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You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted, you encourage them and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed.

– Psalm 10:17

The hardest part of learning is the pit of discomfort. We move from the safety of the known, into the sketchy, tenuous, and hard-to-grasp realm of the yet unknown. This is what learning is. It is the journey through discomfort that takes us from the known to the unknown. Instead of avoiding the pit of discomfort, we need to be willing to brave it, to acknowledge that learning is hard, to wrestle with uncertainty, to look for solutions or connections that enable us to link what is new to what we already understand. In this way, our circle of competence and knowledge expand.

For most of us, there was a time when we did not know how to swim. I don’t know if you remember when or where you learnt to swim, but I have a distinct memory of the steps at the shallow end of West Pymble Swimming Pool, and the feeling of uncertainty that engulfed me as readily as the water did when I had to move off the step into deeper water.

In learning, and in life, to keep growing we need to continue to face moments or times of discomfort. Sometimes we seek them out, sometimes we wish we could avoid them. But whether we embrace the unknown, acknowledging that we will come out the other side of the pit of discomfort, or we recoil from it, it is something that we cannot and should not avoid.

Imagine for a moment, if instead of being taught to swim, our parents thought it would be kinder not to see us go through the potential tears and anguish of learning to swim. In the long run, that apparently kind decision would be unhelpful and potentially dangerous.

One thing I can guarantee for all of us – we will face moments of great uncertainty, of pain, anguish, and discomfort in learning and in growth. This is as true for us as it is for our students. We will also face moments of joy, exhilaration, or quiet pleasure in conquering the unknown, developing a skill or ability that we previously did not have.

Our job as teachers is to help those in our care to learn and to grow. The alternative is unthinkable. It will be uncomfortable at times, not because we want it to be, or because we set out for it to be, but because that is the nature of learning, and of growth. But we know that pretty much everything of value comes at a cost, and there is deep and abiding satisfaction in growth through effort. Very few things of worth are cheap, although some are free, but not free from effort.

At present, all of us are living in a time of great uncertainty. It is not fun, but it is something that we can learn and grow through. From it, we want our students and our community to benefit, to grow stronger even in in the face of uncertainty and adversity. We do not want our students to be fragile, nor do we want them simply to be resilient, we want them to be anti-fragile, that is to grow through a time of hardship, to grow in character, in wisdom and in their preparedness to deal with the uncertainty that life presents to us all.

There has, of course, been much commentary this week about schools, COVID-19 outbreaks, and transmission. We continue to follow the guidelines provided by the NSW government. As advice changes, we will change the co-curricular and sports activities that we are able to run. Our aim has been to offer all that we can safely run within the guidelines, and nothing that we cannot. Our key responsibility is the safety of our community, and within that, its wellbeing, learning, and the breadth of opportunity that enriches lives.

Psalm 10:17 “You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted, you encourage them and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed.”

Tim Watson