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Crofton House News

By Lucy, Grade 10 Student

My Global Exchange to St. Margaret’s in Brisbane, Australia, has been one of the most unique experiences of my life. From the temperature and humidity (it’s summer here) to the koalas and rodents of unusual size, there are plenty of things that are different 'down under'. St. Margaret’s is an Anglican girl’s school and I’m living in the boarding house. There are 130 Year 10 (aka grade 10) students and 30 of us are in boarding. Everyone is from different parts of Australia, except for me, and two international students from Tokyo. Being in the boarding house gives me the opportunity to hear all about the Australian Outback as many boarders are from the countryside with families who operate farms. Luckily, Brisbane has not been affected by the bushfires but many of the boarder’s farms are suffering from the current drought.

Although being in the boarding house means I can sleep in a little later in the mornings, it takes me a while to get ready for school as there are many parts to the uniform, and I am required to wear a freshly laundered uniform every day. Like Crofton, St. Margaret's is over 100 years old, but unlike Crofton, St. Margaret's still wears the exact same uniform they wore over 100 years ago. Students, who call themselves, ‘Maggie's Girls’ wear navy blue dresses that go to the ankle with short beige socks and brown school issued shoes. There are four pins that must be reattached to collars every morning. Makeup is not permitted, neither is nail polish or jewelry (except for small stud pearl earrings). Hair must be a natural colour and tied in a low ponytail tied with a school issued hair ribbon. Uniforms are strictly enforced by a roaming ‘Uniform Marshall’ who issues red cards to anyone out of proper uniform. This includes wearing a panama hat any time you are outside. Unfortunately, I received a red card for neglecting to wear my hat. If a student gets three red cards, they will receive detention, so I am working hard to remember my hat every day!

The Boarding House has strict rules about when we eat, sleep, shower and access our phones. The limited phone time means boarders socialize more with each other. The rules loosen up on weekends and I have loved being surrounded by other girls, making it feel like a giant sleepover every night. In conversations with the other girls, I've learned some Australian terms that initially confused me. Instead of, “how are you doing?”, Australians say, “how are you going?”. Except with an Aussie accent, it sounds more like “how ya gone?”. Another thing Australians say a lot is, “do you reckon?” when Canadians would say, “right?”. I think my favourite thing they say here is “bloody oath” which means “yes” or "it’s true”. They actually say “bloody” quite often to emphasize a point. We are adjusting to each other's accents and learning the Canadian and Australian version of different words.

The school day is also quite different. Instead of four classes per day with ten minutes of travel time in between, at St. Margaret's, I have seven classes per day with only one minute of travel time. We also have morning tea and afternoon tea where other boarders and I can go to the dining hall for a snack. Campus is very spread out, which results in lots of girls being late for class. Generally, students don’t run across campus because running in the sun with 80% humidity wearing a dark full length thick dress is not easy. 

I feel incredibly lucky to have this opportunity to participate in the Global Exchange Program. Settling into the boarding house and adjusting to a new set of rules was tough at first, as everything is so different from my life in Vancouver. However, after three weeks of being here, I’ve started to look at the positive side of things. I’m also learning to be more independent, flexible and resilient. I am grateful for the friends I have made here, and we have already planned to visit each other in the coming years. For now, I am enjoying each day and the new experiences I am having. I cannot wait to see what lays ahead!
 

By Lexie, Grade 10 Student 

When I first stepped off the plane, the thought that I was in a different continent finally hit me. I knew this experience would be life-changing, but I didn’t realize all the things I would soon face and encounter. To begin with, Brisbane is much warmer than Vancouver, and the uniforms of my new school do not feel practical for this heat. 

The school uniforms are navy, but not pleated like ours. The uniform contains a long skirt with a matching top. There is a white-collar you have to wear with the top too. There is a school pin and a house pin everyone has to wear on their collar, but other girls have to wear more if they are apart of other clubs or if they are boarders. I have to wear tan socks with brown polishable shoes. Did I forget to mention that we also have a hat? You have to arrive and leave school with your hat on, as well as wear it during morning tea and lunchtime. 

During lunchtime, the majority of the students eat outside in the piping hot sun. Not many girls eat their lunches inside, so I think they can cope with the heat more than I can. The school schedule is very different than Crofton House. At home, we have four 75 minute classes a day, about 45 minutes for assembly or advisor, a one hour lunch, and 10 minute travel times between our classes. At St. Margarets, you have seven 45 minute classes a day, but you can have double blocks of a certain subject. Your day also consists of a 35 minute flex time for advisor or assemblies, 25 minutes for morning tea, and 45 minutes for lunch. I find their schedule much harder to follow than ours. Some of their classes feel very short, but when a class has a double block, the class feels extremely long. 

While I am in Australia, I hope to visit popular local places and the beaches. I am looking forward to going to Sydney with the school, and I think it will be very interesting to see the popular city that everyone talks about. 

