Principal's Weekly Update
A Window with a View
Week 5, Term 1, 2019
Swimming Carnivals & Community BBQ
In Week 5 we just managed to capture days warm enough for us to enjoy the
Primary and High School Swimming Carnivals. Once again, the students entered
these with a great sense of fun and cheered each other along to achieve some
personal bests. While the range of swimming ability is diverse, from noodle racing
through to regional swimming records, the commitment to having a go is
We wish to extend a special thank you to Kizz for her fine organisation of these
events, as well as her enthusiasm and ease in directing staff and students.
We also extend thanks to everyone who helped make our Community BBQ on
Friday evening a relaxing picnic, to Talulah for driving it, the parents who made the
salads and platters of fruit, cooked and prepped, and cleaned up, the children,
parents and staff who shared in the frivolity.
Our next celebration will be the Cabarette on Thursday 14 th and Friday 15 th March.
This is a mini-Cabaret with a range of musical numbers and animations created by
our students. The staff may even have an act!
Celebrating our Staff
Now, continuing our theme of celebrating our staff and sharing their professional
stories, this week we have Part 2, where we introduce you to the two and a half
Doctors we have on staff, (not of the prescription writing type). We introduce you to Dr Louise Dungate, Dr Kim Poole and Doctoral Student Alistair Symons.
Dr Louise Dungate has now been with us at Korowal for ten years. Throughout her
doctoral research, Louise explored how teacher’s interactions with young children
affect their wellbeing and involvement. While completing her doctorate, and working
part-time at Korowal, Louise taught in Teacher Education at Macquarie Uni. She
completed her Doctorate in 2015. In 2018, Louise was awarded a scholarship by
Doshisha- Kyoto University to attend an Intensive Japanese Fluency Immersion
Course, which she attended and completed in June-July.
Louise has taught across every age group, and at Korowal, teaches Japanese to
Kindy through to HSC. Working in early childhood since the 70s, Louise started a
Masters in London and taught in London primary schools in the early 80s. On her
return to Australia she became an early childhood specialist, working for the federal
government by advising on best educational practice. Louise was a writer of the
Australian Teaching Standards for Early Childhood. It was during her second degree
that Louise studied Japanese.
‘My son started at Korowal in 2000, so I knew about what the school offered. I
wanted to work in the Korowal teaching team because of the strong emphasis on
relationships and the collegiality’.
Louise taught Primary and a little High School Japanese at Blue Mountains Grammar for nine years prior to joining us at Korowal. Louise currently coordinates the staff teaching praxis at Korowal and together, Louise and I are engaged in a professional development project that plans to develop stronger oracy skills in students.
Dr Kim Poole is our resident Music Teacher, composer, arranger and orchestrator. Currently Kim’s professional development includes arranging music for the school and his teaching, as well as for orchestras to play. Kim gets great satisfaction from seeing and hearing professionals realise his orchestrations.
Kim commenced his PhD program after completing his MMus (Hons), writing a
doctoral thesis that was ethnomusicological in terms of methodology and focus. His
studies started at the Conservatorium where he focused on the idea of high school
music teaching within a BMusEd. It was here Kim discovered his passion for
While working on his doctorate, Kim began teaching at tertiary institutions. First at
UNSW, before having a tenured position at WSU (then UWS) where he taught
performance (improvisation, ensembles, concert prep etc), theory (composition,
analysis, aural training) and musicology (ethnomusicological focus) - across about
‘I did some casual teaching over a year or so at Korowal and found there was a lot I
liked about the philosophy of the school, in particular the way it fostered a different
kind of teacher-student relationship - more like what I was familiar with in my uni
teaching, and more like what I had known as a high school student myself with my
teachers in secondary college in the ACT’.
‘On paper I would have looked ridiculously over-qualified and woefully under-
experienced in terms of teaching in school. What I felt straight away when Mark
interviewed me for a primary position was that he was simply getting a sense of me
as a person who was interested in teaching, and my character, not getting caught up
with my qualifications and presuming I was an 'academic' who was going to be out of touch with teenagers. So Korowal was literally the first school to take a shot with me’.
