High Notes, Vol 16 No 7, March 13 2015

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From the Principal

High Talent
Our open volleyball team won the Sydney East Region Knockout Volleyball Competition. Regional representatives selected were:  Sunny Xu as setter and captain, Kevin Robinson,  Sean McKenna, Nick Phillis and Supan Arudselvan (Year 12); with  Aidin Karahasan , Harry Park  and Ryan Seong (Year 11). Congratulations to the team and the players for their selection.  At the Head of the River, the 1st VIII recorded a time 2.6 seconds faster than the long term average. At winner’s time + 8%, it was the best row since 2012. The 2nd VIII were 46.62 seconds after the winner @7.85%, the best row performance in five years. The first and second Year 10 VIIIs were off the pace at winner’s time + 12.8% and + 11.56%.

Our School Plan 2015-17. 3 - Teacher Practice and the Pursuit of Excellence
The third and most important target area for the next three years is teacher practice. In order to meet our demanding targets our teachers will need to polish their practice so that more of our boys can reach more of their learning goals. We aim to modify teaching practice in positive ways to improve the learning outcomes, engagement and wellbeing of every student. We will need to differentiate our curriculum even further and update our pedagogy in the interests of personalising learning to make it even more effective. We have a complementary goal – building character and preparing our boys for the world of work. Important future-focussed earning skills are: problem solving, evaluating, working in teams, communicating ideas and creating and innovating. Employers want these skills. They can be developed at school. We will work towards adapting our assessment and reporting practices to accommodate reporting on the growth of these skills, particularly in Years 7-.9.

Better is the enemy of good’. If we want to pursue excellence, we must intercept entropy wherever we find it. Complacency and cruising behaviours need to be targeted by a refreshed approach to improvement. Teachers take pride in the rigour of their work, the stimulating and challenging nature of their task and the participation in the learning process, negotiated with their students. Excellence is nurtured when teachers challenge students, encourage deep learning, monitor the learning process and provide detailed, timely, positive feedback. Each teacher will engage in structured lesson observations based around the Australian Teaching Standards. Faculties will have more targeted professional discussions and will generate more action research data about how students learn well.

Rowing Assembly 2015
Daniel O’Keefe outlined the great benefits he derived from the co-curricular programs while at High and told how those experiences, particularly in rowing, influenced his tertiary academic life and career. My speech to the assembly is reprinted below:

"Special guest, Daniel O’Keefe (SHS 2008), crews representing High, coaches, parents, teachers, students; welcome to our 2015 rowing assembly.  The Head of the River is a uniquely important event for our school because of its long tradition, its high profile in the Sydney sports calendar and its strong recognition in the wider community.  Winning premierships in any GPS sport has always been a real struggle for High boys since 1906. On the rare occasions when they happen it’s a great day for our school. Ironically, they have happened more in rowing than in any other GPS sport – but we have not won an event at the Head of the River since the stunning victory of the first IV in the Yaralla Cup in 1976.The love of the sport and the desire to work really hard together in a common cause have sustained our crews over the many seasons since. Our boys have endured another long season and have all learned about hard work…and a lot about themselves. They have also had tremendous support from a great many people.

"I want to thank Julie Blomberg for her enduring commitment to High as MIC rowing. Thank you again to Beryl Crockford for her oversight of the rowing program as Head and first VIII Coach, assisted by Matthew Dignan. Thank you to Daniel Tam (SHS 2013) for coaching our 2nd VIII, with the help of Geoff Noonan and James Barr. Hayden Schilling (SHS 2010) worked with the Year 10 1st VIII. Thanks Hayden. Well done to Alan Low (SHS 2010) for his effort with the Year 10 second VIII. The Year 9 quads were coordinated by James Barr, assisted by James Lee (SHS 2010), Walter Santucci (SHS 2010) and Daniel Tam (SHS 2013), Thank you to Ken Ambler for his coordination of the Year 8 quads, assisted by Ashley Chan (SHS 2013), Daniel Keogh (SHS 2013) and Kin Pan (SHS 2013). The Year 7 quads were trained by recent Old Boys Ray Fang, and Kenneth Liu (SHS 2014), with assistance from Steve Comninos, Dan Tran, Terry Fong and Alan Qi (SHS 2014). Thank you all for putting effort back into the High program.

"As with every season, the rowing program relied on its indispensable parental input this year to make the administration of the training regime possible. Whatever their roles, whether as dormitory supervisors, cooks, kitchen hands, stall holders, drivers or fund raisers, they always give a great deal. Thank you to the Rowing Committee, particularly: Tracy Whittaker as President,  Michael Schanzer, Sylvia Peng, Zixiu Guo, Frances Liu, Zarir Karanjia, Sharon Wang, Ron Trent and Tevita Katafano. Without your great efforts and those of other parents who helped out on occasions with parking or at regattas and camps, we could never deliver the high quality rowing program that we do.

"In any organisation, its culture provides the greatest source of competitive advantage or disadvantage.  People in thriving cultures know what they have to do and why they are doing it.  Winning cultures develop a unique personality and an individual spirt that are not capable of replication.

"When high performance values and behaviours are combined with unique personality and spirit, a winning culture can develop.  Traditions are also important to culture – rituals, heroes and language.  Strong cultures exhibit six key behaviours.  They aim high to challenge their members.  Energy is focussed externally on training and competition not internally on power struggles or process.  Everyone behaves like they own the organisation – they take personal responsibility for performance overall.  They get on with the job.  They are team players. They exhibit passion and commitment to the cause.  The test of the strength of a culture is whether these six behaviours are understood, believed and widely practised.

"Rowing has a long and proud history at High.  It has its heroes - Olympic athletes, world champions and legendary coaches - but it has lost its winning culture over the last twenty-five years. One reason is that it has been worn down by the years of poor results, given the much hyped glories of the past. Another is the change of clientele at High since de-zoning in the late 1980s.

"To rebuild a winning culture at High we need to reassess what winning looks like in our context.  We have to set realistic and manageable goals that should be really motivating for crews because, with passion and commitment, they can be achieved. We have to want to be a part of the history of the sport at High. We have to really want to uphold its traditions. Every crew dreams of winning the Head of the River, yet so few in any GPS school realise their dreams.  Nonetheless, they try their utmost all the way down the course.  We are not expecting our crews to win but we are expecting them to show true grit and to put their bodies on the line for the cause. We expect them to show character. It starts in the head – thinking like a winner.

"To rebuild a winning culture we must take small steps.  The times you row prove what the quality of your season was like.  The analogy is the time trial cyclist with a time to beat, striving on his own. The first VIII has 6.25.15 as its first challenge. Executing a reasonable race plan with manageable splits is what we require.  If you do that you will feel like winners whatever place you finish.  In the eyes of those who have gone before, you are members of an elite club – to compete is the honour.  Keep the dream alive through your actions on Saturday. Help to rebuild a competitive culture that raises the bar – one race at a time.

"Congratulations to all boys who have been selected to represent the school on Saturday to carry forward this great sporting tradition."
Dr K A Jaggar

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