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Bringing Balance and Making Time for Parenting

During the week as I was rushing across the campus for another meeting, I briefly chatted with a teacher who was similarly busily moving across the campus. As we reached our destination, I caught myself as I was about to make a comment about how busy it was as the end of term approached and our exam period kicked in.

I paused because the reality hit me – life is now constantly busy and the end of term is no longer a discernibly busier period. The new educational frameworks aim to de-emphasise the pressure of exams, unfortunately in some ways it has just spread the ‘heavy’ times across the whole of the term and in fact the whole year. Perhaps in trying to mediate one concern, another has been created.

Whilst my reference is just relating to one aspect of school life, it doesn’t take much elaboration to transfer this similar thought across most aspects of our lives. I doubt there are many parents who don’t feel that life is just getting incredibly busier, and time for anything is getting scarcer and scarcer. So how do we bring balance to our lives and importantly make sure we have time for our most important role – parenting our children and forming these young people into the young adults that we hope for?

The reality is that parenting teenagers has never been more challenging and that supporting students and teenagers in a modern school has also never been more challenging. Regardless of how hard it is, it is our greatest responsibility. A quote from Joyce Maynard reminds us that what we do will often be more important than what we say.

Rather than being despondent, I am reminded that we don’t have to do this ‘parenting thing’ in isolation. Never has the saying that it takes a village to raise a child been more relevant. Never has there been a greater need for parents and teachers to work together bonded around common values that underpin what we do with, in our case, with the young men we are entrusted with. During the week at our two Orientation Days for new Junior School and Middle School families, I reminded our new families that it was important that they understood that we were looking to welcome them into a community rather than just a school. In many ways it was as Terry Tempest Williams expressed in her thoughts that ‘I have inherited a belief in community, the promise that a gathering of the spirit can both create and change culture. In the desert, change is nurtured even in stone by wind, by water, through time.’ Perhaps we are reminded about what has been a feature of civilisation and evolution. ‘It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.’ – Charles Darwin.

Over the last week I have been energised by the various ‘community’ endeavours I have been a part of. Earlier in the week, in support of our year 12 students sitting for the QCS tests, a community of supporters gathered around them and they in turn formed a community of their classmates to collectively tackle the QCS. Our Orientation Days were the ideal opportunity for us to start community forming for our newest members of our school. The energy of these days were tangible and we received numerous complimentary emails to thank us for the welcome experienced and felt. On Saturday evening there was another gathering as we celebrated our Term 3 Community Mass in the Chapel.

It is easy to think that most people need to be part of a community for life’s necessities, but the reality is that most people, as Sarah Michelson writes, ‘want to be part of a community because there is something indescribably lovely about being a part of a group of people who share something more substantial than geographical location . . . something they feel passionately about. Something that, when shared, makes individuals seem less lonely. A community is a safe place.’ As human beings, we need a sense of belonging, and that sense of belonging is what connects us to the many relationships we develop.

Harper Spero, in writing about the importance of community, suggested you should consider five questions when you think about joining a community:

  • What are your values and what values do you want to be aligned within the community?
  • What is the purpose and goal of creating or joining a community?
  • How often do you want to engage with your community (eg: daily, weekly, monthly, etc.)?
  • How do you want to structure your community (eg: private Facebook group, meet up in-person, dinner party etc.)?
  • What do you have to offer the group and what do you want to receive? How can you share and collaborate?

At ATC as a Catholic school in the Edmund Rice tradition, we are formed around four touchstones; Gospel Spirituality, Inclusive Community, Liberating Education and Justice and Solidarity. Our values that we hope that are lived, shared and experienced are Gospel values of love, compassion, forgiveness, justice and peace. My instinct would suggest to me that this is the basis on which most, if not all, our families operate from. The next questions revolve around the how, the when and the what of community membership.

My hope and dream is that families look to take the step past the simple school enrolment, to look at ATC as a mutually supportive community. I hold the firm tenet that parents are the primary educators of their children, and by way of parents choosing ATC, we are invited to partner them in the task of forming their sons. From there it is perhaps as Henry Ford suggests,

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.’

Parents and Friends

At ATC, we see our role as working with parents to help form their sons into fine young men. We value this partnership we have with parents. The P & F Annual General Meeting was held last Tuesday evening. I appreciate the demands on families in current times and I appreciate the input so many parents are able to provide to help make ATC a better place for parents and the boys. Our model of having class reps, smaller committees and coordinators for a multitude of events, provides widespread opportunity for parents to have significant input without being too taxing timewise.

Through the leadership of the Executive, there have been a number of ‘friend raising’ events highlighted by the ‘Welcome Cocktail Evening’ and the ‘Trivia Night.’ In addition to these there have been numerous Year level functions, Care and Concern for a number of our families, working bees, Father’s and Mother’s Day Breakfasts and many morning teas and friendly, welcoming occasions. At the AGM a new Executive for 2020 was elected: -

President Brett Solomon
Vice President Timothy Kendrick
Secretary Helen Dunn
Treasurer Annalinda Robinson

I would like to thank Brett, Timothy Helen and Annalinda for their willingness to take on or continue in their roles within the P&F Executive.

Congratulations

The birth of a child is a special gift and I would like to congratulate Sam Brown and his partner Sarah as they welcome Abbey’s new little brother, Henry Samuel Brown into the world weighing 6lb 13oz and 49.5cm in length. It is great to hear that Sarah and Henry are both flourishing and as you can imagine Sam has the broadest of smiles and is a very proud Dad.

Prayers

I would ask the community to please keep Mac and Alec Martin (Connacht 1 and 9 Wynne) and their family in your thoughts and prayers following the recent passing of their Great Grandmother. I would also ask the community to please keep Robyn Gainer (5 Lynch Homeroom teacher) and her family, Varna Metcalf (Munster 2 Homeroom Teacher) and her family and Tom Woodley (Munster 5 Homeroom teacher) and his family in your thoughts and prayers following the recent passing of Robyn’s father-in-law, Varna’s father-in-law, and Tom’s wife’s Grandmother Eliza. We hope that the passage of time will help heal the pain of their passing. Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, may perpetual light shine upon them, may they rest in peace. Amen

With best wishes
Michael Senior