Another Happy New Year!

On behalf of the GNS faculty and staff, I wish you and your family an inspiring and rewarding school year. A GNS parent recently reminded me that the home–school partnership was invaluable in helping a child do their best. She then asked me two questions:
  1. What are we focusing on this year in the GNS whole child educational program?
  2. How could she help her child make the most of our efforts?

As we start the new school year, I thought it would be helpful to share my answer with you.

Area of Focus 1 – Developing Courage and Risk-Taking

We are working hard to make the 2018/2019 school year engaging, challenging and rewarding for each student. Every GNS faculty and staff member brings energy, expertise and compassion to their work to understand, challenge and support each student to do their best. We want to enable your child to realize their potential as a whole person each day and throughout life. One of the most exciting statements we hear from GNS students as they explore their potential and try new activities, new subjects and new responsibilities is, “I wasn’t sure I would be able to learn to do this and I didn’t realize that I would find it so rewarding and enjoyable.” As an IB Continuum school, we continue to encourage each student to be courageous, take risks and try new activities in academic, athletic, artistic and service-related pursuits. We also maintain a supportive and caring community where students support each other to take risks. As a parent, you can help your child by encouraging them to make the most of opportunities to do their best and try new activities. If your child is nervous about taking a risk:

  1. Listen patiently and empathetically and explain that it’s okay to be concerned. Stress that the teachers and you are here to keep them safe.
  2. Don’t force your child but don’t give up immediately. Patiently encourage and consider engaging the support of a teacher to help encourage your child to try something.
  3. Help your child feel in control by giving them choices such as when to try something or whether you or we will help them in some way.
  4. Avoid trying to reason with your child when they feel threatened by a new challenge. Provide reassurance that they will be safe, that you and the teachers will be there to help and that it’s okay to feel worried.
  5. Celebrate when you child tries something new. Talk about they did – “you were nervous, you did it and it was safe, even rewarding.” Re-telling what happened will help your child increase their confidence and remember that despite feeling trepidation, the result was positive.

Area of Focus 2 – Supporting Each Student’s Independence and Wellness

GNS faculty and staff members are committed to helping each student be more capable at tasks such as organizing their day, maintaining their calendar, completing research or meeting deadlines. We promote care of self, care of others, care of one’s things and care of the environment in GNS students. Because students develop organizational and study skills in different ways and at different speeds, we will keep guiding them to develop their skills and habits over time. There will never be an occasion when we figuratively “throw a student into the deep end.” At the same time, we avoid doing things for students that they could do themselves, thereby increasing their confidence.

We know that it’s important to learn from mistakes. Therefore, we encourage each individual to do things for themselves and speak up when they are having difficulty. As part of this, we will focus on how to better support each student’s mental health and wellness. We are developing a JK to Grade 12 approach to proactively help students cope with, reduce and address anxiety, and to make good choices about substance use. At the same time, we are working hard to ensure that students who are experiencing difficult times are identified and receive excellent support. Finally, as part of this, we are engaging expertise and support in the area of mental health and wellness from experts in Victoria.

In your parenting role, you can help your child become independent in a number of ways:

  1. Tell your child you are allowing them to do more things for themselves and then sit back. Start with one or two activities that your child can be responsible for.
  2. Generate a list of responsibilities for your child, such as helping with chores, sticking to a homework schedule, keeping their own calendar or advocating for themselves with a teacher or a coach.
  3. Make time for your child to complete activities such as packing their school bag, laying out their sports equipment, organizing their calendar or making a meal.
  4. Be prepared for imperfection as your child develops skills and habits. If your child misses the mark, help them recover without criticism.
  5. Recognize their efforts and suggest that you are optimistic that they will do better next time.
  6. Be aware of context. We all have difficulty doing our best when we are sick, tired or stressed. Do not be disappointed if your child is less independent under these circumstances.

As a final note, do not hesitate to connect with us if you feel your child is struggling with regard to mental health and wellness. We can help at the school and, when necessary, connect with outside experts to become involved.

Area of Focus 3 – Living Our GNS Values

As faculty and staff members, we strive to routinely promote, model and celebrate our GNS values: Truth, Courage, Caring, Individuality and Community. It is very important to us to see each GNS student develop the ability to live by and protect these values in the way they treat themselves and others. We work tirelessly to encourage inspired action and carefully considered behaviour that reflects each value. As a result, we expect students to help each other embrace our values. We will intervene in a positive and encouraging way to help students improve when they are struggling to live a value. We also celebrate and recognize students’ effort to live the values. You, as a parent, can help by:

  1. Taking time to listen to your child’s thoughts about how they could better live our values.
  2. Thinking aloud about desired behaviors and responses to different situations.
  3. Being a positive role model for each of the values. Children learn enormously from observing their parents.

At the end of the day, our key focus is to promote greater caring so that every member of the GNS community is safe, supported and well looked after.

Area of Focus 4 – Addressing Concerns and Problems in a Timely and Effective Manner

GNS faculty and staff members recognize that there are bumps in the road on a child’s educational path. We want to hear from you to smooth out these bumps. We are highly committed to working with parents to address concerns by listening, thinking aloud and making collaborative plans. As a parent, you can help us when a concern arises by:

  1. Communicating with us immediately. Talk to and work with the person most directly involved.
  2. Communicating with the appropriate principal if, following your first point of contact, your concern has not been satisfactorily addressed. Like GNS faculty members, the principals are deeply committed to helping students do their best.
  3. Communicating with me as Head of School, if for some reason the principal has not been able to help you to your satisfaction.

We are fully committed to listening, understanding and ensuring that concerns and problems are resolved.

Area of Focus 5 – Preparing Each Student for the Future

As an IB Continuum school, GNS faculty and staff members focus on enabling each GNS student to do more than simply memorize and learn by rote. We help your child prepare in an ongoing fashion for a world that is continually evolving, highly uncertain and very competitive. We strongly believe that developing each of the IB Learner Profile attributes is key to a student getting into university, enjoying and succeeding there, and continuing to enjoy challenge and rewards in their career and life. In our three IB programs, we create engaging and inspiring opportunities for your child to develop higher-level skills such as researching, analyzing, synthesizing and problem solving. As a parent, you can augment our efforts in a number of ways:

  1. Provide opportunities for play and experiences that allow your child to test and understand how things and people work in an informal sense.
  2. When you are talking about a concept or a situation, take time to pause and wait while your child thinks about a question or a situation rather than intervening immediately.
  3. Ask open-ended questions when discussing ideas and concepts.
  4. Encourage your child to develop and test hypotheses about causes, relationships and outcomes.

Area of Focus 6 – Improving Facilities

We are currently transforming the Beach Drive Campus to better support all aspects of the GNS program for our students. At the same time, we are developing a master plan for the transformation of the Pemberton Woods Campus. Our initial project at Pemberton Woods is planned to take place where my office and the Admin House are currently located and will not impact current teaching and learning in any adverse manner. We are excited to tell you more about our plans for both campuses in the new year when we launch our Capital Campaign.


In closing, the GNS community works together very well to ensure each student is able to realize their potential while enjoying a rewarding experience. Together we also continue to make the school even better. As we enter the new year I am very pleased to see that we are all focused on doing our best and I am confident that we will ensure this is a great year for all.

Warm regards,