I find it extremely fascinating learning at a school across the world. I think as the weeks go on, I will learn new skills and begin to understand new ways of learning. I am very fortunate to be able to have this opportunity. I believe I will grow as a person and become very independent. I have already learned how to cope with emotions I am not used to, and it is very important to focus on the positive and not think about the negative. 
 

By Shae, Grade 10 Student

From snow pants to shorts. I have to admit, it was quite a shock to arrive into such a bright and sunny country after leaving a snowcovered Vancouver only a few days earlier. 

Australia is beautiful, with wonderful coastlines and very strange animals. The first week I was here we ventured to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, and I had the opportunity to hold a Koala, as well as see many other unique creatures.

After a week of additional break and lots of exploring, we started our first day of school at St Hilda’s on the Gold Coast. Much of St Hilda’s is similar to Crofton House, with similar length school days and a multitude of lovely people. Their values are also quite alike, striving to help guide students to become their best selves.

The house system is only comprised of three houses, one for each of the primary colours, but they also enjoy various activities throughout the year. This includes “So you think you can sing/dance”, as well as the Swimming Carnival, two school wide competitions occurring while we are here. Their spirit is captured through house “war cries”, a very different and much more frightening take on the chants we know back at Crofton.

Like Crofton house, St Hilda’s takes pride in their athletics. This requires a beautifully maintained field of real grass, as well as a large swimming pool for training and inter-house activities. 

St Hilda’s is much more spread out than Crofton House, spanning multiple buildings and many shaded courtyards. Since they are accustomed to the hot Australian summers, the campus has been made to self regulate the temperatures of buildings as best possible. This means many shady overhangs and covered pathways, smaller buildings for more efficient air conditioning, and walls of open windows. Their uniforms include a hat that must be worn at all times when outside - to stay protected from the sun - and a navy blue tunic. The cafeteria is below one of the buildings, with only two walls for a shady indoor/outdoor seating area to enjoy lunch or morning tea. They have a few buildings for students to board throughout the year, allowing families from rural farms or other countries the opportunity to send their girls to St Hilda’s. This has made the school very diverse, including girls from many different backgrounds and a broad range of interests.
    
I am very much looking forward to spending time on the beaches, since Surfer’s Paradise really does seem to live up to its name. St Hilda’s is only a tram ride away, and I can not wait to spend my afternoons in the ocean. For the most part, the weather has been nice (apart from the flash flood that occured half a week ago - that was a surprise), so I have been enjoying all the time I am able to spend outside. 
    
I would like to thank all my teachers who have supported and made this trip possible, it is truly an experience of a lifetime. I can not wait to come home and share all the (couple thousand) photographs and memories I have made :)

By Gabrielle, Grade 10 Student

My first impressions of Australia are that it is a beautiful country. So far, we’ve gone to the beach, walked through the parks, and drove around town. Main beach was our first stop, just 5 minutes away from my exchange’s home. The nature, culture, and landscape is so different but my host family has done an amazing job at making me feel at home. There are palm trees everywhere you look and fruit trees grow here like weeds. I am so excited to get to visit my exchange’s grandmother. She lives on the Tweed river with a boat and a property full of fruit trees. We will be tubing, swimming , and water skiing all day long on Australia Day! Different from Canada Day, there are no parades or big celebrations. Families and friends gather at beaches, homes, and restaurants to celebrate the beginnings of they’re amazing country. We will also hit Byron Bay, which is known for its surfing and scuba diving sites and is home to Chris Hemsworth. We have visited Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. I got to hold a koala, pet a kangaroo, and learn about all of Australia’s indigenous species. The Tasmanian Devils, snakes, and wombats blew me away in how they’ve evolved and adapted to Australia’s hot climate. It has been an amazing beginning to what will become known as the adventure of a lifetime! 

A message from Susan Hutchison, Director, Junior School

Crofton House School embraces three core values: courage, creativity, and citizenship. This week we explored courage. The CHS website describes courage as “what young women need in order to develop the quality of character that will inspire a meaningful life – and what Crofton House graduates need to address the world's challenges. From courage comes empathy, confidence, and resilience.”

When it comes to courage, we are always inspired by the grand narratives of the very brave - climbers of Mt. Everest, skydivers, the heroes of world conflict and Olympic athletes. However, we challenge the girls to reflect on courage as an everyday occurrence. We are all on a “Courage Journey”. Each and every day, we are presented with small moments that test our courage. For young people, this realization can be quite compelling. Courage is all about the small daily efforts to overcome our fears and move forward.

The girls were open and willing to share moments when they feel afraid: sleeping in their own bed, embracing the dark, telling the truth after a lie, persisting after a failure, being open to tasting a new food, trying a different activity, riding a bike without training wheels, talking about a sadness, doing what you know is right, facing challenges with friends. This is quite a riveting list! And, it goes on and on.

