On Wednesday 6 December 2017, Woodford House Principal, Mrs Julie Peterson delivered an inspirational speech during Prize Giving. Mrs Peterson talked about the inspirational and tranformative power of an educated girl underpinned by a holistic approach to education.
As educators at Woodford House, we have the privilege of spending our days with outstanding young women, but we also have great responsibility in ensuring we pass on the gift of an excellent education.
The power of an educated girl is inspirational and transformative. Our educational responsibility is more than the transfer of knowledge and the building of skills; it is the development of the whole person who can be both critic and conscience of self and society.
Education is a complicated endeavour; if it were simple we would have all the answers in place by now. Rather, we have an endless plethora of buzz words and neologisms vying for our attention. Education has always been fertile ground for rigorous debate and so it should be. Currently, there is a lot of talk about skills surpassing knowledge as the more valuable currency in our brave new world overseen by social media. I disagree. In fact, as I become more future shocked I find myself retreating back to my classical, scientific and literary roots. Yes, we can Google information or content, but my contention is that understanding is a much more enriching process. It is deeply human and will always remain so. Without a broad base of knowledge in the arts, science, literature, theatre, history and so on, skills have a limited context through which to be applied. We risk creating little more than robots, able to do a particular task but unable to ask and explore the big questions of life.
It is the marriage of skills and knowledge that will most equip and empower us as we pioneer this new frontier. Education is not a means to an end. It isn’t a tool to get a particular job, or earn a certain income. It is a pursuit in and of itself, and make no mistake, it will be the most difficult endeavor you undertake in your lifetime. Not because the books are long or the math equations tough, but because it requires rethinking the things you thought you knew. It means evaluating how you view the world around you, and more than anything, being able to admit when you are wrong. Anyone can repeat an idea that agrees with their biases, but it takes a strong individual to continue wanting to learn, to continue wanting to challenge your own perceptions even though they make you feel good.
A holistic education at Woodford House does all of that. As a Special Character Anglican school for girls, we give you a lens and a framework through which to view and make sense of the world. We can’t define the future for you, but we do promise that you will be a strong leader in a society that desperately needs more of them.
It is timely now to not only reflect, but to also give thanks for all we have achieved as a community. This year commenced with outstanding NCEA results including our highest number of excellence endorsements ever. Our continued academic success is a true testament to the tireless efforts of our students, the dedication of our staff and of course our families.
We had the pleasure of welcoming new staff in a range of roles. Our staff are exemplary and deserve my sincere and heartfelt thanks, your sphere of influence is far reaching.
Again, our Boards, ably led by Mr Phil Williams and Mrs Alison Souness, have provided outstanding governance and numerous hours of tireless support. We owe them a great debt of gratitude.
To our Year 12 girls, I have every confidence that you will be outstanding leaders and role models for 2018. You are a wonderfully united cohort who already display strong values. As our school roll peaks next year, your role as our school leaders will be crucial and significant. I give you that mantle of leadership; the baton is now in your hands.
We have all been in awe of the leadership displayed by the whole Year 13 cohort, so maturely led by Susannah and Anna.
Girls, your lives are like a book with limited pages and you are the author. Confidently write your story. Congratulations on completing a significant chapter filled with pageturners and cliff hangers. There are many more stories to tell and each one has unlimited potential. My advice to you is this: make them as relevant, engaging, stimulating and memorable as you possibly can. There will be stories that are dramatic and confronting but as the author, the ending is always up to you.
I hope you are proud of your time at Woodford House and treasure the memories you have made. You were the first Year 13 to pimp my car, and you will be the last Year 13 to wear those cardigans – please, please take them with you.
Nunc Acceptabile Tempus, now is the acceptable time…we can’t keep you a moment longer for you are exactly what this world needs: educated, confident, selfgoverning, intelligent, empowered, and opinionated. Don’t lose that, for there is nothing worse than an uninformed cynic!
As you step away from the familiar surrounds of Woodford House, please remember this is your school and the gates will always be open for you.
Mrs Julie Peterson, Principal