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Being An Authentic Community

One of the frequent words that I find myself using in either talking about our hopes for our school or describing my experiences about the school is the word ‘community’. Here at Ambrose Treacy College we have a sincere aspiration that our school can go beyond what a school offers and to be a community, an authentic community.

The Powerhouse Program for Dads

By choosing the concept of community I would hope that here at the College we can be people who are drawn together around a common goal, who share common values and who have a shared commitment to work together and support each other. Last Monday evening I was fortunate to share an experience that I found was all I could hope for as a Principal of a school that hopes that we are building community. The event was the fourth Monday evening gathering of the Dads’ Network. While I will not attempt to do justice to think I could talk about all the topics covered in the program, I would like to just share my experiences on what I felt during the night.

On Monday evening I experienced a very unique atmosphere; unique in that the audience that gathered were all Dads of ATC students. In the busy world that we all experience I haven’t often seen a gathering of over sixty Dads at a school event, unless of course there was some major focus around sport or the like. There was no direct mention of sport nor was there an intention to focus on sport, rather the focus was on how everyone could reflect on being better fathers in their families. No doubt many fathers were there initially because their wives potentially arranged for them to be there. (I hope I am not presumptuous in this claim – a number of Dads had revealed this to me) But the Dads I witnessed at the meeting were not there under protest rather there as a part of a ‘community’. One dad did mention that his initial thought was that he was going to be taught how to be a better father, and that he may be given a list of things he had to do to be a better father. He said that this was not the case, but rather they were challenged to look at themselves as a part of the process and that they collectively discovered within themselves things that would allow them to be the fathers they wanted to be. A big part of this was taking time to ‘see’ and understand their sons better and to look at themselves and ‘see’ and understand how they were reacting to this.

What was probably the most powerful aspect in the experience for me was to see a group of Australian males do something that was perhaps very atypical for Australian males, they talked and shared about how they felt in various scenarios. It is my experience that most men don’t verbalise about how they feel in some circumstances and particularly with people they may not know that well. As part of these evenings in an effort to discover how to be better fathers, I heard fathers share in small groups the feelings they had in particular experiences they had, and equally importantly reflect on the feelings they suspect the people that they were dealing with had at the time as well. Using the power of ‘I’ statements, I witnessed something for me that is often sadly not the stereotype our society has of the quite stoic and at times often tough Australian male. The fact that this happened I believe was because we didn’t have a group of fathers randomly gathered, rather we had fathers who saw themselves as a part of a community who could comfortably listen and support each other.

There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child, and there was a lot of that saying in what I experienced last Monday night. Will this small gathering of Dads guarantee that they will all be better fathers? No I am not that naive to believe in silver bullets, but what I do suspect is that the fathers there will be more aware of themselves as people, more in touch in understanding the situation they are in when working with their children and in particular their sons and more open to reflect on knowing what they do may in fact not be helping the situation. Importantly I suspect that another important learning is the knowledge they are not alone in knowing that being a father is not always easy and that many other fathers share how hard and frustrating it can be at times. I suspect that this series of evenings has created somewhat of a community that shares this important task. I would like to thank one of our fathers, Andy Roy who has led these gatherings. Andy is very passionate about the power of community and how we can learn and support each other. From what I experienced on Monday evening he is obviously a very skilled facilitator and I appreciate that he has been willing to help us build community here at the College.

Say No to Bullying

This Friday we highlight the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. The school has a very strong stance towards bullying and we strongly believe that every boy has a right to feel safe at school and everyone has a role to play that this fundamental right is lived in our community. In our College Anti-Bullying Policy which is accessible to all parents though our SEQTA portal we define Bullying as ‘repeated oppression, psychological or physical, of a less powerful person by a more powerful person and it occurs when someone or a group of people, upset or create a risk to another person’s health and safety, or their property, reputation or social acceptance.’ While this is our official definition as David Farrington describes, in simple terms bullying is repeated intimidation of a person using actions or words.

Our strong stance on bullying is predicated on the basic beliefs that:
Every individual has value in our community
Every individual has the right to feel safe from bullying or harassment in all forms
Every conflict can be resolved. Victims and aggressors both need help to resolve conflict
Every individual in a community is responsible for the safety of other individuals in our community
Every individual in our community is responsible for ensuring that other individuals in that community can reach their potential in a supportive and non-threatening environment.
Here at the College we have decided to take on the analogy of bystanders and upstanders in the way we deal with bullying here at the College. For you as parents to be able to engage your sons in any discussion around bullying I would like to share with you some of the messages your son might hear when we are talking about bullying and in particular the messages about being a bystander and an upstander. Our language conveys that bystanders contribute to the problem whilst upstanders contribute to the solution and work to stop the problem of bullying. Research shows that others speaking out or taking action stops bullying behaviour over half the time within seconds! We talk about that there are different types of bystanders.

Some participate in starting the bullying
Some laugh or give attention to the bullying thereby encouraging it
Some join in the bullying once is started
Some are silent – this silence is most often misinterpreted by the bully as support for the bullying and interpreted by the victim as betrayal and support for the bully
We also hope that our students hear us say that it takes courage to be an upstander. Upstanders are people who do something that prevents or reduces the bullying they see, or people who come to the aid of another person who is being bullied by showing them kindness. Being an upstander is based around action and we hope that the students are hearing the message that an upstander can:

Take action by telling the bully to stop
Take action by getting others to stand up with them to the bully
Take action by helping the victim
Take action by shifting the focus and redirecting the bully away from the victim
Take action by telling an adult who can help

Ultimately becoming an upstander does take courage, it requires us to physically do something (to take action!), it requires us to be assertive, it requires us to be compassionate in that we can see the hurt, pain in other people and ultimately it takes leadership. As one of our key touchstones, we say that all our students are called to be leaders, and that all students have the capacity to be leaders. This is not about having a badge or a position, it is about understanding the values we as a community aspire to live and seeing when there are examples of behaviour that works in opposition to this. By its nature, bullying very rarely happens when teachers or adults are present, so our success in dealing with any instances of bullying is dependent on the actions of those present to allow us as a community to address it.
I would encourage all parents to be become more familiar with our Anti-Bullying Policy as we work together to provide an environment that is safe for everyone and a community that positively acts to address instances of bullying. Whilst I would hope that the instances of bullying at the College are low, I am realistic to believe that we are not immune to instances of bullying; any school community who claim that bullying doesn’t exist in their school has either their heads in the sand or a culture where students are afraid to speak up. My philosophy is not one of doom and gloom rather it is based around us wanting to be a community that faces up to an issue and tries to empower all in the community to be a part of the solution rather than being part of the problem. In my eyes a good school is not one that says that there is no bullying at the school rather a good school is prepared and willing to do something when actions like bullying rear their ugly heads.

School Traffic

To avoid disruption in the operation of the College, over the upcoming school holidays we will be installing speed humps at both ends of the new student pick up and set down area. I would like to gently remind parents that all our internal roads are shared zones and in that we need to reduce the speed we travel through the grounds. More recently I have had a number of parents indicate to me that they are alarmed at the speed that some drivers will travel through this setdown area. If we all adopt a simple understanding that it is our students and your sons that use these area, we can all be more careful in this regard. We have just reinstalled the old Nudgee Junior sign “Caution Boys Being Boys” in the entrance to the new drop off zone. I would hope that all drivers would see this as a pointed reminder for us to slow down and care for our students (your sons) because by their nature boys can be a little unpredictable and that we as drivers need to share this responsibility to look out for them.

Mr Michael Senior, Principal