The Pursuit of Excellence

Richard Dobrenov | Deputy Principal and Head of Senior School

“The Pursuit of Excellence is the Only Game a School Should be Willing to Play” – E.M. Swift

At a recent conference I attended, one of the main topics of conversation centred on the theme of teacher – student relationships and the notion of thinking and interacting beyond the square of the classroom.  In other words; the relationships a teacher develops outside the classroom have a dramatic impact on his/her relationships inside the classroom.  The recent COVID-19 restrictions have definitely highlighted the enormous impact teachers have both in and beyond the classroom.  From my own experience as a prac teacher and throughout my teaching career, the opportunity to interact with students outside the formal classroom context is critical in fostering the pursuit of excellence.

In a paper entitled “Sports in a School Curriculum: Four Postulates to Play By,” E.M. Swift recounts his days as a boarder at The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, U.S.A. and how the pursuit of excellence in both academics and sport plays a pivotal role in the development of our future leaders.  Swift graduated from College and went on to be one of Sports Illustrated’s leading journalists for over thirty years.  Throughout his paper, Swift explores the importance of the role of competitive sport in a school’s curriculum.  The idea that “sports are important, less for what they teach you rather than for what they allow you to discover for yourself,” certainly rings true with both school and club sport.

Too often the successes of Inter-School sport are blown way out of proportion and revisited time and time again in later years.  The negative moments of missing selection also stay with the competitors and the dark side of sport can be a young person’s first exposure to rejection.  This will not be the last time that they are exposed to rejection and Swift again points out that, “one can grow through failure just as easily as one can become stunted by success.”  The athlete who is physically dominant at a young age and relies solely on that aspect rather than continuing to develop and hone necessary skills, becomes ordinary by the age of fifteen. Competitive sport does more than teach character, it actually reveals character.  Those athletes who are full of bravado on one side of the sideline are often shown to be wanting once the blowtorch of competition is placed upon them.  Similarly; the quiet, shy types have a chance to come into their own and the student who struggles with fractions can show that his mathematic ability is merely a small part of who he really is.

Swift identified four basic tenets of competitive sport.  The first is that the rules are unassailable – there is a winner and a loser.  A batsman is safe or he is out, and a foul shot is made or it is missed.  There is very little grey involved in competitive sport and this is why teenagers in particular, cherish it.  There is no compromise or extenuating circumstances and accountability is premium.  Players who are tempted to break the rules must learn to weigh the risk of reward on a split-second basis.  In doing so the player also discovers that their mistakes have an impact on team members just as other team member mistakes impact on him/her.  The ideal of accountability is paramount in team sports just as in marriage or employment.  When a player argues with a referee they are saying that it is the referee who is at fault, rather than the player who has infringed.

Swift’s second tenant is that the purpose of the game is to win.  If the purpose is not to win then the game becomes an activity.  When playing a game with rules and where the score is kept, students should try their best to win.  As NFL coach and mentor Vince Lombardi once said, “That does not mean that you cheat to win, behave obnoxiously, or go into a deep funk if you lose.”   Attempting to win means that you respect your opponent and the sport that you are playing so much that you try your hardest through your own game plan to exploit your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses; all whilst playing within the parameters of the rules.

Thirdly, competitive sport provides us with some of our earliest lessons in learning to work with people we may not necessarily like.  In sharing a common goal, that is winning, actions on a sporting field replace words.  Your family background, race or religion has no impact on your ability to play the game and most importantly contribute to the team.  Players become mutually dependent on each other whether they like it or not.  This shared responsibility of teamwork cannot be taught in a classroom.  The nature of sport means that one person’s success is another’s failure – and sometimes you fail.  The feeling of letting your teammates down by dropping a catch or missing a tackle must be followed by the question of “What more could I have done?”  Unfortunately students at schools who are disengaged from the wide range of team based activities often become disenfranchised from the school’s ethos and fail to develop a sense of shared responsibility, a desire to not let the team down.  According to Swift, these are the students who rarely fulfil their true potential.

Finally Swift explores the relationship between coaches and their teams; in particular High School coaches.  According to Swift, the fundamental difference that exists between High School and College coaches is that “at the secondary level, most coaches are really educators who happen to spend their afternoons coaching.”  These men and women are not professional coaches (this is not their primary source of earning a living) and as such their self-esteem does not rise and fall with the win-loss ratio of the team.  The ideal coach takes his/her role seriously and coaches to win but the notion of student athlete is always kept in perspective.  “Everything has its own time and place, because all of it matters.”   The relationship of mutual respect and trust forged outside the classroom has enormous impact inside the classroom and as such improves learning outcomes.

