packing it so they can make sure she has what she needs. These options introduce the possibility for mistakes and errors, but they also require a child to organize a list, plan a weekend’s worth of items and then pack.

Intentional laziness parenting requires forethought, planning and self-control. Coincidentally, these are the skills it is intended to develop in children. Despite the negative-sounding name, it’s a way for parents to strategically remove themselves from a situation, promote executive function skill development, foster independence and ultimately create patterns that will lead children to more success later in life.