Category Archives: Principal’s Reflections

How the days fly!

For some unknown reason, I thought it was a good idea to install an app on my phone that provides me a daily update to upcoming events – end of the school year, Christmas, the birthdays of my nieces/nephews/godchildren, my wife’s birthday and so on.

Dutifully the app sends me a report each morning telling me exactly how many months, days and hours until the event.

This report hit me this morning:

  • 92 days until my 70.3 Ironman Triathlon
  • 46 days until 2018 starts
  • 37 days until Christmas
  • 22 days until to the last day of school
  • 1 day until the 2018 school year commences

Where did this year go? I haven’t started my reports, I’ve got activities in my classes to finish, we’ve got Celebration Night and Thanksgiving Service and concerts to run, I haven’t even thought about Christmas presents and up for that triathlon suddenly seems like a very bad decision given that amount of time I’ve got to train!

I’m not the biggest fan of Christmas I have to say, but what I do love, is the reminder that Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, is known as ‘Immanuel’, which means ‘God with us’.

My note this week is quite short but carries a really important message. No matter what we think or feel, God is indeed with us. That is the core Christian message that we celebrate in Christmas. God is not an angry God who is out to punish us for doing wrong. Through the work of Jesus, God smiles on us and relishes walking each step of our lives with us.

Next Monday sees our students in Years Prep to 8 start the 2018 school year. How quickly that came around! As these students commence the new school year, I pray that they, like all of us, will pause and remember the great news that God is with us.

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Appreciation

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6:26-34

This week as staff, we have looked at the topic of ‘appreciation’. Current research is telling us time and time again, that happy people are people who often stop to specifically appreciate what is good and pleasant in their lives and to give thanks for these things.

I read these articles and often think “that is fine for those people who aren’t as busy as I am or don’t have the responsibilities that I do. After all, I’ve got a College to run, a wife to love and support, two sausage dogs to put food on the table for and many other things I’m bound to do. When have I got time to stop and be grateful?”

Our modern world traps us into a lifestyle that does not support our personal and communal wellbeing. In Genesis we are told that after God worked for six days creating the world, he rested. The Bible also records many instances of Jesus pulling away from the crowds and his followers to spend time resting, praying and sleeping.

This week our Year 12 students commenced exams and I’m sure they are feeling stressed. I suspect they have little time or focus for stopping and appreciating what is around them.

I am a worrier by nature and the passage above reminds me that it is important not to get caught up in my own worries and concerns. God has things in hand. Tomorrow will come regardless of what happens today. And as we are reminded, worrying will not add a single hour to our lives. In fact, I suspect worry actually takes hours off of our lives.

At this time of year as we race towards Christmas, I pray that we all may have time to stop and appreciate what is around us. Let us remember that many responsibilities and duties come from life giving activities.

While I am responsible for running of a College, I have the privilege of guiding the education of young people. While I have the work that comes from being in a healthy marriage, I have the joy of a wonderful wife to spend my days with. While I have to feed, bathe and pick up after my sausage dogs, they remind me of the joy of life.

May we all find just a few moments to appreciate and give thanks for what is good around us.

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Address to the graduating class of 2017

Dear Graduating Class of 2017,

You may not have noticed it, but I’ve learnt a great deal about Lakeside College from you.  By overhearing staff conversations about you, by reading your reports, by chatting with you in the yard, through talking with your parents and most of all, seeing how you go about your learning here at the College. You taught me what the heart of Lakeside College is – a caring learning community which strives to meet the needs of all students and a community that is inclusive of many perspectives. For this, I am grateful.

My favourite record of Jesus’ life is the Gospel according to John. It is my favourite because it records Jesus very much as one of the great philosophers. He may even have given Mr Quill a run for his money!

In John 1:35, two disciples of John the Baptist see Jesus for the first time and they start walking behind him. Turning around, Jesus sees them following and asks, “What do you want?”. Other translations record this as Jesus asking “What do you seek?”

I believe that answering this very question is the key to a happy, healthy and fulfilling life. However, unlike many answers on your upcoming exam papers, this answer ebbs and flows. It is not static and neither it should be.

Year 12s, I do not envy you. My generation did not have the flood of messaging that you have to deal with. We did not have so many different sources pushing us to seek and want what others want us to want and seek.

My simple advice to you today is this: refuse to seek anything other than what you feel called to seek.

Refuse to listen to those who would have you seek things that are unhealthy for you in mind, body or soul.

Refuse to listen to those who encourage you to be selfish and to use your gifts and talents to simply earn a pile of cash, while there is hunger and injustice in our world.

