A heart of royal blue

Miss Ellena Papas, Dean of Co-curriculum

It is one of those hazy, washed-out, summery 1970s days that holds my first memory of Mrs Pauline Harvey-Short. I was two-and-a-half years old, and attending Brisbane Girls Grammar School not because I was some kind of child prodigy, but because my mother was a teacher here and sometimes took me to school. Escaping from my cot in the corner of my mother’s S11 classroom, I remember jumping and picking imagined dandelions before eventually peering around the corner of the lower running track to spy on a Physical Education class that was, literally, in full flight. Mrs Pauline Harvey-Short, herself a Girls Grammar graduate and now a freshly minted teacher, eagle-eyed and formidable beyond her years, spotted me immediately. If I’m honest, she’d probably noticed me the moment I’d absconded S11, and the impression she had on me when she told me my mother wouldn’t like it very much if one of her archery girls put a hole in me, left me wide-eyed and more than a little in awe of this Amazonian Archery Queen.

Ten years later and I was a shiny new Grammar girl, perfectly ironed, immaculately coiffed, and sporting one of those ‘limited edition’ blue bowler hats, making my way to W13 to meet my Form Teacher, Mrs Christine Woodford, and Head of House, Dr Kay Kimber. We went through our timetables with nervous excitement: Miss O’Sullivan for English, Mrs Kiolle for German, Dr Stephens or Mrs Vise for Science, Mr Pincott for Art, Mrs Cooke, Dr Farley, Miss MacAskill, Miss Rees, Mrs Thornquist and Mr Vogler. Yet, it was the ‘Mrs Harvey-Short’, in bolded Times New Roman that drew my eye.

How can one convey the profound impact a teacher can have? My little line-up of comrades-in-arms could never have appreciated then just how lucky we were to be heading into the Great Unknown of adolescence with such a team assembled to variously nag, navigate and negotiate us on our way. Diamonds in the rough, I like to think we acquired a bruise or two through the buffing process that was our Girls Grammar education, and I for one am incredibly grateful for every single mistake and cringe-worthy failure.

How beautiful to discover, through all our disappointments, that our teachers never once gave up on us, believing we were more than we could have dreamt we would one day become. They saw possibility and potential and, with the most delicate touch and the patience of saints, shaped us in such a way that we could stand with confidence at our final Speech Day as Grammar girls about to be launched out into the wide blue yonder.

And oh, how wonderful it is to soar out into the world of adulthood, sketching out a life, donning and discarding experience, forming character, finding tribes and fulfilling dreams. It’s the exaltation of Icarus, until the moment it isn’t; and instead of ascending towards the sun, you find yourself facing heartache, fighting inequity, failing and frustrated, naked but for a few globs of melted wax and plummeting.

My own flight path led me to teaching, like those very mentors I had when I was a Grammar girl. Education is not my first career, but I love it. I love watching my students’ minds open as they discover new ways to think and challenge themselves, whether on the sports field, the debating platform, the stage or in service to those in need. I feel especially fortunate that I am able to do this through the medium of my first love — music. I love how responsive our girls are, how they strive to give their very best, and how hard they work at all they do. I feel deeply privileged to be working alongside my teachers, each of whom continues to renew their legend status in my eyes. And, now, I am so excited to be working with the daughters of girls from my cohort.

Still, fundamental to all this is a quiet joy in in the fact that the Amazonian Archery Queen of my earliest Girls Grammar memory is still watching over me, and cheering me on. From curious toddler to striving schoolgirl, and Brisbane Girls Grammar School rhythmic coach to the teacher I’ve become, as well as through all the adventures and challenges of my life, Pauline Harvey-Short has been a moral guide and a model of strength, passion, and integrity and I am proud to call her my colleague, and my friend. She is the one I think of as Guardian of the Girls Grammar Flame, and her heart beats 100 per cent royal blue.

There is a wonderful sense of stewardship at Girls Grammar. Our students have six years to make the most of every opportunity and to take their place in the long line of Grammar Women. For many staff, their custodianship is longer than this six-year cycle, and the invaluable work they do affects generations of girls. Now imagine my story, and then try to quantify the impact that forty years of Pauline Harvey-Short has had on Brisbane Girls Grammar School. It’s inspirational. It’s profound. It’s humbling.

So, as she trades in her blue baton for a set of golf clubs, we should celebrate her incomparable corporate knowledge, her boundless energy, her unfailingly high expectations, and the warmth of her presence. It’s my belief there’s not one inch of this school that isn’t infused with her essence, and not one student who has escaped her notice or influence. I hazard a guess there’d be close to ten thousand of us, and now, it’s our turn to witness, and to celebrate.

Beyond a doubt, this is the end of an era, yet as we know, every ending heralds new beginnings. We can be optimistic as we look out towards tomorrow, and reflect that we are well prepared to carry on with our responsibilities. Pauline has certainly seen to that. So instead of ‘goodbye’, I will simply stand with pride and claim that I am one of her girls. For my heart? It beats royal blue too.