The rest is history as Kim clocked his 10 Year anniversary last year, and continues
to teach classroom music from Year 3 through to HSC., as well as arrange and
musically direct shows. He always strikes the right chord with the age group. He is
Being a Doctoral student, Alistair Symons joined Korowal in 2018 as the High School Coordinator/Deputy Principal.
‘The most appealing aspect of the role is the opportunity to work with teachers to
deliver an engaging curriculum that is mutually beneficial and rewarding for both
students and staff’. Alistair was attracted to many things at the School, including the beautiful grounds and heritage buildings filled with history and character.
Prior to this position, Alistair worked in four secondary schools, where he was Head
of Department and Head of Curriculum. He was also Director of Learning and Teaching at a national university, responsible for implementing evidence based best classroom practice such as the 'Flipped Classroom' model.
Alistair commenced his doctorate in that role and his research continues in the area
of school effectiveness and improvement. He is investigating how school leaders and
teachers improve educational outcomes for all students. He will be contributing new
knowledge to the literature by interviewing Korowal teachers about their pedagogical
practices and leadership of learning in their discipline.
There is so much happening behind the scene that enrichens our School community.
Most importantly, we are people together, supporting each other, laughing, mindful of
May you have a powerful week.
A Window with a View
Week 4, Term 1, 2019
As we continue smoothly through our first term of school for 2019, we have begun reflecting upon our uniqueness in the educational sector. Together we will celebrate our community on Friday afternoon 1st March at the Community BBQ.
This week I again visited John Marsden’s Alice Miller School in Macedon, Victoria. John introduced me to the assembly as Principal of ‘a school like theirs’. We appreciate our association, which started in 2016 with our first ‘Impressions’ Conversation. We have been sharing ideas and discussing potential joint ventures, and Monday’s visit was a further conversation in that domain. It is too soon to go into any detail, but it’s invigorating to share our concerns for our students and teachers and look towards creating opportunities that inspire.
We share concern that schools are under ever increasing pressure, and it’s not the teaching experience in the classroom so much as the documentation and administration that are changing the focus. Teachers’ workloads are potentially destroying their passion for the very thing they entered the profession to do - to lead students towards an understanding, to create moments of wonder, to challenge thinking, to build skills for independent learning and to be in harmony with their class.
I am prompted to write about our teachers after a conversation with a parent who has taken a year away from the teaching profession to breathe, and to reprioritise. In the five years she has been teaching, the work load steadily increased to the point where she was running the entire time, always stressed that an incident hadn’t been written up or that she had not had time to reply to a parent; just catching up on marking, programming and reading new texts in the term breaks before the intensity started again. There was no reprieve.
We need to look after teachers! Our teachers are remarkable and we celebrate them today. At Korowal, we listen keenly to our staff and work collegially as much as possible to share concerns and support each other.
We also prioritise opportunities for staff professional development and connections and for a small school, we have much to celebrate in this area. It is time to let you know of more about some wonderful people we work with and who teach your children, and share their professional story of 2019. Here is insight into four of our colleagues, with more to come in the following weeks.
Jason Carthew - High School
Jason is our IT coordinator. He is our HSC Multi-Media, Elective Multi-Media, Technology Mandatory teacher and takes our primary Coding Club.
Jason runs teacher and pupil inservices and training sessions for NSW Educational Standards Authority (NESA). This term he is involved in ‘Shape’ seminars, presenting exemplary works from HSC marking 2018. Jason also assists with presenting HSC Marking Guidelines for Year 12 Industrial Technology, and consulted in the development of the new Australian NSW Curriculum for Technology Mandatory.
Andy O’Doherty - High School
Andy is new to our staff and teaches HSC Biology and Chemistry, junior Science and Maths. Andy sits on the NESA HSC Biology Exam Committee and is attending sessions currently. She is a Senior Marker for HSC Chemistry and has been invited by NESA to write questions for HSC Chemistry papers.
Bec Finch - Primary School
Bec is our Primary Coordinator and Deputy Principal. She also shares the Year 6 class teacher role.