Refuse to believe anything other than knowing that God created you unique and calls you to a life seeking after Him, not seeking after the world.

Year 12s, don’t be strangers. Do come back and visit us. The blessing and curse of being involved in education is investing so heavily in you and then see you leave us as you go into the wider world.

A great blessing of my life this year was the chance to see my Year 12 Principal for the first time since 1999. He gave me a hug, asked about my life and my achievements and said how proud he was to see me following a path in education he too trod. I pray that 20 years from now I have that same privilege with you.

Go well Year 12s. Seek what is good and pleasing to God and you will do well. The community of Lakeside College has no doubt that you will have wonderful impact on our world.

God bless you

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Expectation

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them”

Matthew 18:20

What is an expectation? Well Google tells us it is “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case”

Google tells me that there are more than 27 million hits for ‘managing parent expectations’ and I’m bombarded with invitations to attend seminars on that topic. Why would this be such a hot topic I wonder?

As I’ve  wandered on yard duty it is not usual to have a tearful younger student come up to me seeking assistance. Perhaps they didn’t expect to fall over and graze their knee, or they didn’t expect the ball to hit them in the face or for their friend to choose someone else to play with that day.

Disappointment and expectation go hand in hand. This is natural – when something does not turn out as we expected, we are disappointed. These expectations can have grave ramifications. “I didn’t expect interest rates to rise so quickly’, “I didn’t expect to be diagnosed with a serious illness”, or a popular one I hear “I knew being a parent was going to be hard but I didn’t expect it to be this hard”

God doesn’t call us to a pessimistic life and to expect everything to go poorly. He also doesn’t call us to mindless optimism and assume that everything will always work out as the world is simply not like that.

God does call us to be a people of hope, to manage our expectations well and show resilience in the face of disappointment. It is easy to read these words. It is so much harder when we are faced with bitter disappointment as a result of having our expectations dashed.

God built us to live together and as our Bible reading for this week reminds us, he is there with us in all circumstances. When your expectations are not met, don’t stew alone. Seek others, talk through your disappointment, and take action to move through unmet expectations. That is what a community is there for. As I wrote to you last week regarding reports, communities look after each other and seek to get better at looking after each other.

The thing about God is that often unmet expectations are a blessing. Perhaps God knew that I would always be moving to a new school in 2017 and had me plan a holiday to Italy to provide rest after a busy eight months in this new role.

May God bless our community with the strength to deal well with disappointment, to never lose hope and always seek to support each other.

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Care

Caring is one of Lakeside College’s three core values – Learn, Care, Achieve.

I admit that I do like a bit of social media and I’ve got a Twitter account, the obliquitous Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and let’s not forget my WordPress blog which the diligent parents of Lakeside College read on a weekly basis!

We are inundated by so much rubbish in our accounts. I am particularly noticing the insidious nature of the targeted marketing I’m receiving on Facebook recently. While indeed I may be losing my hair, I don’t need endless advertisements for hair replacement technology turning up in my feed. I assume this comes from Facebook knowing I’m a middle aged male and I’m trying not to take it personally.

One of the better memes that has been going around Facebook is reproduced below:

“Don’t become preoccupied with your child’s academic ability, but instead:
Teach them to sit with those sitting alone.
Teach them to be kind.
Teach them to offer help.
Teach them to be a friend to the lonely.
Teach them to encourage others.
Teach them to think about other people.
Teach them to share.
Teach them to look for the good.
This is how they will change the world.”

I read that one night and couldn’t agree more. Those of who have attended enrolment interviews with me know that I mention that Lakeside College has no interest in turning out academically able but self-centred students. We seek to balance at all times our faith and values with our desire to see students achieve their very best.

Time and time again parents nod in agreement with the above. Parents want their children to succeed academically but more importantly, they want their children to grow into decent human beings. And looking at the world, one cannot help but feel that more decent human beings would be of great benefit to all of us.

When I spoke to students recently about the value ‘Care’ I looked to the story of Moses as recorded in the Bible.

Moses was born to a Hebrew family but was placed in the river by his mother in the hope that he would avoid being killed by the Egyptian authorities as an infant. He was found by the Pharaoh’s daughter who took him into her household and raised him as a Prince of Egypt. As young man he saw an Egyptian mistreating a Hebrew – he killed the Egyptian, facilitating a need to flee. Working as a shepherd, now a married man, God appears to Moses in the form of a burning bush and tells him to go back to Egypt and rescue his people from slavery.

