Last week when I was on Year 11 leadership camp, I asked the girls to think about their legacy. I wanted them to reflect upon their enduring impact, as leaders, on Girls Grammar, to consider, “forty years on when afar and asunder”, how they would be remembered. An old school friend of mine, who is now the CEO of a global education company, puts it another way: “Let’s talk about what a difference you made…”
Many of the girls talked about wanting to be approachable, to be a good listener. These are wonderful attributes and I completely agree that we want our leaders to hold these qualities. After they’ve finished school, our seniors will be remembered by current students because of their interactions, the support they offered, how well they role modelled or how they embraced their ‘big sister’ role.
But determining a legacy that leaves a lasting mark requires something deeper and more profound. It means putting a stamp on the future and making a contribution to the next generation of Girls Grammar students. Our school has a rich 130-year history, and, like those who have come before us, we all have the opportunity to think about the gift we would like to leave for the girls who are yet to walk through our gates.
To achieve this requires an attitude of servant leadership which starts by asking the question, “How can we contribute and give back?” Author Maya Angelou, said, “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.”
This concept of ‘throwing something back’ is at the heart of leaving an enduring legacy and it is a responsibility for all. Fortunately, our students are blessed with many examples within our community where groups and individuals are making a difference that will be felt by both current and future students. Some of the legacies we see at Girls Grammar include:
Support and stewardship - The P&F has a long tradition of generosity in supporting the school, including most recently by contributing significant funds to the pool changeroom refurbishments. Just last month, the P&F also offered further funds to provide more shade sails as well as to purchase beanbags which will provide more outdoor seating options. Our current students will benefit from these gifts, but the P&F’s greater legacy is going to be the message of working together to promote the interests of the school and of stewardship to support further improvements to the campus. We are fortunate to have this core group of very committed parents and I would like to encourage more parents to consider their ability to give time to this vital support group.
Paying it Forward - By their daily actions, the Old Girls show they value their time at Girls Grammar and they want to keep alive the history and their memories. However, their legacy goes further. By volunteering, spending time with our current students, visiting as guest speakers and mentoring students within our STEM program, they support and encourage current students. Our Old Girls’ legacy honours the gift of the education they received by giving back, guiding, supporting and encouraging students to be their best and pursue their dreams.
Dedication to learning - I regularly spend time in the primary classrooms and my observations of our primary classes reflect that they have a strong legacy of good scholarship. Their engagement levels are high, they encourage each other in their studies, and they model an attitude that shows they are dedicated to their learning. I see this attitude quickly embraced by new girls who enter the school: they soon see that this is how we do things at Girls Grammar. I also see the valuing of learning reflected outside of the classroom. Our Year 11 students, for example, approached their recent camp with an openness to learning. They took risks by engaging in activities that took them out of their comfort zones, which is where real learning occurs, and they approached all camp activities with a positive attitude. They supported and encouraged their peers, helping them to also achieve the best outcomes. As I watched this, I had no doubt the 11s are going to be a fine group of leaders.
Commitment to the School – Many of our girls have built a culture of servant leadership by enthusiastically committing to support the school in its various community activities. We have seen large numbers of girls volunteer to serve guests at various functions and events, to help out at our P-3 Tea Parties or to support in-school activities. Our Head Girls in particular have been excellent role models this year, leading the way with a selfless involvement, positive attitude and respectful demeanour that has encouraged younger students to show service to others without the expectation of a reward.
School Pride – Recent events have shown the depth of pride that is foundational to our school. At Beef Week, we were inundated on a daily basis with visitors to our trade stall, girls who wore their pink shirts with pride, who popped in to say hello or to tell us about what they had been doing during the event. Likewise, the large number of students who turned out for the ANZAC Day parade, and the way they wore their uniforms and marched, reflected an undeniably strong school spirit. I am sure our community will once again reinforce this legacy when we arrive in our pink, blue and gold singlets for the Rocky River Run on Sunday.
There are an endless number of ways we can leave a legacy, both individually and as a group.
In Dead Poet’s society, the character John Keating tells his students That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. He then asks them, What will your verse be?”
It is a good question to ask our senior leaders, but one that every member of our community can also reflect upon. We all have a pivotal role in building upon the legacy established by those who went before us. The powerful 130-year narrative of Rockhampton Girls Grammar School goes on. We all should consider the verse we want to add to this wonderful school.