Year 9s enjoying Rottnest Island

The last full week of term is a good time to reflect on the school year. And what a year it has been! The learning curve has been steep in my first year as Principal at Carmel School, and I have been grateful to listen to and learn from a huge range of people with very diverse views. I am proud of the many opportunities that the School offers to our students and the dedicated staff who work tirelessly to personalise what we offer, making sure that we cater for a range of different students’ needs.

This last full week of term has been a strangely quiet one in the High School, with Year 9 away on Rottnest Island, Years 10-11 on Shorashim in Israel, Year 12 already off campus and Years 7 and 8 on a fantastic activities program. I have been writing end of year speeches, planning for 2023 and worrying about whether I will get everything finished before my last day, on the 21st of December.

This year focused heavily on our review of the Jewish Life and Learning program at Carmel. This review was a massive undertaking – the time I invested into listening to the diversity of thought and range of opinions within the community was another huge learning experience for me. I am acutely aware of the importance of this piece of work and grateful to those of you in the community who so generously gave time and thought to it. I am very much looking forward to updating you on the plans envisioned for Jewish Life and Learning in 2024.

UWA this week announced that they plan to put in place ‘experience-based entry’ for undergraduates, to recognise how ‘all levels of learning and life experiences prepare students for university’ and that the ‘suitable skills and aptitude for study can be assessed by a broad set of skills and strengths’. It will be interesting to find out the details of how they plan to assess students’ eligibility for degree courses. The University has said that they will be ‘considering an applicant’s experiences in academic study as well as extracurricular activities, community engagement, volunteering, and work experience’, when making their decisions.

To finish off the year, I have, in an entirely unscientific way, rated a number of this year’s experiences and would like to share with you the winner of each category below.

  • Most enjoyable part of the job: welcoming students at the gate in the morning; running a biological beach excursion with the Kindy kids; working with fabulous teachers in lots of different ways.

  • Most surprising thing: Learning that there is such a range of opinions and diversity of thought amongst Jewish people. I had previously naively assumed far greater alignment and agreement.

  • Most important lesson learnt from Judaism: Family is the most important thing in life. After many, many years of not seeing my mum, I am flying home to Wales at the end of December to reconnect.

  • Most stressful thing: Handing over access to my electronic calendar and not using a paper diary for the first time in my life (happily Mrs Myers made it all work).

  • Most proud moments: Too many to list – the Mandurah YOH Fest drama performance, the fabulous Primary School concert, Mikkolot, VAPA night, hearing the news that we have two full Kindy classes for next year …

  • Best project: The L.E.A.P. Playground Project with my Year 5 and 6 students.

  • Most useful outcome: The refreshing of our school values and the articulation of the attributes of the ideal Carmel graduate. I am confident that the thinking that went into these pieces of work will be invaluable in guiding our way next year.

  • Most annoying thing: Coming to terms with the fact that Hebrew has different verbs that mean ‘to wear’ (wear a hat, wear jewellery, wear socks, wear clothes). Seriously? Is this really necessary?

  • Most fun days: Yom Ha’atzmaut, swimming carnival, athletics day.

  • Most amazing opportunity: The JNF study tour of Israel. To visit so many places in a new country in a part of the world where I haven’t travelled before was brilliant.

We have recently learnt that Mrs Melanie Kagan will leave Carmel School at the end of the year, to take up another opportunity within the education sector. We wish her the very best for the future. We are delighted to have secured the services of Mr Leon Schneider to join our team – Mr Schneider has taught at Carmel previously and we are looking forward to welcoming him back in January.

I hope you enjoy a lovely summer break with your family and that your children make the most of their time away from school. Glen Gerryn, Leader of the HopeFULL Institute, makes some good suggestions to help ensure that nobody will get to the end of their holiday and feel that they have not made the most of it. You can read about them here: I am keen to secure Glen as a speaker at Carmel School at some point in the future - his inspiring talks resonate with many students and encourage them to think about their future with hope and resilience. Until then, if you or your children would like to indulge in some summer goal setting, here’s his helpful guide:

Thank you for everything you have done for the School this year. I also thank you for welcoming me into your community and for sharing your thoughts so freely. I am already looking forward to 2023 and the bright future that I see for Carmel School.

Shabbat shalom

Dr Julie Harris