Developing character in our children

19 September 2018

Which of these two phrases rings most true; “Be all that you can be” or “This above all, to thine own self be true”?

The first, taken from the title of John C Maxwell’s classic text, tells us to have big dreams and set significant goals for our lives so that we can discover the principles for fulfilling our God-given potential. The second phrase is classic Shakespeare, from his play Hamlet. The phrase is Polonius’s last piece of advice to his son Laertes, who is in a hurry to get on the next boat to Paris, where he’ll be safe from his father’s long-winded speeches.

As to which phrase rings most true, modern culture says both! Relentless self-improvement and authenticity are held amongst the highest ideals for us in contemporary western culture. There is an often overlooked contradiction though – if we are accepting of ourselves and being true to ourselves, why the need to improve?

Deeply embedded in our culture here at The Moreton Bay Colleges is the belief that we are working to become the very best version of ourselves while staying true to our values of Character, Care, Teamwork and Leadership. Striving to reach our ideal selves at the same time as accepting our flaws and failings may seem a juxtaposition at first glance. However, just as a child progresses through 13 years of schooling to develop their intellectual potential, so too should they work on their character development. The growth of their moral and spiritual potential is just as significant to us.

Part of this means allowing children to learn and allowing them to fail. Learning there are negative consequences for our adverse actions is a part of life and necessary preparation for adulthood. When a child does something wrong, it is only natural that something happens that discourages them from doing it again. Please consider that when a child makes a poor choice, misbehaves or treats someone poorly, it is not an opportunity for instant flagellation by a parent, nor is it a referendum on the self as a parent. Teaching and Pastoral staff play an important role within the school environment in reinforcing what is right and imposing consequences for doing what is wrong, which assists the child to develop into the adult we want them to become.

The balance between academic, moral and spiritual learning is reinforced by the outstanding NAPLAN data and the data from the Social and Emotional Well-Being survey we implement each year. To see such exceptional results showing strong improvement over time for each cohort of students is a testament to the fact that we have the balance between academic and pastoral care just about right.

It is of no benefit for our children to grow up believing we will always be there to save them from themselves, nor that there are no repercussions for adverse actions. When the responsibilities, freedoms and risks of adult life eventually arrive for them, we need them to be able to manage all of it successfully and autonomously. Only then can they “be all that they can be” and “…to thine own self be true”.

James Sloman
Executive Principal

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