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The Positive Power of Community


 

In his book, The Art of Belonging (2014), Australian social researcher Mr Hugh McKay reminds us of the great paradox that new and emerging communication media, while seeming to bring us together, in fact, make it easier for us to stay apart. McKay reminds us that it is how we live that is important, and that strong communities develop our moral sense and build our emotional security. He says that as ‘social creatures’ we can only reach our potential when we engage with our communities. McKay states: ‘a good life is not lived in isolation or in the pursuit of independent goals; a good life is lived at the heart of a thriving community, amongst people we trust, and within an environment of mutual respect.’ 

We witnessed the positive power of community in full force at the Ruyton/Trinity production of The Wiz last week. I think ‘joyous’ is the only way to describe us as an audience as we sat spellbound by the adventures of a girl, a scarecrow, a tin man and a cowardly lion. This power reinforced the ability of the Arts to focus our attention, to marvel, wonder and imagine, and to bring us together to celebrate endeavour, achievement and excellence.

Academic, psychologist, author and champion of grit, Professor Angela Duckworth, has said that children need to understand why sustained and concentrated hard work is such an important skill, and then they need to practise it; and they need to identify something they’re passionate about. She believes that if you want to reach your potential, live meaningfully and make a contribution to the world, then find something you care about, surround yourself with supportive people who will give you honest feedback, and practise, practise, practise. This, according to Duckworth, is the secret to life.

While we marvelled at the performance, we were all too aware of the hours, days and weeks of preparation that enabled this. The performers, staff, orchestra, backstage crew and parent supporters have lived and breathed The Wiz for the past few months – alongside their usual routine. Their shared passion and purpose have enabled them to remain committed through the ups and downs of preparation, to accept honest feedback, to show grit and determination, to overcome setbacks and difficulties, and push towards reaching their potential – and beyond.

The notion of honest feedback is an important one in Performing Arts. A performance doesn’t attract a score, a percentage or a grade. It isn’t for a gold medal or a trophy. Thank goodness. To me, it provides one of the purest forms of feedback, the honesty of self-reflection and audience reaction. Greater creativity results from enlisting enthusiasm and personal best rather than assessment. And a standing ovation on Saturday evening said it all. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

We watch our students take their tentative first steps in Early Learning and Junior Primary performances. We see them hone their talents and grow in confidence from Primary to Secondary productions and plays. Over the years we see individual growth and the emergence of new and undiscovered talent. We see students who immerse themselves in every opportunity, as this is what brings their passion to life. Each year brings a new team together, a new rhythm, a new challenge and new opportunity.

A little magic goes a long way. Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and that Cowardly Lion demonstrated this as they eased on down the road to see the mysterious Wiz and realise their dreams. And Dorothy, in helping her three companions to realise their individual dreams, reminded us that we often hold the key to achieving our own personal best. If we believe in our own ability, find our courage, compassion and creativity we can do it. And the positive power of a supportive community will never go astray.

Ms Linda Douglas, Principal Ruyton Girls’ School

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Religion Non - denominational
Type Independent
Day/boarding Day School
Boys/Girls Girl
Years Kindergarten - Year 12
Enrolment Approximately 850 students
Fees: 12k - 16k Over 16k
From $12,713 (Early Learning Centre) to $31,631 per annum (Year 12)
Phone
03 9819******* 03 9819 2422
Fax
03 9818******* 03 9818 4790
Address 12 Selbourne Road, Kew 3101
Email
ruyton@*******
ruyton@ruyton.vic.edu.au
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