Bec is undertaking the AIS Flagship Program in 2019. This is a rigorous, holistic, twelve-month program for senior leaders and aspirant principals in the independent educational sector. It contributes 25% towards a Masters in Educational Leadership.
‘It blends theory and practice, provides hands on experience in leading school-wide change, develops knowledge and skills needed for successful senior leadership, and addresses both the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers and Australian Professional Standards for Principals - standards which are applied to emerging and current Principals and members of a school executive’. AIS NSW.
Sarah Farrell Whelan - Whole School Wellbeing
Sarah is a Senior Social Worker and our Wellbeing Coordinator and is engaged in Open Dialogue Training. Developed in Finland in the 1980’s, Open Dialogue invites a person experiencing distress or with mental health concerns, and their network, to come together to talk. It is a meeting of minds to explore all of the perspectives on the situation or crisis at hand.
As Sarah reflects: ‘I believe that there has been minimal cross over at this time between Open Dialogue practices within Health and The Education system. This seems to be a loss for our students, their families and school staff. The ethos, practices and philosophy of Open Dialogue are so fitting to the welfare and wellbeing of schools, particularly Korowal. It fits beautifully with our Restorative Practice model.’
In 2017 Open Dialogue Training commenced in Sydney, through a partnership between Sydney University and St Vincent’s Hospital with Finish trainers for the first time. This Training has been offered to a very selective group of clinicians who have been part of an Open Dialogue study and Sarah is one of the 12 students. This Psychotherapy Training and Trainers Training will go over 3 years, and it is now in its second year. It is the first of its kind in Australia.
Our values of kindness and respect attract staff who want to work at Korowal, and we are the beneficiaries of their expertise and care. We have so much to be grateful for.
May we remember gratitude as we step forward into our new week.
Window with a View
Week 3, Term 1, 2019
In the High School
Annual camps are an integral part of the outdoor education curriculum in the high school. They are structured learning experiences outside the usual school routine. In the past week, from Wednesday to Friday, two groups attended camps. Year 7 ventured to the YMCA Camp at Yarramundi, under the guidance of their intrepid Coordinators, Barb H and Andrew. Pathways students trekked to Dunns Swamp, or Ganguddy, as it is known to the local Aboriginal people. This site is a beautiful waterway on the Cudgegong River in Wollemi National Park. Students were accompanied by plucky Pathways Coordinators, Lisa H and Rick, as well as Andy (Andrea), a great addition to the Korowal staff in 2019.
Ideal weather conditions at Yarrumundi provided the backdrop for a marvellous experience for our newest members of the high school. Archery, high ropes, cave maze, rock climbing, kayaking, abseiling, orienteering, giant swing, alpine rescue, and the campfire, were included in the program for the three days and two nights. Whilst the students had a good deal of fun, they achieved other important outcomes such building resilience and cohesion as a group. In all respects, Year 7 is transitioning successfully into secondary schooling.
At the other end of the high school, the Pathways camp represents a different rite of passage, as our senior students continue to transition into young adulthood. The program for them included canoeing, swimming, bushwalking, bird watching, bush survival skills, camping, and team building. The physical activities provide a medium for students to forge their solidarity and identity as the senior leaders of the student body. Reports from our own teachers and Red Hill Environmental Education staff who facilitate the camp, were that Pathways students gave a commendable account of themselves throughout the event.
Sincere thanks to the teachers who attended the camps, giving students a memorable outdoor education and skills building experience. Thank you also to the teachers who held the fort, ensuring Year 8, 9 & 10 continued their on site learning unabated. Additionally, Week 3 witnessed the culmination of a series of meetings for each year group. We appreciate the engagement of parents and carers at these meetings, in our ongoing partnership of educating our most important stakeholders, our students.
In the Primary School
Teachers and students also went about the core business of teaching and learning. We asked our new Kindergarten students what they like about being at Korowal and here is what they said:
Maths is iniguous [sic] which means so pretty. I liked when we made the shapes with our bodies. I like singing “Good mornings what we do”. I like that we get to say our sounds and act them out like “n,n,n” I like quiet play time. I like when we say our goodbyes. I feel the most welcomed at school. I share, I play. School is like a dandelion that comes from the heart. School makes me learn and my brain gets better and better.
