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Be BOLD for change

In her work with the School and our past students, Old Girls/Alumni Manager, Ms Antonia Swindells bears witness to this year’s International Women’s Day theme #BeBoldForChange

Change. Some loathe it and do all they can to resist it. When routines or work habits are no longer structured, organised or controlled, intense anxiety and the fear of what the change may bring creeps in, leaving many overwhelmed.

Then there are those who embrace it. They are blessed with resilience and a growth mindset to boldly relish the unknown and view change as an opportunity for good. Winston Churchill once famously said, ‘A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.’

Within my role at Brisbane Girls Grammar School, I have the privilege of documenting the career pathways and achievements of our past students. Recording their accomplishments has enabled me to see that career aspirations of school-leavers evolve over time and often lead people in a different direction than that planned. I have frequently seen that when past students have been faced with a challenging situation in their career, they have turned it to their own advantage. What has been a common factor in these stories, is a willingness to embrace change.

The concept of space travel in the 1960’s was a bold and forward thinking vision with President John. F Kennedy in 1962 declaring that ‘The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not.’ The race for space was not a simple idea, nor was it quickly reachable. ‘We choose to go to the Moon in this decade,’ spoke Kennedy ‘not because it is easy, but because it is hard…’

After many successful space missions, Kennedy’s vision was tested nearly three decades later when, in 1986, the NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger broke apart seventy-three seconds into its flight, leading to the death of its seven crew members including civilian high-school teacher Ms Christa McAuliffe. Ms McAuliffe was to be the first teacher in space and viewed her role in the mission as an opportunity for students to better understand space and the workings of NASA. The Challenger disaster could have led to the diminishment of the American space programme with many hauled before Congress to explain why it should continue. After consulting the families of the deceased, the then President Ronald Reagan reaffirmed the visionary commitment: ‘The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.’

The changing frontier of Space is constantly in the media, challenging what we know with what we don’t and often presenting more questions than answers. Interestingly, it has also been challenged if the future of space travel still lies with NASA; or, will it be ‘space entrepreneurs’ who lead this work? For example, SpaceX is a US-based private company that aims to revolutionise space technology with the ultimate goal of ‘enabling people to live on other planets’.

Demonstrating astonishing levels of boldly embracing change, two-hundred thousand people from across the globe have applied for Mars One’s revolutionary programme to colonise Mars with the final twenty-four candidates to be announced in 2019. Curiously, another female school teacher, this time from Brisbane, has been shortlisted to the final one hundred applicants for this one-way mission.

It will ultimately be a group of people characterised by resilience, adaptability and curiosity that will leave for Mars in 2026 with others to follow for the gradual expansion of the space settlement. If successful, perhaps years from now, one of our own past students might be in one of those missions.

Returning to the context of today, the pace of change is frenetic. A recent report from the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, states that ‘more than five million jobs – that is, almost forty per cent of Australian jobs that exist today – have a moderate to high likelihood of disappearing in the next ten to fifteen years due to technological advancements’. This highlights the need to create a culture of boldly embracing change; one that acknowledges a working life can now typically include five career changes and an average of seventeen different jobs. In 2017, a mapped life course may no longer apply. Change is acceptable and often warranted given the myriad social disruptions of modern life. If remuneration levels of the recent past is any measure, comparing top-earning professions of ten years ago with those of today, shows that the demand for data scientists and entrepreneurial skills has rapidly risen.

The very fabric of our School has been affected by bold decisions in response to challenges. The School’s owned and operated Marrapatta Memorial Outdoor Education Centre at Imbil in the Mary Valley was established during the 1980s largely in response to the Christmas Creek tragedy. Under the leadership of the then Principal, Mrs Judith Hancock, the School chose to orientate towards hope and the future, balancing innovation with tradition to develop the Marrapatta campus. To this day, Marrapatta and our Outdoor Education programme helps fulfil our mission of providing students with a broad, liberal education. That is, to challenge, inspire and encourage girls and young women to not accept the status quo; to boldly embrace change.

In that same spirit of orienting toward the future, the School this year intends to construct a remotely operated robotic telescope and observatory at Marrapatta. The school-based observatory will be the first in a girls’ school in Australia and will provide learning opportunities across the curriculum, from Junior Science and Physics to Mathematics, Information Technology, Visual Art and beyond.

As students prepare to move into the world, they need not only be prepared for change but to boldly test the unfamiliar. Articulated in our Strategic Design 2016-2019, we prepare our girls for greatly varied future paths, an international outlook and an open-minded approach to life. Learning experiences at Girls Grammar are designed to excite and meet the needs of teenaged girls; to capture their imagination and establish a love of learning. We challenge our students beyond the classroom to strengthen their minds and bodies; Grammar girls are adaptable young women who readily embrace challenge, experience growth through performance and develop grit and determination. It is these enduring qualities that I see time and time again in past students’ stories; qualities that equip Grammar Women to be bold for change.

References

Achenbach, J. (2013). Which way to space?  Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2013/11/23/which-way-to-space/?utm_term=.ae7612e9a058

Brisbane Girls Grammar School. (2016). Strategic Design 2016–2019.

Brown, R. (2015). More than half of students chasing dying careers, report warns. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-24/next-generation-chasing-dying-careers/6720528

Dale, A. (n.d).BGGS Outdoor Education Centre. n.p.

Herold, B. (2016). In Analytics Economy, Demand for Data Scientist Outpaces Supply. A report for Digital Education . Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2016/12/analytics_economy_data_science_mckinsey.html

Kennedy. (1962). John F. Kennedy Moon Speech – Rice Stadium. Retrieved from https://er.jsc.nasa.gov/seh/ricetalk.htm

More than Five Million Aussie Jobs Gone in 10 to 15 Years. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.ceda.com.au/2015/06/16/five-million-Aussie-jobs-gone-in-10-to-15-years

Regan. (1986). Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger Address to the Nation, Retrieved from https://history.nasa.gov/reagan12886.htmlBrisbane Girls Grammar School. (2016). Strategic Design 2016–2019.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (2017). About SpaceX. Retrieved from http://www.spacex.com/about

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