06 Mar Grandparenthood and Guiding Principals
Dr Long announces the establishment of Woodstock’s Guiding Principles, along with a new arrival to his family.
I never saw it coming! I’d thought about it – but it was always something I imagined many years away. When the day finally came, nothing could have prepared me for the emotion! It began with a phone call from my daughter, Alice. “Dad,” she said, “you’re going to be a grandfather!”
My first feelings were of immense joy… quickly followed by sheer panic! A grandfather? Me? But I’m too young! A quick search on the internet revealed that the average age of the first-time grandparent is only 49. What a relief! Feelings of alarm lifted immediately! Mrs Long added a more sobering thought when she told me that she didn’t mind being a grandmother at all – it was the prospect of being married to a grandfather that worried her!
And so it was that four-weeks ago little Molly came into the world – a tiny nine-pound bundle of life. Holding her in my arms fulfilled the wisdom that grandparents have all the pleasure and none of the anxiety. Pope Benedict XVI once said that that grandparents “offer little ones the perspective of time; they are a treasure, the memory and heritage of families.”
Being so close to a new life reframes old questions. Many times, over the years, I’ve asked myself, “what do parents most wish for their children?” Research tells us that most parents wish for their children happiness. I agree with that. It’s exactly what I have wished for my own children. I know it’s probably what you wish for your children too. And I wish it for little Molly.
Wishes like dreams need toil to make the wish come true – and they need a plan to give life to what we hope for. Here at Woodstock we also wish happiness for our students. Not a superficial happiness which is often only a passing emotion. We mean the happiness which comes from the experience of living life to the full and finding meaning in what we do.
Over the last two-years we’ve been developing a set of Guiding Principles drawn from the school’s foundational documents. We wanted something which would keep us focused on the right things. We wanted these principles to define an approach which would allow our students to find the true happiness we all wish for our children.
While this is the first time our guiding principles have been documented in this way, I believe that the sentiment running through them will be very familiar to our alumni community. These beliefs are not new to us, but have been held dear for many generations of Woodstockers. By recording them, what we hope to have created is a practical way of using these principles to guide our decision making, and ensure consistency in these convictions into the future.
These principles are meant to ensure that nothing that is done here is haphazard. Whenever new problems or questions arise we must ask ourselves. “Is the solution proposed consistent with our guiding principles?” These principles challenge Woodstock to focus on five key themes in order to give our students the best possible education. Here’s a summary:
- Pursue wholeness: the education we offer is not only about academic excellence. We must not be a school which has a narrow focus on grades or results as the sole indicator of a successful education. We are passionate about helping young people to find emotional, spiritual and physical wholeness as well as achieving academic success.
- Seek well-being: The World Health Organization defines this as “…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Well-being is, in fact, the process of achieving one’s full potential. We want our students to find well-being in all areas of their lives by valuing trust, truth, personal responsibility and responsible decision-making.
- Elicit greatness: “Eliciting Greatness” is the title of Woodstock’s educational philosophy. It describes an education which allows young people to discover the greatness they have within them. It is about recognising that there is always more in us than we realise. It encourages us to reach high, to find our potential and to be the very best that we can be in every area of life.
- Value compassion: All of us do better when we feel loved, cared for and supported. It begins by being able to “feel” ourselves in other peoples’ shoes and to see things from others’ points of view. It allows us to make mistakes and to learn from them. It reminds us that maintaining good relationships and working hard to restore them when they break is terribly important.
- Tread lightly on the earth: This principle compels us to model a responsible approach to the natural environment in the allocation of every resource. We value approaches to life which appreciate the simple and frugal as opposed to the ostentatious or extravagant.
Pursue wholeness, seek well-being, elicit greatness, value compassion and tread lightly on the earth. These are the principles which sum up the Woodstock approach. They are principles enshrined in the teachings of Jesus and other great teachers. They are principles which will shape every student’s education here. They are principles we wish to be held accountable to. And as a new grandfather, they are certainly the principles I hope will prove reliable guides to Molly as she sets out on this miraculous adventure we call life!
Dr Jonathan Long, Principal