At any level, sport is about the pursuit of excellence in a medium which is essentially trivial.  The attitude forged by pursuing excellence is what matters not the win/loss ratio or batting and bowling averages.  The journey is far more important than the final destination and as such the pursuit of excellence can be driven both inside and outside the classroom.  As Swift concludes, “once a young man or woman starts trying to be the best he or she can possibly be, it’s difficult to stop.”

Welcome Back! featured image

Welcome Back!

It was wonderful to welcome back our remaining students in Years 2-10 this week.  It has been fantastic to see and feel our campus come …

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Welcome Back!

It was wonderful to welcome back our remaining students in Years 2-10 this week.  It has been fantastic to see and feel our campus come to life once again as we return to some sense of normality.

Establishing routines and transitioning back in to school life does not come without challenge.  School TV have published a great video with some useful advice regarding transitioning back to school.

Check it out here: https://scotspgc.schooltv.me/wellbeing_news/special-report-coronavirus-transition-back

Message from our Chaplain featured image

Message from our Chaplain

Rev. Willie Liebenberg | Chaplain As the College Chaplain, praying for my community is something that comforts me as I try to comfort others.  Rest …

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Message from our Chaplain

Rev. Willie Liebenberg | Chaplain

As the College Chaplain, praying for my community is something that comforts me as I try to comfort others.  Rest assured, I have been praying for the SCOTS PGC community a lot throughout the last couple of months as we navigate the challenges a pandemic presents us with.

Prior to COVID-19, I had introduced weekly prayer gatherings here at the College.  As a community, it is important that we come together and pray.  It is something that I have missed during isolation and as soon as restrictions ease, I’m looking forward to resuming our weekly, informal gatherings.

Hebrews 10: 24 – 25, (NRSV, MSG), “Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not neglecting to meet together.”  So, why is it essential that we continue to meet as a community?  Gathering as a community is fun. I love nothing more than meeting as a group and enjoying the company of others.  A community like ours is one that fosters love.  A community like ours is life-giving.  I know it can be hard for some of us to commit our time to be part of a  community, but a community is God’s desire for us, and the exciting thing is, as we grow in our relationships with others, we will grow in our relationship with God.  Matthew 18: 20, “And when two or three of you are gathered because of me, you can be assured that I’ll be there.”  So, as soon as we are able to restart our weekly prayer group, I’m asking you to consider coming along and building up our community.   I will provide meeting details once again, as soon as I am able. So until then, please be safe and keep our community in your hearts and minds.

Stanthorpe Art Prize Glory featured image

Stanthorpe Art Prize Glory

Iggy King (Year 9) has become quite well known for his brilliant landscape photography.  We are proud to report that Iggy’s work continues to impress …

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Stanthorpe Art Prize Glory

Iggy King (Year 9) has become quite well known for his brilliant landscape photography.  We are proud to report that Iggy’s work continues to impress and he has recently been selected as a finalist in the Stanthorpe Art Prize 2020 show.

The Stanthorpe Art Prize attracts top artists from around the district and is a highly respected event.  The show offers $50,000 in prizes, which are awarded across 11 categories.  Iggy’s work, titled ‘Top of the Mountain’ is now in line for a slice of the prize pool.

Congratulations Iggy!

Virtual Cattle Judging featured image

Virtual Cattle Judging

Junior Judging Division Congratulations to Georgia Mulcahy in Year 7, who achieved a second place in her age group in the online cattle judging competition …

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Virtual Cattle Judging

Junior Judging Division

Congratulations to Georgia Mulcahy in Year 7, who achieved a second place in her age group in the online cattle judging competition run by Target Livestock Marketing.

Students were required to review video content and place 3 classes of cattle.  An oral reasoning video was also required as part of their entry.  Georgia scored 177/200 to achieve her second place, but her oral reasoning video was the best in her age group, scoring 43/50.

Dan Hughes (Year 9) also submitted a great video and is to be commended for his efforts.

From the Boarding Houses…

Junior Boys Boarding – Welcome back boys! Mr Tom Bradbury  | Acting Head of Junior Boys Boarding It is with great pleasure that I have …

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From the Boarding Houses…

Junior Boys Boarding – Welcome back boys!
Mr Tom Bradbury  | Acting Head of Junior Boys Boarding

It is with great pleasure that I have taken on the Junior Boys Boarding duties for Term 2. On Sunday, the lads started to arrive from near and far to resume their educational journey with us here at SCOTS PGC.

Fortunately, there were few tears, mostly mum’s, as the boys entered this new and socially distanced world of boarding. By Sunday evening Cameron, Will, Owen E, Mac M, Nash, Lachlan, Cooper, Mac L, Anthony, Kolby and Owen W were all in house ready to resume their studies. The effervescent George joined us on Monday and we welcomed a new student, Nelson Madua, on Thursday evening. We are just awaiting the return of Douglas on Sunday to complete the puzzle.

