The school year at Cedars has begun with gusto and students have already been immersed in exciting learning opportunities both inside and outside the classroom during these first few weeks. If you have had the opportunity to look at some of the images taken on the first days of school, which have been displayed on Instagram, you would have seen the expressions of delight and joy as students reconnected with one another after the summer break. A glance across the playground revealed big smiles, hugs and high-fives aplenty as students shared stories from their holidays and their excitement and anticipation about what the new year would hold for them.
When I reflect back on my own memories of school, the best memories were almost always of those times where I felt some sort of positive connection with the people around me. They were the times when I felt accepted, included, cared for and valued by my peers and the adults who helped me learn. Whether I was collaborating on a project with my peers, playing in a sporting team, hanging out with friends at lunchtime or getting help from a teacher to understand a Maths concept – the common theme in all these positive recollections was the sense of belonging that I felt.
One of my more memorable experiences took place when I was in Year 11 and spent the day bushwalking with my peers and teachers as part of the school’s scheduled “End of Year Activities”. The weather was warm and humid after a day of rain and the bush litter beneath our feet was thick and moist creating the perfect habitat for blood thirsty leeches. A short time into our walk I felt a strange sensation on my lower leg and looked down to see two thick, black leeches attached to my ankle, with blood already dripping into my sock. Being a teenage girl, not surprisingly my first response was to scream and jump in a combination of fright and disgust. Unfortunately, I was standing on a large boulder at the time and subsequently lost my footing, slid down the smooth rock face and landed unhurt but engulfed by a large bush fern. No sooner had I hit the ground when my classmates began to devise a plan to rescue me. Displaying “MacGyver like” ingenuity and utilising only a large branch and a container of picnic salt, they worked together with haste and hilarity to hoist me up and detach the leeches from my leg. As I reflect on this incident I do so with fondness for the friends with whom I shared this experience and for the overwhelming sense of both joy and belonging I felt at the time.
At Cedars we strive to foster this culture of acceptance and belonging by providing opportunities for members of our community to connect in a positive way. Whether it is training for and competing in a sporting team, working on and then performing a class item at assembly, or collaborating on and presenting a project in iAcademy; it is often not the event itself that is of paramount importance, instead it is the shared experiences we enjoy, the connections we make and the relationships we develop with others during these times that matter most.
Next week many of the students in Middle School and Senior College will be participating in Camp Week. This involves three days of activities that are designed to provide challenge whilst developing teamwork and resilience. It is during these times when students are situated in an unfamiliar environment and are out of their comfort zone that friendships are strengthened and there is a greater understanding and appreciation of one another. I am sure that when many of our students are adults and have cause to reflect back on their life at Cedars it is these things – the camps, the class items, the collaboration and the conversations that they will remember most fondly as these will undoubtedly be the times where they felt most connected.