Thursday, 28 April 2016

Our students need to strive to be brave

I am presently preparing my assembly talk designed to inspire my students ready for another busy school term. The mantra for this term is:

Be brave!

I chose this mantra for three reasons:

Firstly, one of my teachers emailed me at the beginning of the school holidays and recommended I watch the TED talk:

Teach girls bravery not perfection

Reshma Saujani believes we're raising our girls to be perfect, and we're raising our boys to be brave. Reshma is the founder of Girls Who Code and has taken up the charge to socialise young girls to take risks and learn to programme — two skills she believes they need to move society forward.

“To truly innovate, we cannot leave behind half of our population. I need each of you to tell every young woman you know to be comfortable with imperfection.”

As principal of a girls school I am fully immersed in the future focused movement to develop girls’ abilities and interest in STEM subjects. Coding is at the forefront of this movement and encourages girls to try, trial, fail, try again and persevere to design and innovate. The number of girls entering robotics competitions is growing exponentially and their success is evident.

What does this have to do with my message of Be brave?  As Rashma points out, students have to get comfortable with taking a risk, trying something new and being comfortable with imperfection. Coding is a great way to embed this attribute.

Secondly, while in Wellington last weekend I visited Te Papa and attended the Gallipoli exhibition: Te Papa has joined forces with Weta Workshops to create an exhibition like no other. The amazing exhibition tells the story through the eyes of 8 New Zealanders who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Each figure is 2.4 times human size and using a variety of multi-media portrays their rich histories. The cutting-edge technology (3D maps, projections, models, sound, photography, dioramas and interactive exhibits) were highly engaging and captivating engendering huge respect for their courage and bravery from thousands of attendees.

It was moving, sobering and brought a new dimension to my understanding of bravery. The 2,779 New Zealanders who lost lives and the many more who were scarred for life faced adversity, terror and trauma but courageously battled on for their country.

I intend to show some of the photos I took at the exhibition (suitably chosen for 5 – 13 year olds) to make links between the bravery and courage of those lost at Gallipoli to their own self-development, That is, to be courageous when they may be faced with a problem at school, or, when they are challenged, or, need to take a risk, or, feel scared to try something new.

I will read them the true story of Gladys Henning a New Zealand ambulance driver which is truly inspiring and reinforces the concept of girl’s can do anything. In an interview in 1969 she stated:

“When I was young, women weren’t supposed to do anything much, not even express themselves … For my own part, if I found a barrier, I just crashed through it.”

Thirdly, I had the pleasure of updating my cell phone over the holidays and needed to buy a new case for my iphone. I looked at the cases on display and one caught my eye, it stated:
Having faced personal challenges over the past 5 years losing my Mum, Dad and husband I immediately connected with this phrase. I have needed bucket loads of strength, courage and perseverance to keep going. Remaining positive and trialling a new way of existence is pretty courageous and scary but worthwhile.  

From this life experience my message to my students is - be brave, have courage to try new things, accept failures and try, try again – it’s worth it!

So, let’s teach kids to be brave and know it is ok not to be perfect.




  1. So true, Lyn and as the Mum and teacher of 12 year girls this post really resonated.
    Last night, Hattie and I watched a great documentary on Netflix called "Codegirl" about the Technovation Challenge. I really recommend it. Amazing.

  2. Lyn, I am pleased the TED talk resonated with you as much as it did with me. Selwyn House is an environment which strives to encourage our girls to be brave, to take risks and to be unique. I wish I was there at the Assembly, it sounds like you put a lot of thought into what you would share. Steph.