Moses says: “Who am I to lead these people? I am the wrong messenger! I can’t do what you have asked”

God’s response: “Moses, I made the world. I made you and you have gifts that can be used to help people. I will be with you as you do great things”

Big achievements that endure are often those that involve acts of caring for others. Think of the ending of apartheid in South Africa, wiping out Polio in parts of the world, providing excellent schools and healthcare to those who need it most. These achievements go on to bless countless people beyond generations. These achievements are what God calls us to do with the gifts He has given us.

At Lakeside College we learn, care and achieve so that God will be glorified and the world be served in love. We care about our community, both inside and outside our College. We seek to equip all to care for others and make a difference in this world.

There is nothing more important to God than to see his people demonstrate the love that he has for us by serving our brothers and sisters.

May we never tire of teaching our children to care for others and may we seek to make the building of character as important, if not more important, than academic achievement.

Blessings

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Learn

Learn. Care. Achieve

We learn as a community of learners.

We care for ourselves and each other.

We achieve beyond what we believe possible.

We do all this to give glory to God and serve the world in love.

 

“…only fools despise learning”

Proverbs 1 (Brennen translation)

 

As a community we have developed a new vision statement for the College and it is the outcome of a collaborative approach by students, parents and staff. Our vision is summarised in three simple yet significant words – learn, care, achieve. In chapel this week our community reflected on what it means to learn. We asked ourselves “What makes a good learner?”

Do good learners:

  • Complete all homework?
  • Turn up to class on time?
  • Wear their uniform correctly?
  • Remember their diary?
  • Avoid picking subjects that they find ‘easy’?
  • Have neat handwriting?

While the above are healthy learner habits, they are not the fundamental actions that make good learners. Studies completed by some very gifted researchers, educators, governments and leaders have found that the most crucial action of a successful learner, is the learner themselves expecting to do well. The second most crucial action is the learner listening to and acting on the feedback given from others.

Successful learners may not get ‘A’s all the time, they will make mistakes and they usually don’t ‘get it right’ the first time’ – but they always commit to getting better.

We learn as a community of learners and as such the staff, parents and guardians of the College have a role to play in being successful learners ourselves. We need to model to students our commitment to learning, that making mistakes is ok, and most of all, showing that learning comes from effort, not from being ‘born smart’.

Take a few moments to consider how a child learns to talk, walk and fend for themselves. God created human beings to learn and it is truly an awe inspiring process. Our job is to humbly walk alongside one another and support each other to commit to get better.

Why bother learning? For me, that question is answered in our new vision. We learn so that we may know how to care for each other, ourselves and the wider world. In doing so, we give glory to God and serve his people.

I am excited about a new term at Lakeside College, and I pray that this excitement for learning will be seen across our community.

May God bless our learning community richly this semester.

Blessings

Tom

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Wise advice

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24 – 27

Back in South Australia, my wife and I continue to slowly (very slowly!) renovate and restore our old cottage. I cannot lie – it is a bit of a mess. The roof leaks, the masonry is falling down, the floors are uneven, the mice have well and truly found a comfortable winter home, the skirting boards are broken, you can put your hand through the rotted wooden back walls…and I could go on.
Our friends thought us to be crazy. They said: ‘Why didn’t you a buy a nice new
home in a housing development. You could have had beautiful carpets, lovely
appliances, 5 bedrooms and a pool!” Even the building inspector who compiled a
report for us rang me and said “Mate, I’ve looked at a couple of houses for you now, and I look at houses for a living, I reckon you have rocks in your head if you take this on”.

Our house is in a country town called Langhorne Creek which is situated on a flood plain. The surrounding grape vines survive on regular flooding. In a recent flood however, our house was one of the few houses in the town which was not flooded. Several new houses in the new development in town were inundated by water and severely damaged. All the while, our old ‘wreck’ was high, dry and undamaged.

What our house has is wisdom and firm foundations. It was built in the late 1800s by people who knew where the flood waters went. It was built by people who saw houses as needing to stand for centuries, and not just for the decades that it seems current houses are designed for. It has a proven ‘track record’ – it has stood firm against the world for over 120 years now.

God gave us some pretty helpful instructions as a people. Don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t be jealous, love other people…just to name a few. In my experience, I’ve found my suffering to be caused when I don’t follow the wise advice of God.
In our world today, listening to what God may have to say is seen a bit like my old house. From the outside, it looks old, rundown and irrelevant. When you open the door and have a look, we find how relevant and valuable God’s wisdom is to us today.

If you haven’t had a look before, I encourage you to pick up a Bible and see for
yourself. There is an abundance of solid advice!

May we be open to God’s wisdom and seek to build our house on his foundation.
Let us also not forget that God is with us, even when we ignore his advice, go our own way and find ourselves in rough situations.

