The tragic death last week of 22‐year‐old Eurydice Dixon in North Carlton and the resultant call for men to modify their behaviour towards women brought home many of the values we work to instil in our young men here at Malvern. Respect for all persons is, of course, one of the Five Core Principles of a Lasallian Education, central to all we do and all our relationships here in our College.
It is critical for our young men to be mindful of the way they interact with each other, with their teachers, Coordinators and the wider staff, with their families and with members of the community. It is never too early (or even too late!) to grasp, appreciate and practice the obligation for genuine respect for those around you. Without dwelling on the negative, because anybody who knows our students will report they are tremendous young men, who set such a fine example for each other in so many situations, the call via messages in the media demanding young men be better educated around their treatment of women is worthy of comment.
Perhaps it’s a sad indictment on our community that it takes a needless death like Ms Dixon’s to remind us, but if any good can come out of such tragedy, it does add impetus and emphasis to a boys’ school’s program on supporting our students on their path to being great young men.
An enormous amount of work is being done by our Wellbeing Team is this area via formal programs and informal advice, support, conversations and expectations. The smallest act of kindness to a peer, the simplest act of respect for a staff member, the basic decision‐making process choosing right over wrong all build character and responsibility. These are the traits we want in our Lasallians as they navigate adolescence.
Last Sunday’s Gospel was Mark’s Parable of the Growing Seed, with the essential theme of “from little things, big things grow.” The passage tells of a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” The parable of the mustard seed calls attention to the surprising contrast between the small size of its beginnings and the large shrub, which is the fruit of its growth. It is my hope that out of the smallest acts of respect, responsibility and kindness, our students will experience the growth of the mustard bush!
On a similar path, the extract below from a Lasallian text is a salient tale in relation to the simple virtues of respect and inclusivity. It is in these often humble and unassuming ways our young men can prove themselves truly respectful and inclusive and make a positive impact on those around them.
Treated as if I Belonged
The first time I walked through the halls of a Lasallian school, it had been eight years since my last teaching experience. After many years of working in parish ministry, I was living in Denver, Colorado, and returning to the classroom as a high school theology teacher.
Making the decision to leave parish ministry and return to teaching was difficult. I was comfortable with my role and surrounded by people of faith who were also my friends. But the circumstances of my job and the gentle nudging of the Lord were inviting me to something new. At the time, I didn’t know what a “Lasallian” school was, and I had never heard of Saint John Baptist de La Salle. I simply knew that there was a Catholic high school that needed a theology teacher and that I was a person who needed a place to belong.
I was new to teaching high school students, and I was new to teaching theology. I could hardly find my way around the building and taught in several different rooms so that I had to move each period like the students. I could remember only a few of my colleagues by name. I didn’t even know who to ask for help. As I began my first day of school, I was afraid.
I was walking through the hall during a passing period with my arms full of papers, books, and supplies. The hall was crowded with students, and I wasn’t sure how to find my next classroom.
But I knew I had to hurry because I needed to get there, set up, and be ready to teach as soon as the bell rang.
Preoccupied with all these worries, somehow my papers got away from me, scattering across the floor. I thought for sure that I would have to protect my things from students who would mindlessly walk all over them, that I might get knocked down while bending over in the crowd of students. Certainly, they would be laughing at me.
But students I didn’t know stopped and began picking up my things. Not only did they gather my things for me and ask me if I was all right, they offered to carry my things to my classroom. “Where can we take these for you, Ms Niblack?” they asked.
These young men and women called me by name and treated me as if I belonged there. That was the moment that I knew I had found a home. It was my first glimpse of what it means to be a Lasallian inclusive community. Students I didn’t know, knew me and were willing to go out of their way to take care of me, to help me, and to make me feel welcome. That was the moment that I knew how present God was to me, in bringing me to my new job — no, my vocation — as a Lasallian educator. I had found a home.
That one experience led me to develop an induction program at my school to welcome new teachers so that other new teachers might also experience the holy presence of God through others.
Rita Niblack, Mullen High School, Denver, CO
Wishing you all a happy and safe term break.
Mr Peter Houlihan