Inspired by our students

LeadershipTeam-7This article is dedicated to our students.

Simply… you inspire us.

You… yes you. Every one of you in your own unique way and in your own time, inspire us to be teachers and more than that, better educators.  You may not know it but we started in education because of you, and because of you we constantly strive to improve and grow.

You are all so amazingly, wonderfully, frustratingly different. You learn to read at different times, you master skills not together but in many different ways at various stages. Some days you are present and engaged and other days you are somewhere in space and time, but definitely not present in my class. It is your difference that challenges us and inspires us. Thank you.

Imagine how boring and repetitive it would be if you were all exactly the same, learned the same way and at the same time? You inspire us when we “get you” and you “get it” and you inspire us equally as much when we can’t figure you out and you clearly aren’t “getting it”.

We can’t grow as educators unless we are inspired and challenged. You do that for us every day, each term and in every school year.

You inspire us with your personal stories of family, joys, hardships and challenges.

You inspire us as we watch you grow through discovery, disappointment, opportunities and the “ah ha” moments. Most importantly, you inspire us to make a meaningful connection with you. It is the relationships we build with you that helps us to connect, learn about you and figure out what makes you tick. Once we understand that we can start educating you best. The key to our teaching is that relationship.

So to you… our students past, present and future thank you for inspiring us to be better and to fulfill the title of “teacher”.




The importance of deep learning in the Preparatory School

LeadershipTeam-7Welcome back, and welcome to an amazing Term 4. It is fantastic to see all our girls and boys back from the break and ready for the term ahead.

Wow! So many of you “crushed” the 48-hour challenge on being outside in nature. I have been inundated with journals, logs, timesheets and picture diaries detailing time spent in nature. We have some real adventurers out there! My confession – besides seven days in Canberra and Sydney with our Year 6 students I did not spend 48 hours outside when I returned to Perth. It’s easy to blame the weather, a warm couch and some amazing food. Luckily, we are right in the middle of Outdoor October and I still have time! So do you and yours.

As a Preparatory School we are focused on the deep learning that happens in nature; from our Kindy/Pre-Primary’s discovery walks near the river to our Year 5s building shelters near the duck pond. This resonated with me as I read with great interested Bethany Hiatt’s article in the Weekend West (October 1-2).

For several hours they explore, fossick for insects, collect plants and climb trees.

If it’s raining, they wear wet weather gear and build themselves a tarpaulin shelter. And even though they are not filling in worksheets, they are learning the whole time.

Claire Warden, an international expert on teaching children outdoors, who is visiting Perth this week, said “nature pedagogy” was a method of teaching that linked student’s classroom learning with their outdoor experiences beyond those four walls.

“It’s not just nature play, though it gets tagged as that, it’s more than that.”

She said learning to cope with risks found in wilderness spaces was an important part of nature pedagogy.

Without some element of risk, children became fearful of pushing their own boundaries.

“If you don’t have physical risk there is greater emotional risk,” she said. “You need that physical challenge in your life to understand what your body is capable of.”

“If you’re scared of your own shadow, you don’t try new things and you don’t have that inner emotional resilience to push yourself in any way.”

“We’ve become so risk averse in our work, that we’re actually wrapping children in cotton wool and then they’re so fearful of pushing their own boundaries, whether that be intellectual, physical or emotional, that they sit in a very safe place. That means they’re not optimising their potential.”

Ms Warden said it was important to include children in the process of assessing their own level of risk, such as gauging the thickness of a tree branch before putting their weight on it.

Children were also taught to use real tools from a very young age and even to light fires, helping to empower them and develop their confidence.

“We never use matches, because that’s too dangerous, what we would do is always use a flint,” she said. “That means the two-year-olds would have to persevere to get any form of spark.”

“What schools are finding is that this is not an ‘add-on’, it is a means of actualizing the WA Curriculum, particularly in the early years.” said AISWA deputy director Ron Gorman.

“It’s really about connecting young people’s learning beyond the classroom.

