I have a secret, one that I am sure will surprise many in our community. I love to watch dating shows. I will qualify this statement (and perhaps redeem myself) by stating that there are some that I just can't watch, but the reality is I enjoy watching people form connections in these shows, be they real or imagined. I enjoy watching how people communicate with those they wish to form a connection with and how they work through conflict when it inevitably arises. I haven't worked out yet whether this fascination is because I am a hopeless romantic or if it is just very human of me to gawk as life unfolds for others.
My latest people watching binge-fest is a Netflix series called "Indian Matchmaking". The series follows Sima Taparia, who is known to be Mumbai’s top matchmaker. Armed with stacks of “biodata” — carefully vetted profiles that list a person’s qualifications and background — Taparia attempts to pair up compatible couples and compatible families. The fascination for me with this show is around the development of successful partnerships. Each episode begins with a light-hearted interview with a couple who have been in an arranged marriage for 25+ years. The rest of the episode then follows couples who have been paired or "arranged" by Taparia. In this way, the series provides insight as to how successful partnerships may be forged in contexts other than the western traditional context.
It is interesting to see the multiple approaches taken by participants to this task of forming a partnership. Some participants clearly believe that strong partnerships are formed when there is high compatibility and therefore begin the process with the matchmaker by outlining a strict criteria for the selection of their prospective partner. Others though, usually the arranged couples who launch each episode, talk about how crucial compromise and overcoming personal ego are to the process of forming a successful partnership. I think this second perspective has much more weight given that it has been tried and tested.
In addition to the romantic sphere of life, the word "partnership" has now become a bit of a buzz word used to define all sorts of relationships. In the business sector, everyone seems to be saying “partnership” and talking about how they “partner” with their vendors, merchants, agencies and so on. For some companies, this term is no more than a buzz word being used to generate some interest. For others, it’s a key part of their core values.
At Norwest, we frequently use the word partnership to describe the kind of relationship we hope to forge with parents and carers. For us it is much more than a buzz word, it is core to who we are. We truly believe that the only way for every member of the community to enjoy mutual success, most especially our students, is through partnership and so each member of our staff team endeavours to live out this value as we relate to each member of the College community.
Of highest importance to us though is not the outcome of partnership but the why of partnership. At Norwest, we believe that God has made human beings in His own image. This means that every human being is equally worthy of respect and dignity because they are uniquely made by God. And so when conflict arises, as it inevitably does, we are committed to communicating in ways that further the partnership. This core belief about dignity and respect motivates us to work with diligence at perseverance to forge productive partnerships with families, the kind of partnership where personal ego and personal preferences are cast aside and the core goal becomes what is in the best interest of the child.
On a practical level partnering successfully with College parents means that we are committed to frequent dialogue, transparency, awareness and sharing. It means being transparent about our values, how we work and how we provide value to our families through guidance, strategy and pro-activity. The focus of the College/parent partnership is the child. We are each coming together because we have something in common; the development of the child.
Partnership means that we are both equally committed to building and nurturing a relationship that will benefit the child.
For the College, this opportunity to partner with parents in the learning experiences of their child is a profound privilege, one that we hope to never be accused of neglecting. We cannot promise to always get it right, we will make mistakes, just as every parent makes mistakes in their parenting despite the best of intentions. However, what we hope to never lose sight of is the privilege of this task.
To our College parents, I ask you to consider how you might continue to nurture the partnership that you already have with the College. One of the aspects of the College that I value deeply is the sense of community. Every day I find examples of parents and carers contributing to the life of the College. But it is good for us to ensure that we continue to move in this direction. Does the College have access to the information it needs to support my child as best it possibly can? When I feel the College could do better, do I communicate that in a way that furthers the partnership? Ask yourself, do I speak positively about the College and its staff in front of my children? Do my children feel that I trust the College to care for them?
As we each seek to develop successful partnerships we must remember that little people who will one day be big people are watching. What are they learning from us as we interact with one another about how to forge productive partnerships? The reality is that they too are forming partnerships; partnerships with peers and partnerships with their teachers as they work together in their learning. Are we modelling the kinds of partnership that we would hope they too would grow, relationships that will help them to confidently pursue their learning and ultimately their God-given purpose?