Expanding time with slow thinking

Dr Sam Peng, Head of Economics Précis: The subjective nature of time perception suggests that we can expand students’ brain time in learning by engaging them in more slow thinking.   Today is a special day for the current Year 12 students. It is a day on which they celebrate growth, maturity, friendship, learning, independence, responsibility and a new beginning. Today is also a special day for their teachers, as waves of joy, pride, happiness and memory will gently tap their hearts. At this very special time for farewell and reflection, I wonder how our students will remember their education at Brisbane Girls Grammar School. Will their memories play out as a rapid time lapse of sunrise and sunset in this vibrant learning space, a slow motion of some unforgettable, enlightening moments, or a montage of both? What determines how moments of their learning experience are processed in their brain and contribute to their cognitive development?…

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I think, therefore I remember

Dr Peter Jenkins, Head of Mathematics Curriculum Development From 2020, Year 12 students in Queensland will sit external examinations that assess content learned over almost two years. Evidently, the ability of students to effectively remember a large volume of content, skills and understanding will be crucial for success. In Mathematics, there is often a reluctance to talk about the role of memory, possibly due to a fear that focusing on the act of remembering somehow minimises the importance of conceptual understanding. But not only is memory crucial in the process of developing conceptual understanding (Byers and Erlwanger, 1985), conversely it is the development of conceptual understanding that makes mathematical ideas memorable. As noted by McInerney (2014), the most important characteristic that makes information memorable is meaningfulness. Meaningful information is information that is already related to networks of ideas, or schemas, in long-term memory, and thus gives rise to the feeling of making sense. The richer the…

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Educating for purpose

Mrs Anna Owen, Deputy Principal Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Dr Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, appeals for a movement that will compete directly with the deleterious effects of the ‘leadership’ being provided by some current heads of countries and regions. He describes many present global leaders very frankly as ‘bullies, deceivers [and] selfish cowards’, and as ‘too busy with themselves’, rather than being focused on their responsibilities as world leaders. Against this poverty of leadership, Al Hussein asserts the power of the foot soldier, or ‘grassroots leadership’. He provides examples of acts of grassroots courage from around the world that not only defend local communities, but also help solve broader social issues. He implores all of us to seek to coordinate this local work on a worldwide stage. His vision: take the small-scale organisations and voices protecting human rights around the world to create an effective, coordinated, focused, human rights movement with the backing…

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Ms Sarah Boyle, Head of O’Connor House This week, Girls Grammar athletes competed in the 100th Queensland Girls Secondary School Sporting Association (QGSSSA) Athletics Carnival in the 110th year of QGSSSA. The 115 members of the Girls Grammar Athletics team focused their time and energy on training during the past term so they could do their best at the carnival. Sometimes they produced personal bests and sometimes they missed the start or stumbled at the jump. Though disappointing in the moment, in the grand scheme of things, students still gain many benefits from the experience, simply from being involved in physical activity. Balancing academic commitments with physical activity is an asset for students’ wellbeing and wider success in all areas of their life. The best part: it can be free. It has long been understood that engaging in physical activity has benefits for mental health. According to psychologist and leading expert in adolescent mental health, Dr…

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Let nature lead

Ms Kate Child, Outdoor Education Teacher, discusses the power nature has to influence a student's life, sparking curiosity for the physical world around them and developing relationships and feelings of connectedness. 

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The art of rewiring your brain

Dr Ann Farley, Director of Cross Faculty Initiatives In Year 7 Philosophy of Learning classes, we investigate some of life’s big questions: why do I respond the way I do under stress; what can I do when I do not understand new ideas or concepts in class; how can I maintain a positive mindset when faced with challenges? Students are not the only ones who need to consider these questions. Teachers must continually evaluate their own practice and approach to rise to the challenges of the profession. This article examines some of these questions from both student and teacher perspectives. Philosophy of Learning is different from other subjects. There is no assessment, instead personal reflection and insights form the basis for learning. Students are encouraged to respond to their thinking in order to gain an understanding of themselves. Hopefully, this type of thinking will help them to develop insightful strategies for dealing with the inevitable disappointments…

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Pause, Breathe, Smile

Dr Rashna Taraporewalla, History Teacher and Mindfulness Facilitator A yearning characteristic of the modern age is the desire to be more tranquil and focused. The wish to be calmer is almost universal. The age in which we live is wonderous in many ways, but also potently and tragically calibrated to predispose those living in it to low-level depression and a high level of background anxiety. Having been born into such an era, perhaps we should treat ourselves, and those around us, with a measure of gentle care. What can we do to alleviate our stress? There are ancient antidotes to the problems that beset modern humans, as simple as they are effective. Most cultures possess some form of contemplative practice, and these, adapted for a modern, secular world, lie at the core of mindfulness. One simple practice, taught to students throughout the School as part of our mindfulness program, offers a clear path to peace and…

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It takes a village

Mrs Jody Forbes, Director of Student Counselling This week our Year 12 girls sat the annual Queensland Core Skills (QCS) exam. While it is soon to be phased out, the QCS Test has for many decades represented the pinnacle of secondary school, with the result contributing to a student’s final Overall Position (OP) score. For many students, their OP number carries great weight. While some believe it is testament to their sustained effort, others feel it represents their value as a person and is predictive of their future prosperity, success and happiness. The reality is that the QCS Test is only one piece in the puzzle of successful graduation. While important, neither the QCS grade nor OP score define a girl, nor do they guarantee future success. In the coming months, while many will focus on our graduating cohort’s grades and scores, we must not forget to employ a holistic view of each student’s progress. What…

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The Chase

Ms Jo Duffy, Director of Sport It was apparent to me long before I commenced my current role, that Girls Grammar is a school that prides itself on achieving excellence across a broad cross-section of disciplines, including sport. Flip through the pages of Mrs Pauline Harvey-Short’s history of Physical Education and Sport at the School, To Become Fine Sportswomen, and you will appreciate the legacy of the world-class athletes that Girls Grammar has produced and the fine tradition of Sport at the School. The quest for sports excellence is certainly a worthy challenge, but how is this defined? Is it a QGSSSA premiership, a personal best or a gold medal? And, what if we fall short of our aspirational pursuit—when we miss a critical shot or falter in a crucial decider? In 2016, I embarked on a significant personal sporting challenge and entered the Gold Coast Marathon. During a marathon, the challenge of overcoming your mind’s…

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Developing student agency

 Mrs Hazel Boltman, Head of Gibson House One of the comments teachers often make when writing student reports is ‘she is encouraged to take responsibility for her own learning.’ Over the years, parents have queried what this phrase means, and asked how their daughters can apply this advice in their education. This year, Girls Grammar staff have joined colleagues in a group that investigates precisely this concept; the group focuses on noticing learning and how to develop student agency. Under the guidance of Dr Ann Farley, Director of Cross-Faculty Initiatives, and with input from Associate Professor Lenore Adie from Australian Catholic University, the Noticing Learning group aims to observe student learning in the classroom and to use this to inform further practice and develop student agency through many means, but particularly through the medium of formative assessment. As defined by the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University, in their study titled ‘The Influence of Teaching’, ‘agency’…

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