St Anne’s celebrated its 142nd birthday yesterday with a varied programme that included a Chapel Service, a lunchtime concert that involved visiting musicians from DSG and St Andrew’s College in Makhanda (Grahamstown), and an interhouse general knowledge quiz, to name just a few of the day’s activities. As has become our custom, we also used this opportunity to focus on National Women’s Day, the reason for today’s public holiday.
Mrs Ghemma Wylde joined our staff at the beginning of the term in the role of Head of Visual Art, and I am delighted that she is already building meaningful relations with her pupils and adapting to her new environment as quickly as she is. Please refer to the accompanying introduction of Ghemma.
We were saddened to receive the news over the weekend of the passing of Mrs Anne Brand, a popular and much-respected member of our Mathematics Department until the end of 2015. Anne positively impacted on the lives of so many people, especially her pupils, during her tenure at St Anne’s.
The Grade 12 Trial Examinations, Grade 9 Great Adventure, Grade 10 Chanel Ball and other out-of-the-ordinary events can so easily push up the reading on our pupils’ “Anxiety Barometers”. This gave me cause to address the topic of anxiety with the girls during the course of this week. The following extracts from what I shared with them may be of interest to you:
“Robert Burton, a neurologist and novelist, explains that our brains reward us with dopamine when we have that “aha” moment, at that special moment when we recognise and complete patterns. Stories are patterns. The brain recognises the familiar beginning-middle-end structure of a story and rewards us for clearing up any ambiguity. Unfortunately, the brain rewards us for a good story – one with clear good guys and bad guys – regardless of the accuracy of the story.”
So, influenced by human nature, we can become a little creative with our stories. ……. this is particularly true when we don’t have sufficient information ….when there is an absence of data.
Brené Brown, one of my favourite authors and commentators on human nature, in one of her books, Dare to Lead, uses the term “confabulation” which she explains as replacing missing information with something false that we believe to be true, in other words, lies honestly told. This leads to …… what we believe to be factual information but which is really just our own opinion.
Since my student days when I studied psychology, I have, perhaps somewhat simplistically, viewed anxiety as a reaction to “thinking that there is a lion in your room” as opposed to fear which is related to “knowing that there is a lion in your room”.
Brown asks two useful questions that relate to anxiety:
- “Do I have enough information to freak out about this situation?”
- “If I do have enough data, will freaking out help?”
Anxiety is often linked to confabulation.
Brown says that when we deny a story and when we pretend we don’t make up stories, the story owns us. It drives our behaviour, and it drives our cognition, and then it drives even more emotions until it completely owns us. Own the story and you get to write the ending. Deny the story and it owns you.
When it comes to ourselves, Brown says that the three most dangerous stories we make up are the narratives that diminish our lovability, our divinity and our creativity. She goes on to provide three reality checks.
#1 A reality check around lovability: “Just because someone isn’t willing or able to love us, doesn’t mean that we are unlovable.”
#2 A reality check around divinity: “No person is ordained to judge our divinity or to write the story of our spiritual worthiness.”
#3 A reality check around creativity: (This may be of particular relevance to those of you who have not been, or will not be, awarded a certain prize, chosen for a certain team, appointed to a certain position, etc. – my insert) “Just because we don’t measure up to some standard of achievement doesn’t mean that we don’t possess gifts and talents that only we can bring to the world. And just because someone fails to see the value in what we can create or achieve doesn’t change its worth or ours.”
The decision-making process involving Grade 9 pupils and their parents regarding the girls’ subject choices for the senior phase of their high school career can also cause much anxiety. I would like to remind you that St Anne’s is well equipped to assist pupils and parents through this process, and is committed to doing so. Mrs Lizelle van Niekerk, Head of our Counselling Department is an experienced, well qualified psychometrist whose assistance in this process is part of our school offering that involves no extra costs. While I am not saying that there is never an instance where the involvement of an outside professional may be necessary, I do think that anxiety on the part of parents and Grade 9 pupils often leads to the unnecessary involvement of these professionals. There are obviously certain mistakes that you want to avoid and doors you don’t want to close at this early stage, but please remember that we are dealing with a choice of school subjects, not career options. Career guidance specialists have an important role to play but St Anne’s would recommend that you involve these specialists, if considered necessary, at a later stage when options of tertiary studies are being considered.
In 2017, St Anne’s adopted a specific Anti-Racism Policy that was brought to the attention of our College community at the time. In the wake of the recent racist shootings in the USA, I thought it pertinent to draw your attention to the Policy, which reads as follows:
ST ANNE’S DIOCESAN COLLEGE
According to Genesis 1: 27, “God created humankind in his own image”. The Apostle Paul states that “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3: 28) Jesus himself instructed us to “love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13: 34)
Based on the faith that is the foundation of our College, we believe that breaking down peoples’ dignity based on how they have been created degrades the image of God that they carry. It also maligns the God behind the image. Judging, condemning and rejecting people on grounds that have no consequence in scripture stands in direct opposition of Christ’s instruction.
Racism thus has no place at St Anne’s and, if and when it is found, corrective action will be taken to root it out. Any attempt to downplay, minimise or in some way tolerate the issue of racism, breaches the fundamental identity of St Anne’s, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and the Christian faith, and will therefore not be entertained.
(With acknowledgement to a statement made on 2 August 2017 by the Bishop of Johannesburg, The Right Revd Dr Steve Moreo.)
Enjoy your Half Term.
“It is impossible for anyone to begin to learn that which he thinks he already knows.”
INTRODUCING THE TEAM
GHEMMA WYLDE, Head of Visual Art
We are thrilled to welcome Mrs Ghemma Wylde who has joined us to head up the Art Department. In her spare time, Ghemma loves to make art, read and spend time gardening at her home in Pietermaritzburg. She is married to Chris and together they have two children, Luke and Mali.
She shared some of her impressions of the college so far:
“I have been so warmly and sincerely welcomed into the school by the staff and by the girls. In the first week it was very evident that the school is committed to creating a space in which every person here feels like they belong and are valued. I feel fortunate to be part of a school that is so deliberate in this endeavour. I have joined a thriving department in a very beautiful space and I am really looking forward to getting to know everyone better.”