From the Acting Principal – Karen Mitchell

Nga mihi o te tau hou

Greetings for the New Year

Welcome to you all as we start the 2021 school year at Carmel College. Your presence in our Carmel College Learning Community is important –  you are important.

Presence is an interesting concept and it was brought home to us in 2020 when we were absent from school during two lockdowns. Never in a million years did I expect to see students and staff so keen to  come back to school. Online learning, blank screens, Parent Teacher interviews and other meetings via Zoom were fine but it was not the same and being present took on a whole new meaning.

The Rev S. Miller-Hardie suggests there is another aspect of being present that we commit to in prayer for ourselves and others saying  “If you think about it, it is a curious aspect of faith to believe that we can be present to others through our prayers, and that our thoughts in God have power to shed some influence from afar.”

The apostle Paul often spoke about being present in the Spirit as a gift of Christian faith. – saying in Romans 12, that Presence” is a “mercy of God”, a gift, which works to transform us by the renewing of our minds – perhaps opening our minds to see beyond the physical.

Our challenge is to work out  how we might do that. As it  is the beginning of the year it could be our New Year’s resolution. However, I am not sure how many of you made New Year resolutions or how far you go to achieving them. Personally I find the distinction between New Year resolutions and other goals quite interesting.

The Oxford online dictionary defines a resolution as a “definite decision to do or not to do something”.  In other words a commitment that a person makes to one or more personal  goals, projects, or the reforming of a habit.

A key element to a New Year’s resolution that sets it apart from other resolutions is that it is made in anticipation of  the New Year and new beginnings. People committing  themselves to a New Year’s resolution generally plan to do so for the whole following year and this change is  generally interpreted as advantageous.

I have made and broken a number of New Year’s resolutions and like many people I gave up making them so I  would not be disappointed when I could not keep them.

Instead, I decided to take the advice of a very astute woman  – Eleanor Roosevelt – who advocated that we should “do one thing every day that scares us”. I have to say that one thing a day was quite a challenge so I have amended it to one thing a year.

Doing something that scares or challenges you requires taking a risk, going outside of our comfort zone, taking a step into the  unknown, or challenging ourselves to do something a little different. Everyone has a different level of comfort with taking chances or risks – among other things, risk-taking  preferences are influenced by past experience,  environment, and potential for reward.

Numerous writers and philosophers have written about risk. Two that have struck a chord with me are; the well known woman Katherine Mansfield who said of risk…

“Risk!  Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for  yourself. Face the truth”

and Andre Malraux who said

“Often the difference between a successful person and a  failure is not one has better abilities or ideas but the courage that one has to bet on one’s ideas, to take a  calculated risk – and to act.” 

Since then I have “acted” and done “something scary”  each year. Sometimes my challenge has been physical like a 100m abseil into  the “Lost World” at Waitomo.

Sometimes my challenge has been professional – standing for election to the Teaching Council (and failing) or presenting a paper at  a conference.

This year my challenge is to open my mind to see the possibilities in a situation rather than focus on the problems. This is a challenge given the unpredictability of the global situation with COVID- 19, the Lockdowns, school closures, vaccines, and increased anxiety that is our new reality.

You may have your own resolutions or goals for 2021.  But what about Carmel College ? What are our new year’s resolutions and what are we, as a learning community, going to do to keep our resolutions?

To decide the answer to these questions the Board of Trustees, Senior Leadership Team and staff reviewed a wide range of feedback on 2020 looking to see if we had achieved our goals and if not, if those goals were still our priority. The result of that is a new plan –  it’s called the 2021 Annual Plan.

When said like that it seems very simple, this is what we are going to do. But what are we going to stop doing and what are we going to risk and what action are we going to commit to  individually and collectively?

Like the 2020 plan, the 2021 Annual Plan focuses on Wellbeing and Inclusion and starts with staff participating in a professional  learning programme.

However, while we look at the tangible aspects of this plan I would like you  to consider the additions that make us ‘Team Carmel’ and not ‘Team down the road’.  Once again I draw on the word of The Rev S. Miller-Hardie ……..

We need to allow our faith to be our connection within the world, so that we hold each other safe within the arms of God. 

We need to be a community that values relationships with one another and with God.

We need to be a community who thinks about each other and offers a prayer of hope for another’s peace and wellbeing.

We need to be a community that opens our minds to the wonder of learning and all that it can do for us, our school and our wider community.

And finally, we need to be a community where aumihi – respect for the dignity and uniqueness of each person and our environment is at the centre of our thoughts and actions.

Let’s be present and embrace the Spirit’s gift with openness and enthusiasm and enhance it with love and joy as we make our way together through another year with whatever 2021 may hold for us individually, as a school and beyond.