Beauty Amidst the Mess

College Blog Thursday, 18 Feb 2021

Schools are messy places. Let's think about Norwest for a minute. It's a complex community made up of 990 students, each at varying stages of development, with different strengths, gifts and challenges and, from varying family backgrounds. The Norwest community is also comprised of 120 staff, each with varying approaches to teaching and each with a set of unique life experiences that influence the way that they relate to one another and to our students. With so many influences bearing down on them at any one time, be they political, cultural or social, schools are very complex and pressure-filled contexts. Yes schools are messy, but gosh I love it! I love it because what actually emerges from the mess, with careful planning and structure is something very beautiful - the learning and growth of young people.

My current music playlist that I have on repeat is "Symphonic Coldplay", Coldplay favourites performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. I know, it's a bit daggy but for those of you who appreciate a good orchestral track it's very relaxing. What is strange about hearing these tracks performed is the absolute synchronicity with which each phrase is performed. Every rhythmic phrase is precisely timed in the orchestral setting whereas in the original Coldplay version there is so much flex.

I think this unity of voice that is so apparent in orchestral settings is what has always excited and fascinated me as a music teacher. How is it that 100 instruments, each made of different materials, each played by a unique individual can all come together to create something so beautiful? There is so much potential for disaster in an orchestra. Only one instrument has to be slightly out of tune for the whole orchestra to sound terrible. So how is it that such beauty can emerge from a context where there is so much potential for it to go very badly very quickly? The answer is actually quite simple. Every member of the orchestra plays from the same song sheet, tunes to the same tuning note and follows the same conductor. Every member of the orchestra is aligned to a common purpose and plan.

Alignment around a common purpose and plan is equally relevant for us at Norwest when thinking about ensuring that learning and growth happens amidst the messiness that can be schooling. If we are going to build purposeful lives, lives that love learning and seek to make a difference in the world by using their learning in the service of others, then we all need to move in the same direction. Each member of the College community, staff, students and parents, need to sing from the same song sheet. The College's Building Purposeful Lives framework (BPL) is our song sheet. It provides the plan to ensure that the beauty of learning and growth emerges from the pressure-filled context that is schooling.

A simple life truth is that we only align ourselves under a vision when we believe that vision is valuable. The members of the orchestra only follow the score given to them because they know that if they each perform what is given to them beauty will indeed emerge. So what is valuable about BPL? Simply put BPL's value lies in its capacity to grow the whole child; head, heart and hands, to confidently navigate an increasingly complex world. At the heart of BPL is the  acknowledgement that each child has been designed and made by God to make a unique contribution to the world and needs to be equipped to pursue that purpose. BPL is our plan to equip each and every young person to lead a purposeful life, one that makes a meaningful contribution. What could be more beautiful and valuable than growing young people who know that their life has purpose and that learning supports them in building their capacity to pursue that purpose.

Whether you are new to the Norwest community or have been a part of our community for a while I encourage you to build your understanding of BPL. Seek out information about BPL on our website and attend Community Workshops held once a term. Talk to your child's teachers and ensure that you understand what learning dispositions are being progressed in various subject areas. Understanding BPL will help us to all speak a common language when it comes to learning and to align ourselves with the College's vision so as to give our young people the optimum environment in which they can build a purposeful life.

Felicity Marlow