The boys seem to have settled very quickly engaging in activities and applying themselves during study, at most times. Mr Derek Kane and Mr Phil Strang round out our staff for the lads in Junior Boys Boarding, and we are looking forward to the negotiating this post isolation period with the boys as best we can.

I must say in the first week I have been very impressed with the leadership and application shown by the Year 8 boys who have truly been excellent role models for the younger students.

 

Hello from Hawkins House (Home of Senior Boys)

Mr Fraser Bolton | Head of Senior Boys Boarding

It is wonderful to have most of our boarders back! Our boarding house has been filled with laughter and excitement since their return.  We have also welcomed Year 9 boarders to Hawkins House, to allow our Junior boys to spread out a little easier in Cunningham House.  All boys have displayed an excellent attitude to coping with our ‘new normal’.

We are working hard on ensuring that our boarders are back on track with their learning as quickly as possible. As such we have put individual learning schedules in place for our returning boarders in Years 9-10 to provide some additional support.

While classroom learning is important, it has been great to see our boarders enjoying some downtime, too. In addition to some of the usual afternoon activities, our boys have also discovered a newfound love for golf and tennis. The courts and College golf course have been frequented most afternoons.

This weekend we are all looking forward to a hearty Sunday BBQ breakfast, but before Sunday comes around, the boys are keen to relax with some footy of the TV as the NRL returns to screens this week.  All in all, a great week with (almost) everyone back on deck.

 

Girls Boarding – An update from Week 5
Molly Turnbull and Heidi Robson | Captain and Vice Captain of Girls Boarding

It was a strange experience being part of the house without all of our girls back at boarding in week 5 – it felt a little empty.  Nevertheless, our first week with just the seniors back was a time we enjoyed.

We enjoyed spending time with Miss Woodbine, who introduced us all to her dog and we all took turns in taking her for a walk.

Last weekend, Heidi, Mya and Charmaine made chicken kievs for us all for dinner, whilst Molly and Arena made chocolate mousse for dessert. The rest of the girls dressed up for dinner. Miss Woodbine and Miss Berriman joined Ms Clark and ourselves for a lovely meal, after spending the afternoon with the girls doing hair and makeup.  To finish a perfect evening, Shona played the piano for us all and we sang hits from the Greatest Showman, the Titanic, Elton John and Abba.

Sunday morning saw Heidi, Molly, Erin, Eleanor, Emily and Molly prepare a lovely barbeque breakfast that consisted of bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs, mushrooms and pancakes (successfully cooked in the sandwich maker – a skill that we will all no doubt remember for future cooking.)

After breakfast we enjoyed a group yoga session (Thanks to Rachel for organising) and relaxed for the remainder of our weekend.  Despite a lovely time, it wasn’t the same without the other girls – and we are so glad to have them back now!

 

Important Information for Parents featured image

Important Information for Parents

ATTENDANCE & ABSENTEES Any absentees or general attendance (i.e. medical appointments) information for your child should be emailed to attendance@scotspgc.com.au Alternatively, you can phone 07 …

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Important Information for Parents

ATTENDANCE & ABSENTEES

Any absentees or general attendance (i.e. medical appointments) information for your child should be emailed to attendance@scotspgc.com.au

Alternatively, you can phone 07 4666 9839 or 07 4666 9811. Please leave a message if the line is unattended.

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As per the communication sent home to parents last week, it is important to note that the College is committed to keeping our families safe whilst they are on site.  Student drop off and pick up times present an increased risk of transmission of COVID-19 and it is important that any congregation of students and families in this time is minimised.

Please familiarise yourself with the following before and after school arrangements for all sub schools:

JUNIOR SCHOOL – Before and After School Arrangements  

All Junior School students should be dropped at the Junior School steps.  Staff members and Year 5 student leaders will be on duty each day to welcome the students and ensure they safely make their way into the Junior School areas.  As is our normal arrangements, students must not arrive at the College before 8.15am as there is no supervision available.

At the conclusion of the school day, students will be walked to the Junior School steps to be collected.  Parents are asked to meet them at this location and wait at the bottom of the stairs, not outside their classrooms or in the Prep play area.

Parents and carers should not enter classroom or office spaces unless they have arranged an appointment with their child’s teacher.  Parents can continue to make contact with staff via SEQTA or by phoning College Reception and leaving a message.

 

SENIOR AND MIDDLE SCHOOL – Before and After School Arrangements  

Senior and Middle School students should arrive and depart from their normal locations, with parents and carers remaining in cars wherever possible.  As is our usual arrangements, students must not arrive at the College before 8.15am as there is no supervision available.

Parents and carers should not enter classroom or office spaces unless they have arranged an appointment with their child’s teacher.  Parents can continue to make contact with staff via SEQTA or by phoning College Reception and leaving a message.