Principal's Comment

Posted Thursday August 3, 2023

Kia ora e te whanau

As we move towards the business end of the academic year, I find it essential to address a topic close to my heart – the wellbeing of our teenagers and their pursuit of academic excellence. At St Peter’s College, we are committed to nurturing the minds, hearts, and spirits of our students. As educators and mentors, it is our responsibility to create a safe and supportive environment that encourages learning, personal growth, and holistic development. While academic excellence is undoubtedly crucial, it should not come at the cost of our students' mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.

Today's teenagers face unprecedented levels of stress and pressure to excel academically. We live in a world where high achievement is often linked to self-worth, leaving many students feeling overwhelmed and anxious about their performance. As a Catholic institution, it is our duty to remind our community that our students are more than just their grades. They are unique individuals with diverse talents, interests, and passions.

We must remember that each student's academic journey is unique. While some may naturally excel in their studies, others may require more time and support to reach their potential. Our role is not to pressure them into unrealistic expectations but to provide them with the necessary tools and guidance to explore and discover their strengths and passions. Encouraging academic excellence is essential, but it should always be balanced with an emphasis on character formation, emotional intelligence, and self-compassion. By promoting a growth mindset and teaching our students to embrace failures as learning opportunities, we empower them to build resilience and determination.

Furthermore, as a faith-based community, we are called to nurture the spiritual wellbeing of our students. We must remind them of the inherent dignity each person possesses as a child of God, irrespective of academic achievements. Our support extends beyond the classroom, encompassing their spiritual, emotional, and social development.

I recently read an excellent article in The Guardian on the despair teenagers can feel about end of year examinations. At the end the author gives advice to parents and caregivers to six essential questions:

1. Is my child working hard enough?

Most likely yes! Kids generally do as much as they can, pacing work, concentration, rest. Self-esteem and feeling good about yourself are based on more than results and confidence aids performance.

2. How can I help my child manage pressure?

The same ways adults can manage pressure. A few deceptively simple things can go a long way toward more resilient kids: sleep, diet, exercise, healthy habits. For some families it may be among the most challenging of times in managing expectations and accepting limitations. Listening uncritically can be a parenting superpower. Take time to decompress.

3. Should I limit gaming and social media?

We know (often first-hand) these can be an addictive distraction. Kids know this too without being told (repeatedly). Weigh it up: will you have more sway strengthening your relationship first and then dishing out advice second? It may be easier to work toward agreed goals than angry conflict.

4. Am I putting too much pressure on my child?

Actually, this question is rarely spoken but it’s there and it’s a hard one. If you’re worried about the results, your child almost certainly knows. That makes it a double worry for your child.

5. Is it harder for kids today?

Yes, I believe so. I think the pressures for performance are increasingly higher and achievements and disappointments so immediately broadcast. Thirteen years of education shouldn’t be reduced to a linear scale, band or number and are no measure of lifetime achievement, but it can feel like it is. The world is bigger, expectations and possibilities greater, security less assured. Their existential fears are genuine.

6. Can I do more to help my child?

This is individual. Personally, I feel it important for my kids to take responsibility for themselves, their clothes, their room, their deadlines, their dishes. At the very least, then they have the accomplishment of self-care to make their way in the world.

Charity Fulfils the Law