“It’s not a back to the bush thing; it’s a carefully thought out way of engaging learners and extending their thinking.”

Education using our natural environment. It’s amazing how the simple truths of our past are again relevant and necessary for our students today.

Enjoy the outdoors!



Clark’s October School Holiday Challenge!

During the month of October (and as soon as our holidays begin) we have set for our community the following holiday challenge:
Who of you will be creative enough, brave enough and adventurous enough to take on our Outdoor October Challenge?
The challenge for this holiday break is NOT to take three whole days off technology (though that would be awesome!) but to spend a total of 48 hours over the two weeks outside in nature. For our Maths enthusiasts out there that is only 48 hours out of a total of 336 hours, or only 14.28% of your total holiday time.
So, our GGS Prep Challenge is to overcome Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD) and spend and record your 14.28% or more time out in nature.
We can do this! We can beat NDD by spending at least 48 hours out in nature. Recording your time is easy – write a journal, record your events with photos and get social. Post your pictures enjoying nature, your stories and adventures on the Outdoors October Facebook page, website, twitter feed or on Instagram. All the links are below, and don’t forget to tag the School too by adding @Guildford Grammar School to your post!
Together, let’s beat NDD, get our 48 hours each out in Nature, explore our wonderful land and CONQUER THIS CHALLENGE.
There are a myriad of ideas and opportunities listed on the Outdoors October website for all interest levels. If you are not into bush tucker and billy tea after sleeping under your swag don’t worry, there are plenty of walks, rides and opportunities listed for everyone. Play – go or get outside. Post and share your adventures.
So, where will you be during Outdoors October?
Outside my office there are signs for our community to write their goal for October, take a picture and send it to me. I will post them on Instagram and link them to Outdoors October.
Enjoy our outdoors and your challenge!

The Ungoogleable Question

LeadershipTeam-7Teachers, at times, can be lost in a world all to themselves. What is that blank stare you see in some teachers? No, it is not the Term 3 Week 8 stare, but something deeper, something unheard of before September 4, 1998. What pray tell happened on this special date and why did it cause such a seismic shift for educators?

You googled that date didn’t you?

You asked Siri?

And the connected, searchable world informed you that this was the date Google was founded.

Since that moment teaching changed forever and caused us, as educators, the blank introspective stare with the one question looming in our minds – what is my next ungoogleable question?

Have negative numbers always existed or were they invented by man?

Could a Blue Whale survive in our Swan River? Why or why not?

What will space tourism look like?

How fast can I run (waddle) 6 kilometres?

And one of my favourites…

Is a donut a donut if it doesn’t have a hole in it?

Teachers are faced with an awesome task. Develop critical thinking skills in a post Google (PG) world where “thinking” is a few key strokes away.

In order to truly educate our boys and girls at Guildford Grammar School we need to teach them how to question, how to challenge, how to develop independent and collective opinions and how to learn through experience. The ungoogleable question raises very relevant questions around the nature of knowledge and how we come to actually “know” things and then how we organise and express that knowledge.

There is an app where one can wave your phone camera over an algebraic formula and then an answer will magically appear (Photomath).

Teaching algebra now has to be in context. A page of algebraic formulae does not “teach” anymore. The mystery for solving an unknown in algebra now requires real thought and context, by the teacher.

One of our foci in the Preparatory School this year has been on creating quality inquiry classrooms. We have been using Kath Murdoch’s book, The Power of Inquiry: Teaching and Learning with curiosity, creativity and purpose in the contemporary classroom, and one of the quotes that is most relevant states that: Quality inquiry classrooms are places where highly intentional teachers work hard to grow the capacity of all students to learn. These teachers work diligently to help students know what to do when they don’t know, to develop deeper understandings of how the world works and to build and refine a set of skills and dispositions that will enable learning to continue life-long and life-wide. Quality inquiry must challenge students to engage with significant conceptual understanding of their world. The ‘content’ is vital. One has to inquire into something, and that ‘something’ should be conceptually important ideas within and across disciplines.