Blessings
Tom

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More than words

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am
with you always, to the very end of the age.”

-Matthew 28:16-20

When asked what the worst part about being a principal is, I suspect many of my fellow principals would join me in saying, ‘The paperwork!’ I’m pretty sure the students know when I’ve got a large pile to work through as they’ll see an increase in my wandering around classes, seeing what students across the school are getting up to, desperately looking for a reason to not get back to that ever present pile! But try as I might, I cannot escape my duties as a Principal. There are less-than exciting parts of my job that need to be done in order for our school to run smoothly and for students to receive the blessings of a great education.

Being a disciple of Jesus, means to be one that follows his example. Some Christians make this concept far complicated than it needs to be. Put simply, Christians are people that follow Christ and seek to share his teachings with the world.

World affairs this week again highlight that Christ’s message of love, care and compassion to all nations, is one that is sorely needed. Christ’s command written above reminds us to not just be a people who talk about doing the right thing, but to show the world who we are by doing the right thing. My grandmother would often remind me ‘What is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular’.

May our community seek to support the young people in our care, to be like Christ, and to seek to share his message of peace, love and mercy with everyone. For in doing so, they become disciples of our Lord. Just like paperwork, this job may not be present, but it needs to be done so that the world may become just a little better each day. This is often not the popular choice, but it is the right one.

Blessings

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Faith

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you…[stand] firm
in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

1 Peter 5:6-11

Our Business Manager, Chris McMillan, commenced a staff devotion this week with a wonderful question, “What do you have faith in?”
We place our faith in many things both knowingly and unknowingly. When we get in our cars and drive the kids to school or head off to work, we have faith that
our mechanic has ensured that the car is in safe working order. In Australia we have faith that when we go to the tap, stove or light switch, that water, gas and
electricity will flow to provide for our needs.

For Chris, he has faith in his beloved Collingwood while many encourage him to place his faith elsewhere, perhaps in a team of far greater prestige, such as the
Adelaide Crows perhaps…

We are often surrounded by those who encourage us in faith and discourage us in faith. Some encourage us to change the football team we support and others
encourage us to question our belief in the positive capacity of people. In my own past, despite what a misled teacher told my parents, they had faith that despite
being told I would struggle to learn to read and write, that I was indeed capable of doing so.

What do I have faith in? I have faith in a God who grants hope and new beginnings. I have faith in the capacity of young people to change our world’s attitude to our planet and seek to repair the damage already done. I have faith in the ability of all people, regardless of age, to learn new things.

Across the world, Christians are persecuted for their belief in a God who loves all and gives hope to all. Their suffering and refusal to lose the faith in our God, is an inspiration to all.

This week I was blown away by an exhibition of Year 8 artwork based on discarded milk bottles. You can see from the photo what beautiful work one our students did to take something considered ‘rubbish’, see past the encouragement to discard it, and turn it into a work of art. What a wonderful example to us all.

This student had faith in new beginnings. What a blessing to us all.

Blessings

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Plans

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I
am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
-John 14:1-5

As I reflected on this week’s verse, I got to thinking about how amazing it is to be able to plan. I’m not a Zoologist but I suspect that our ability to plan in the short, mid and long term is a skill that sets us apart from the animal kingdom. Plans are so commonplace. For instance, I plan to pick up some milk on the way home from school today and then I’ll make dinner. Plans give us a logical set of events that lead us to believe that if all goes well we will achieve an overall outcome.

Plans don’t always go well. Sometimes this is due to the plan not matching with the goal and sometimes this may be due to the plan being poorly executed. I like to think that watching my beloved Adelaide Crows lose pitifully to North Melbourne last weekend was an example of a plan being poorly executed. The Crows game plan led to several wins in a row and suddenly stopped working! What changed?

God has a plan clearly revealed in Jesus’ death. Christ’s resurrection forever restored the relationship between God and humanity. Fixing this relationship was
God’s plan from way back and it was a plan perfectly executed. The problem was that God’s people weren’t, and often still aren’t, completely on board with his plan.

In the reading above Thomas asks a direct question about the plan to clarify his understanding. Thomas was a man that wanted to follow the plan…he just wasn’t
quite sure what it was. So often we forget that God does have a plan for us all. It is a plan that calls us to care for each other in community, to provide for each other, to support and care for each other. Elsewhere in the Bible, God calls this ‘practice for the world to come’.

Christ’s life gives us a perfect model to follow revealed in great detail in the Bible. Among our setbacks, frustration and confusion, let us remember and seek God’s plan for our lives. I find it no accident that often the lowest points of our lives find us furthest from God’s plan.

Blessings

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