From the Principals' Desk
Tracey Mackin - Acting Principal
Consolidation: Culture and Curriculum
As we near the end of the year, we move from activities which are all about consolidating our curriculum learnings, to cultural activities that consolidate our unity as a school. Our Units 3 & 4 students have nearly all finished their VCAA examinations; at the time of writing, there are only two days to go. For our Year 11 students, this means that they have had a first taste of what the VCAA examinations are like, and they will be able to apply what they have learned when they finalise their time with us in October and November of 2024. For our Year 12 students, it means the true end of their on campus Nossal experience. They have finished all of the academic learning that they are ever going to do with us. What is left is for them to gather and reflect, both as a year level during their Valedictory dinner and in the whole school context of Speech Night, on the way our school community has both contributed to their successes and benefited from their efforts. I look forward to the opportunity to gather with them at both of these important events, and to having an opportunity to thank and honour them for their work with us over the last four years.
For our Years 9, 10 and 11 students, the internal examination period has just begun. I encourage our students to recognise that the assessment that they undertake in this period is doing a very similar job for them as learners to all of the other forms of assessment (high and low stakes) that they do here at Nossal. The goal is to practice some specific skills (e.g. revising a full semester or year's worth of work, not just a few weeks) and to receive feedback on how far they have mastered these skills so that their future learning is informed and enhanced. This means that every examination, even those for subjects the student may not be continuing in 2024, has value.
On the flip side, it also means that these examinations should not lead our students to unusually high levels of stress. The consequence of doing badly in an examination is that you have learned where the edge of your knowledge is, and this is the same as the consequence of doing well in an examination! I encourage all of our students to give the examinations their best effort, but not to see this one assessment task as a "make or break" moment in their learning any more than any other learning task would be.
Not a spectator sport
Ceremonial activities like Speech Night and the Valedictory dinner tend to occur at times when we are all busy with social obligations. It can be easy to let our eagerness to make it to the end of what has been a long and busy year taint our thinking about them. These moments when we come together to celebrate, to commemorate and to ruminate together are not the price we pay for being in a community - they are the evidence of community itself. If we want a sense of belonging and acceptance, we have to be willing to participate in the activities that help define and make concrete the group's aspirations and achievements.
This is true for local communities and for larger networks. Later in the newsletter you will see a reflection on the recent Year 10 Select Entry Network event, which was a joyful example of how students from the four select entry schools have been able to collaborate to create an enjoyable event across all four SEN sites. The students who organised this event, and the staff who supported them, deserve our respect and commendation, but no amount of organisation could have made the event a success if there were no participants to enjoy it.
Some time ago, a student submitted a proposal that we stop spending so much time on what we would characterise as "relationship building activities" but which the student described as "just playing Uno" with their peers. They thought that some of the Nossal Time lessons would be better utilised to provide access to Virtual Reality and other high-tech tools (i.e. to teach skills related to a specific curriculum area).
What this student was missing in their analysis of how the school allocates its time was an understanding of how vital - and how protective - activities which permit the creation of informal bonds based on shared enjoyment and experience are to maintaining our wellbeing.
During the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, one of the things we all missed out on was walking through corridors and making eye contact with people who recognised us enough to acknowledge us and, perhaps, give us a smile or a greeting. Those low level interactions act as a constant drip feed of positive reinforcement that we are worthwhile, that we exist, that people are glad to see us and smile when they do.
Having a relationship with a peer in another year level based on playing cards every so often in Nossal Time might seem irrelevant to the goals of the school, but it is participation that creates community and connection, and interaction with others that helps us learn to be humans worth emulating. In the same way, taking time out of our year to come together and celebrate our joint achievements at larger events like Speech Night helps us to remember the types of action and interaction which we aspire to and honour.
In praise of our volunteers
One of the more delightful elements of our examination period is that it is a volunteer-heavy period. Our staff and students have the joy of working with quite a large number of parent volunteers during Nossal's Years 9 to 11 examination period, and those parents also get the chance to see our staff and students in action (albeit in a very specific field of endeavour). I would like to thank them for their time, and I look forward to our annual Volunteer's Morning Tea (4th December 2023) when the school will have the opportunity to thank the many individuals who have donated their time and expertise to support the school.
The Great Unveiling
As many members of our community are no doubt already aware, we are nearing the date for the unveiling of the statue of Sir Gus Nossal which the school has been planning for the last few years. Sir Gus will be joining us on Monday 20 November for this event, along with a group of invited guests who will later join him for a light luncheon.
For the rest of our community, the unveiling is of course an open opportunity to honour our namesake. The event is being held on a curriculum day, so apart from those with specific roles in the ceremony (e.g. musicians, ushers and speakers) we will not be requiring our students to attend. This does not mean, of course, that they will not be welcome. The ceremony will take place at 11am in the main courtyard, and I warmly invite our students, parents and members of our wider school community to join us on the day. If you are planning to do so, it would be appreciated if you could call the school on 8762 4600 to let us know.
Preparations for 2024
As you will see later in the newsletter on the PFA News page, the PFA are once again running their annual second hand book and uniform sale. I would like to thank the PFA for their tireless work in support of our students, and commend this particular opportunity to our students and parents.
Along with the practical question of which books our students will need in 2024, there are a host of other preparatory activities which we are about to move into. Once the examinations are finished, our students will undertake a Commencement program to introduce them to their 2024 subjects and, of course, they will receive feedback and undertake some reflection on the examinations themselves.
In this period, we will also invite our Year 11 students to undertake some reflection on what it means that they will be our senior cohort in a few short months, and to consider how they would like the Class of 2024 to be remembered. Our Year 9 students, in contrast, will participate in a major group project through the Monash Challenge which will both consolidate their inquiry skills and prepare them to face the more challenging content of the Years 10 - 12 curriculum (and allow them to acquire the first points towards the 2024 Page Cup!).
On the home stretch
There are not many weeks between this newsletter and the end of the school year, and I have no doubt that those few weeks will be finished before we are quite ready for them. I wish all the members of our community luck as they do the work of finalising 2023 and preparing themselves for 2024. I look forward to sharing with them the joy and gratification of looking back on a year of learning and community, and to celebrating the end of another successful year.