It is an exciting time for us all as we explore the actual fundamentals and competency of deeper learning.

So, if you see a teacher with a slightly blank look on their face it is not that it is week 8 of Term 3 it is most likely that they are deeply considering the ungoogleable.

Personally I am still stuck on the donut with no hole question.

Enjoy your weekend and please let me know if you come up with an ungoogleable.


Second Excellence in Education Conference

education imageRegistrations are now open for Guildford Grammar School’s second Excellence in Classroom Teaching Conference, for primary and secondary school teachers in Perth. Last year’s conference was a great success, attended by over 100 primary and secondary school teachers from across the state.

Perth teachers are often frustrated by the lack of opportunities to enjoy quality professional development focusing on sound classroom practice which they can use immediately with their own students.

To fill this gap, our conference presents a wide range of relevant workshops, sharing strategies and resources that can be taken back and used immediately in your classroom.  Each delegate will have the opportunity to participate in four workshops of their choice.  Popular sessions will be held twice to ensure as many delegates as possible are able to attend the workshops of their choice.

Some of this year’s workshops include:

  • Reading intervention with a twist
  • Engaging boys in the classroom
  • Catering for difference
  • Early Childhood – learning through play
  • Service Learning
  • The importance of being little
  • Making fiction fun
  • Integrating drama into the classroom
  • Teaching kids to touch type
  • Puzzling about puzzle-based learning
  • How to take a good photograph
  • Teaching technology to primary and secondary students
  • Assessing prior learning
  • Extending capable science students under the Australian Curriculum
  • Small Business Project
  • Building a great primary science program
  • and many more!

The conference costs $150 per qualified teacher and $100 for trainee teachers and includes morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and networking drinks and nibbles at the conclusion of the day.

The full program is available by clicking here.  Please read through the workshops on offer before proceeding to our payment and registration page.

Anyone unable to pay online using a credit card can contact our Finance Office on (08) 9377 9203 to make alternative arrangements.

For further information, please contact Mrs Gillian MacDonald on (08) 9377 9200 or

Warm Fuzzies

LeadershipTeam-7Why is it that we say the nicest most heartfelt things about other people when they;

*  Leave their job
*  Are not within hearing range
*  Pass away

Whether out of embarrassment or social mores we do not stop often enough and say to the people we work with, socialise with or live with just how much they mean to us and why.

I was reminded of this again this week as our amazing Miss Vance handed out “Warm Fuzzy” cards to all members of staff in the Prep School. The concept is simple. Write a fellow staff member’s name on the front of the card and on the back write something wonderful that person has said or done that makes them special. A Warm Fuzzy! Letting people know that they make a significant positive difference in the lives of others is just too important to not do.  In our busy, hectic lives there are times when we need to stop and tell other people what we value in them.

“I love it when you…”
“It was so amazing when you…”
“You made such a difference when you…”

Can we do this? Can we offer our thoughts and praise without expecting anything in return? Can we find the space in our day, week, month to communicate to others a ‘Warm Fuzzy’, some thoughtful positive feedback or a kind word?

One of my favourite writers is David Brooks. As a columnist for the NY Times and as an author of several books, David consistently “hits the mark” on where we get so caught up about life that we often forget about the important things in life. His theory on eulogy virtues versus résumé virtues is such an example. Too often we praise and report on virtues that we think make a real difference in ‘making a life’. Captain of this, Head of this, top 5% of this this, first place in this. We applaud their accomplishments and put great validity and credence to them. But are they what really matter in “living a life”?

Please take a moment to read David’s piece below, and ask yourself, do we do enough to praise eulogy virtues over résumé virtues? And while you are considering that can you also please help me to come up with a less morose phrase than eulogy virtues?


Eulogy Versus Resume Virtues by David Brooks

About once a month I run across a person who radiates an inner light. These people can be in any walk of life. They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel funny and valued. You often catch them looking after other people and as they do so their laugh is musical and their manner is infused with gratitude. They are not thinking about what wonderful work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all.

