My first full time job was in sustainable timber production and rainforest regeneration. What attracted me to the role after I completed my Bachelor of Science Degree was that it involved providing a quality product for people to use while at the same time ensuring the environment was not damaged in the process.
One of the finest timbers we grew on the property was Blackwood. This timber had a beautiful dark grain, was very strong but took a long time to grow. In fact, none of the 30,000 trees that my fellow workers and I planted and maintained over 15 years ago are at the stage of being harvested yet. This was a long term project but we knew that we had to do more than just plant a seed and come back in 30 years to cut the trees down. We watered, fertilised, weeded and and pruned them in order to get the best result. You see, we understood what we had to do to get the most useable timber out of each tree.
Pruning branches from the bottom of the trees every year ensured that they didn’t form knots in the trunk. The strongest and most sought after timber did not have any knots as these were points of weakness. We also knew that if we planted trees relatively close to one another they would naturally compete for the sunlight and force each other up, making the whole field of trees grow taller much faster.
Investing effort into growing the trees, pruning them to make them tall and straight, fencing the paddocks, fertilising and watering the trees to give them the elements they needed to grow, and weeding around them to remove the plants competing for resources gave a significant advantage to these trees. Had the seed simply been planted and then forgotten there would still have grown a forest; however, it would have had many fewer trees due to the kangaroos and weeds. The undergrowth would have been so thick it would be difficult to harvest them and they would have had so many branches and knots that they would probably be good for nothing more than firewood.
What we did was intentional and sustainable, giving us a far better product. The entire farm benefitted by the production of tall, straight trees for future harvesting.
I am very grateful that the Board of Cedars Christian College understands and values the concept of sustainability and how to obtain the best result for our College and especially for our students. Periodically the Board has encouraged the Principal to take a sabbatical. This is a short break to evaluate the College, to decide where to best focus our resources and to develop a clear vision and direction for the future of the College. The purpose is to give our staff and students the best environment in which to grow tall and strong.
This year as part of my sabbatical I will be taking some time to study at Regent College, a theological graduate school in Vancouver. I also hope to visit some other Christian schools while I am there and take the opportunity to consider the strategic ways we move forward as a Christian college community.
I will be away from the College from 17 June – 29 July (which includes three weeks of our mid-year break). Four weeks of this leave will be sabbatical and two weeks will be annual leave. Our Deputy Principal, Mrs Julie Cochrane, will take on the role of Acting Principal in my absence. I am very confident in the capability of Mrs Cochrane and the other staff to manage all the day to day workings of our College.
One way that we can improve is to reflect on our practice. We can consider what went well and why. We can ponder the challenges in our lives and the things that hold us back and we can think about our goals for the future and make plans to get there. These are some of the things I will be processing while I am on sabbatical.
Most of our students will be receiving Semester 1 Reports in the coming weeks and I would encourage them to read these reports thoroughly. Similar to the trees I used to grow, they should consider the optimal conditions needed to achieve the best results. As students they should consider which strategies they can put in place to avoid distractions, ask themselves how they receive discipline from parents and teachers, and what are their optimal study techniques. It is important to for them to stop and ponder these things regularly in order to maintain a sustainable practice of excellence.