By Cressida Batterham-Wilson
Acting Head of the Arlington Campus
Remembrance day is a sombre occasion, where we reflect on our collective past with the hope of informing our present and our future. Ceremony and tradition can help to guide us in this reflective process.
The 10s & 11s are in the thick of their current Unit of Inquiry all about traditions. This group of children, the “Biggies”, more than any other group at Arlington, carry the weight of our Arlington traditions for they create the end of year play; a gift for the younger children, they paint the stage curtain every two years, and they are now the custodians of a fairly new tradition; that of creating a screen print emblematic of their time at Arlington.
All of these traditions are framed by creative and imaginative endeavour. The stuff of learning. But perhaps most importantly, these traditions are owned, interpreted and re-imagined year on year by the children. They work together to not only confirm their place within the tradition, but to leave their mark on it.
This year, as in past years, there were heated discussions about the screen print. There was some thinking that only the 11s were ‘allowed’ to screen print onto a hoodie, and that the 10s could print on a t-shirt, but had to wait for the honour of printing onto a hoodie. Some recalled that this had always been the case, while others railed against this as unfair.
On Monday morning we gathered in the 10s & 11s to have a meeting about just this matter. Claire, Deb and I joined Victor and Rosie and the Biggies to share our thinking about this. We talked about the freedom to express yourself at Preshil; from not having to wear a uniform, to being encouraged to share your thinking in these meetings. We talked about whether it is right for someone else to decide in which way you are allowed to express yourself, and we talked about traditions, and how many need to change to meet the changing values of our society.
When I was a student here, the Biggies did an Easter and a Christmas play. The plays were generally capers involving Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, and strangely often aliens descending to earth which demanded that the plot ensure that Christmas or Easter be saved from them. Sometimes they ended with the Biggies giving out chocolates to the children.
By today’s thinking, framing the plays in Christian holidays is problematic. We are a proudly secular school, and our traditions must be inclusive and aligned with our secular identity. And so the plays have changed to embrace our current thinking. Preshil is a school built on values, and that our traditions can be adaptive is a testament to the strength of these values.
So what did the children decide about hoodies and t-shirts? Well, there was no need for a vote, or to make a statement as a group. The individuals we know as the Biggies are weighing up what it is we value at Arlington to inform this enterprise. We look forward to celebrating their endeavours.