When I meet such a person it brightens my whole day. But I confess I often have a sadder thought: It occurs to me that I’ve achieved a decent level of career success, but I have not achieved that. I have not achieved that generosity of spirit, or that depth of character.

A few years ago I realized that I wanted to be a bit more like those people. I realized that if I wanted to do that I was going to have to work harder to save my own soul. I was going to have to have the sort of moral adventures that produce that kind of goodness. I was going to have to be better at balancing my life.

It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?

We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones. But our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light. Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.

All the best for a wonderful week.




Exam Reflection

LeadershipTeam-3Over the coming week our Year 11 and 12 students will be receiving their examination results. Depending on their performance this may be a rewarding, but also confronting time for our students with the possibility of a wide range of results across their subjects. Although the result attained is one of the important features of the exams, equally important is the students’ ability to reflect on their performance (be it good or bad!) in order to truly learn from the experience.

As teachers and parents we can seek to support our students by assisting them to reflect on their exam performance. Self-reflection is a higher order skill that boys may not feel they are equipped to undertake. They may be struggling for motivation if they are disappointed, or alternatively, not feel the need to reflect if they have performed well, or ‘just scraped through’. Regardless of results, reflection is important as it allows for future performance to be improved across the whole spectrum of results.

Listed below are some relevant themes and reflective questions you may like to use in order to assist your sons to reflect on their exam performance:


  • Which study activities/strategies were the most helpful? Which were least helpful?
  • How realistic was their study schedule? Were they able to complete tasks in the time allocated?
  • Were they able to predict the topics on the exam? How could they have been more informed in the lead up?


  • How well did students understand and follow the instructions given for the exam?
  • Did they have the correct equipment for the exam?
  • Did they have enough time to answer all the questions?
  • Was the right amount of time allocated to questions that were worth significant marks?
  • Which concepts and topics were they the most/least confident answering?
  • What kinds of questions did they find easiest to answer? Which were more difficult?
  • What kinds of emotions did students feel during the exam? Did they have any stress management techniques?

And most important of all – What will they change in the future?
Which study activities and habits will they continue to use in future?
Which study activities and habits will need to change? Why?
What have they learned about themselves as a student from this experience?

Encourage them to think about the support that they may need from family, friends, teachers, mentors, counsellors and fellow students and how this can be utilised to assist in future exams.

Ensure they write down and post in a high vision/traffic area (e.g. the fridge or their study desk) three or four strategies they will commit to putting in place to enhance preparation and performance during the next series of exams.

In the brief time I had with my Year 12 class yesterday, which we spent discussing and reviewing our exam, a few typical themes came up and I have no doubt that these are probably three of the most common ‘roadblocks’ boys can encounter during exams, so I have suggested a few tips that students may find useful if they identified these through their reflection process.

If students ran out of time?

  • Time management is very important in exams and cannot be overstated. In future, make a tentative plan during reading time by assessing the exam structure and the number of questions. Give more time to questions worth more points.
  • Answer the easier questions first to build confidence.
  • Mark the questions you can’t answer easily and come back to them later.
  • Don’t spend too much time on a single question.
  • Keep an eye on the clock.

If students misread or misinterpreted questions

  • Slow down and read the questions carefully.
  • Highlight/underline key words in the question to help you focus.
  • Write down your ideas before you write your answer.
  • Review the question and your answer before moving on.

If students felt very stressed and anxious during the exam

  • Be prepared, it will help calm your nerves.
  • During the exam, put your pen down and take some deep breaths. Concentrate on your breathing and try again
  • Don’t look around at others in your exam. Stay focused on your exam paper
  • If you know exam stress is a common theme for you, make a time to see a counsellor who can help you with some relaxation techniques to ease anxiety.

Hopefully you are able to find something useful in here to assist you sons to feel better prepared and more confident about future examination performance and also that they feel they can learn from their exams regardless of their result.