Woodford house


Putting the WH in Whānau

“They are us. But with that memory comes a responsibility. A responsibility to be the place that we wish to be. A place that is diverse, that is welcoming, that is kind and compassionate. Those values represent the very best of us. But even the ugliest of viruses can exist in places they are not welcome… Our challenge now is to make the very best of us, a daily reality. Because we are not immune to the viruses of hate, of fear, of other. We never have been. But we can be the nation that discovers the cure.”

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister’s Remembrance Speech www.newsroom.co.nz/2019/03/29/512096/jacinda-arderns-remembrance-speech-in-full#

New Zealand has been jolted out of a sense of safe complacency with the recent Christchurch terror attacks. As a quiet, peaceful and remote country, our shared shock, our collective move toward unity and connection, and our swift political response has played out in the media around the world. The need to be empathetic, inclusive and to be connected has been proven as paramount. A sense of belonging, a sense of purpose and serving others, not simply oneself, are proven indicators of wellbeing, future readiness and community mindedness. This led me to ponder the question, ‘How does Woodford House nurture a sense of family, belonging, purpose and service to ‘discover the cure?’

Interschool ACE Te Reo course at Iona College.

Last year I pledged to ‘put the WH in whānau’. The family has always been central to Woodford House. Working with Karl Wixon and Laurie Porima as part of the interschool ACE Te Reo course has offered an insight into Te Ao Māori. ‘Whakawhanaungatanga’ is the process of establishing links, making connections and a sense of family and kinship – a biological or a metaphorical family borne of shared experiences. Sharing in the high and low points of life at school is an experience that creates a family.

“Whakawhanaungatanga reinforces the commitment the members of a whānau have to each other while also reminding them of their responsibilities and obligations to all.” (Berryman et al 2002)

At Woodford House, boarding students are welcomed immediately into another home, Big Sisters work alongside Little Sisters in a ‘tuakana teina’ model, and team and group members play for the school and themselves. Kapa haka represents a shared school bond incorporating each individual’s whakapapa, and every service group from Teen Ag to the Chapel committee links girls and their family to the wider community. Students are also expected to participate in Cultural and Sporting activities across the year to build these connections and sense of belonging. These school activities require many hours of help and support from members of the Woodford House community for which we are sincerely thankful.

Woodford House is committed to focusing on empathy and a shared understanding of members of our school family, with our hard-working staff at the centre. With this in mind, our staff team began the year hosted by my family at our farm. We met at the Sherenden Hall and listened to Karl Wixon’s presentation on building cultural competence and confidence before heading out on the farm.

Wixon’s assertion resonated that when Māori succeed as Māori, New Zealand succeeds. By building cultural empathy, we are fostering connections to Te Ao Māori to inform, inspire, embrace and leverage our Woodford House whānau. We are preparing our students for future success rather than just laying down cultural foundations. ‘New Zealand wins when New Zealanders win.’

Hosting the staff at Tunanui gave our urban dwellers the opportunity to appreciate the rural families who have long been boarders at Woodford House. Teams came up close and personal with stock and proved themselves on the drafting gate. The day was a great success, both in welcoming new staff and strengthening bonds before the busy year ahead.

Judging the top steer at Staff Day, January 2019.

In our 125th Anniversary year, Woodford House consciously aims to celebrate, foster and grow the idea of community and the ‘Woodford House family’ with current and past students, staff and families. A shared weekend of laughter, reminiscing and camaraderie with the Old Girls was realised in late February during our weekend of 125th anniversary celebrations. The joy was infectious. Much of the positive power came, however, from the interaction between the women who had been students and the girls who are students today. The insight of the 125th Anniversary Documentary, the student researched 125th archival exhibition and the traditions and beauty of Chapel services gave comfort, familiarity and perspective to every member of the congregation, reader and joyful singer.

Reconnecting Old Girls and current students at the 125th Anniversary celebrations – Emma Ritchie, Year 13 (left) and Joan Phillips (right).

One poignant challenge was picked up by the student service team. Old Girl, Mrs Pam Lockhart shared her story of her time as a young student at Woodford House during World War II when she was saddened by the death of her good friend. Toni Wilton was a Wallingford full boarder from Kenya who succumbed to peritonitis. For 70 years, Mrs Lockhart and her daughter Libby have carefully tended her grave in the local cemetery. Mrs Lockhart is reassured that this service will now be picked up here at school. It’s a family responsibility.

Flowers placed on the grave of Toni Wilton in Havelock North Cemetery.

The Ministry of Social Development asserted that, “Social connectedness is a key driver of wellbeing and resilience. Socially well-connected people and communities are happier and healthier, and are better able to take charge of their lives and find solutions to the problems they are facing.”

It has been a busy first term at Woodford House. Every event, and every day, has highlighted that school values and practice intentionally work to foster belonging and connectedness for all students. It has been this way since Woodford House began and, as guardians of our Special Character School, we will continue to embrace this ethos long into the future.

Mrs Stephanie Russell, Deputy Principal – Student Wellbeing

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