And just like that, we come to the final Principal’s blog for 2020. Most conversations I have had with people this week have had a common theme about us not being ready for it to be December, advent and only three weeks until Christmas. In many ways, the absence of significant events in our annual calendar which signpost our year has left us drifting in this strange place of space and time.
Having just moved into a new neighbourhood, I have been spending my morning walks with a new awareness of everything around me and whilst I have noticed the Christmas lights, of particular interest to me this year has been the number of wreaths hanging on front doors. I guess this is part of living in a more built-up area, where for years I lived out of town.
These two actions of lights and wreaths are outwards signs that there is a certainty about the coming of Christmas, despite everything that has been unprecedented, unpredictable and out of our control. And whilst I realise that many of these houses may not belong to people of a faith tradition, it still represents ‘faith’ in the fact that this event will be marked. For us, with our faith tradition, the mystery that we celebrate at Christmas seems to be perfectly captured in lights and wreaths. Pope Francis in ‘Fratelli Tutti’ writes how we were created for a fulfillment that can only be found in love. At Christmas, we celebrate that God’s greatest expression of love was God’s Son becoming one of us.
At this time, Christians believe that Jesus is the love and light shining through our world and within each of us. This light can come from anyone, anywhere, at anytime. When we walk back through this year where we were surrounded by so much darkness due to COVID19, there will have been times when the smallest action of another brought a glimmer of hope into our lives. We thank God for these moments of light. Behind the doors marked by Christmas wreaths is also the light of family, of welcome, of belonging and of connection. Again, our faith tradition challenges us at Christmas with the hospitality of the innkeeper who found room where others had kept the door closed to an expectant mother. The gospels also invite us to ‘knock and the door will be opened’. At this busy time it is a gentle reminder, that in our weariness, others are there if we ask for help. This year we have only made it through by asking for help and supporting each other. We thank God for these moments when the door of generosity was opened to us.
When we flipped through the pages of our magazine for 2020 which students took home yesterday, it was with a sense of amazement at what could still be captured in a year of College life despite all the challenges COVID presented to us. There is much to celebrate and be thankful for as we conclude our year. Our magazine also paid tribute to those staff who leave us this year. I add my thanks and acknowledge the contribution our departing staff have made to the life of the College and trust that they take fond memories of their time with us. A more detailed farewell is included later in this news.
Just as we have endings and farewells we know that the rhythm of life brings beginnings. Today our Year 12 Student Leadership group met to begin their work in leading our College for 2021. They were animated and inspiring to listen to, with a deep sense of wanting great things for our College community. Next week our staff will work through a series of workshops that will provide context for the beginning of the next iteration of our School Improvement Plan for 2021 – 2024 based on the feedback from our review process this year. Our staff have been tireless in their efforts this year, having been called upon to reinvent all that we knew about ‘school’. I wish them a well deserved break when the time comes at the end of the year.
I wrote the following at the end of my magazine reflection which I feel is also important to share at this time:
‘No one teaches you when you are training to become a teacher how to lead in a global pandemic. There was no rule book. So many days we had to make a call, back ourselves and trust this was the right decision. I was so grateful for the wisdom and experience of the College Leadership Team throughout this time. What kept us on track was the compass of our core values – courage, hospitality, justice, compassion, wonder and above all hope. Schools were never built to be silent. Let us always appreciate the utter joy of young voices, seeing faces in person and the power of human connection.’
So finally, as we journey to the birth of Christ, reflecting on our year and casting our eyes to the horizon of 2021 may we hold the words of Pope Francis in our hearts:
May we recognize the goodness and beauty
That have been sown in each of us,
And thus forge bonds of unity, common projects and shared dreams.
I wish you all every blessing for a safe, peace-filled and blessed Christmas.