Sometimes, it’s hard to notice the small acts of courage in children, but they do need to be acknowledged for their steps along their “Courage Journey”. We helped the girls understand that they can watch for signs of courage. If they feel like giving up and they continue - it’s courage at work. If they tell a lie and take responsibility for the outcome - it’s courage at work. If they are afraid to fail and they continue - it’s courage at work. If they do the right thing even though they may be left out of a group - it’s courage at work.

Without courage, we would always do what is easy. We would never grow through our mistakes. Fear would be in charge and we would avoid difficult and awkward situations. We tried to inspire the girls to embrace their “Courage Journey” with a deep and quiet strength.

Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the ability to access personal strength to continue in spite of being afraid. It is never about pretending to be fearless and taking inappropriate risks. It is a way of thinking that brings out the best in us and gives us a powerful energy to be confident, resilient and engaged participants in life.

Children build courage in small steps. It takes practice. Watch for age-appropriate signs of courage in your daughter and acknowledge her efforts on her “Courage Journey”. Show her that you are also on your own “Courage Journey”. She has a wonderful story to share about two happy butterflies who lived in the safety and security of the greenhouse, but a longing for the world beyond took them on their “Courage Journey” with some surprising outcomes. 

A message from Lois Rowe, Deputy Head and Director, Senior School

Over thirty years ago, Robert Fulghum’s book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things, was first published. Lingering in a used bookstore during the recent holiday I chanced upon one of the over 7 million copies of this book somewhere in the world. Life experiences are different in 2020 compared to 1986 when Fulghum’s book began a long “best seller” trek and yet, there are fundamental truths in his musings. More on this later. Re-reading the title of Fulghum’s book, for some reason, it immediately flipped in my mind and a new title emerged: “all the things I wish I had learned in school”, and this started me on some musings of my own. 

I am looking forward to seeing the students gather again next Tuesday. I miss having them around - their chatter, industriousness, intensity, and youthful optimism. During the first week, students are given time to reflect upon the goals set at the start of the year and to refine or refocus, as needed. This act of taking time to write down what is going well for her and where she will invest her effort for the next stretch of school is one of the things that I have put on my list of things I wished I had learned in school. Individuals who carve out time to put a single destination pin on the map of their learning is far more likely to arrive than those who either have too many pins or can't find the map. In an attempt to inspire their reflection I plan to share some of the items on the 'musings' list currently drafted in response to my flipped title. Writing them for you first will perhaps do two things, help me to frame my thoughts and inspire you to add your own. 

Things I wish I was taught in school ...

I wish someone had decoded for me the concept of executive function. When I was in school, it was assumed students knew how to manage their time, prioritize tasks, get started, stay focused, etc. Full confession - until 2nd year of post-secondary studies, I would describe myself as a rather passive student. I showed up and fortunately could figure most things out without trying too hard. Looking back, in addition to learning how to conjugate verbs, factor trinomial expressions, and receive a serve in volleyball, I know with certainty that I would have moved through my education with greater a sense of control and self-determinism if I understood there is more to being successful than being smart enough; one also needs to develop and practice “school smarts” and this begins with them being separated and named. The good news is that in 2020, these skills are woven into the curriculum and, in some tangible manner, are becoming the curriculum.

In addition to learning about ‘stimulus’ and ‘response’ in Science class, I wish a greater focus of my education was placed on learning about the gap that separates the two. How many decisions might have been made differently if I was taught to hang out a little longer in a gap? How many conflicts might have been avoided? I’m not sure, I only know that once the gap is as tangible as the stimulus, the response part of this equation is more often accompanied with confidence rather than regret. Further, my experience is that very little can go wrong with the simple act of widening the gap.

I wish I was taught that having hard conversations are part of life rather than something to avoid if possible. More than that, rather than assuming one would know how to engage in a hard conversation when required, I would have appreciated being taught how to approach one, being given a chance to practice and to have access to a coach who was able to provide feedback. In 2020, there is a new focus on teaching through dialogue which develops many of the active listening and productive disagreement techniques; however, I fear that with the role modelling we are currently exposed through media is far from what might be described as constructive. Perhaps more than ever, this is something that needs to be on the list of the required curriculum. 

I have many other items on my list but I am curious what you would put on a list entitled: “things I wish I was taught”. There could be two columns to this project with the second one entitled “things I wish I learned”. For me, how to write would have topped that column. I know I was taught but did not respect this vital skill until much later in life. If you find time this week, may I ask you to connect with your daughters about the reflections they will add to the second progress report? Perhaps you might share your lists as a way of helping them to understand the value in setting and reflecting on goals. Kids are strangely reassured by knowing their parents don’t know everything and that we made mistakes. 

TAP IN! a podcast that explores topics that are important to Teachers And Parents - making it easy for you to be part of big conversations. Hosted by Susan Hutchison, director, Junior School, and assistant director Wendy Macken. 

Newsletter Archive

With the introduction of a new CHS website in April 2019, the 'read more' links found in previous issues of the newsletter will no longer work. However, the full articles can be read on this page.