Playing with Matilda and doing all the fun crafts and letters. I like playing in the playground because it’s fun. I like it because we do the afternoon circle and the morning circle. I like it because we sing the songs altogether and it’s really nice and beautiful.
I like learning the new letters every day and learning how to read. I like dressing up and quiet play.
I like it when you read me books.
I like playing with Evie. I like learning facts like writing and drawing.
Learning stuff and learning how the weather feels and what the day is like. Playing and making new friends.
I like learning my sounds and Maths. I like playing with friends.
I like playing with new friends and old friends. I like handing out the crayons when it’s my turn. I like putting my desk away and stuff. I like our maths books, they are so cool. I thought there were only two pages in my books but then I know that there’s lots.
And here’s some other quotes our teachers heard this week from Primary students:
It’s easier to get help from a teacher when it is a small class. (Year 6 student)
It’s ok, I’m having fun. It’s probably my favourite thing to have. (Year 4 student)
Oh…do we have to go home? Please don’t say it’s home time. I want to keep working on my embroidery.(Year 4 student) Yeah can we keep doing it? (Rest of the class)
We love being able to look after the new Kindies and see them smile. (Year 6 student)
I would go out there and tell everyone to come to Korowal because it’s the best school, the teachers care and we do lots of fun things. (Year 5 student)
Our playground is really beautiful. (Year 5 student)
Reading this book with everyone just makes me happy. I really feel like I’m on an adventure. (Year 5 student)
I like my homework. It’s fun! (Year 4 student)
There are teachers who teach and we get to do drawing and play. (Year 1 student)
It is certainly heart-warming to hear the candid observations of our youngest students. We are delighted that learning thus far for them has been enjoyable. Their comments are also a wonderful affirmation of our teachers who work tirelessly to provide a uniquely valuable educational experience for our students.
Have a great week!
Alistair & Bec
A Window with a View
Week 2, Term 1, 2019
We welcomed Kindy children and parents to School this week. Even though many of us are years or even decades away from our children starting school, the significance of this rite of passage and the emotions involved are very near at these times. Singing the welcome songs, holding hands in circles, saying farewell to parents and stepping into the ‘big school’ experience, are all familiar first day rituals, but each year they are unique to the families of our new kindy group. We congratulate all of our Kindy families for their smooth transition to school.
Thank you for your understanding regarding the need to postpone the planned Community BBQ on Friday due to the storm predictions. Fortunately, their intensity passed over us, yet we regret that we were unable to come together in the early weeks of term. As soon as possible we will publish the alternate date and so enjoy the occasion.
We are happy to announce that our first Year 6 student and parent visit to our Caihe 3rd School, sister school in Hangzhou, China, is proceeding this year. This tour will provide our students with the experience of life in a large primary school in China, in stark contrast to their experience at Korowal. They will attend classes, as well as visit museums, galleries and a tea plantation, before getting a fast train to Shanghai to experience Disneyland and the Bund. They will stay in both hotels and homestay arrangements, as Hangzhou families are keen to welcome us to their homes and spend a day sightseeing. The tour is to take place over the Easter holidays and currently includes five students, five parents and Korowal staff. While we have confirmed these numbers, final numbers will be submitted on Thursday, so if you have overlooked the deadline there is still room for inclusion.
In continuing our commitment to exposing our students to further cultural diversity, throughout 2019 Bing will again be working with Years 5 and 6, introducing cultural insights and Mandarin language. She will be attending the tour to Hangzhou and will provide an essential interpretation of language and culture for our families and staff. Bing’s Mandarin classes are in addition to the weekly Japanese language and cultural program (NSW Australian Curriculum) that is taught by Louise and embraced by the students from Kindy to Year 10. Together, these provide a rich program, and we anticipate some insightful conversations and review when the group returns from China.
In the week to come, Years 7, 11 and 12 will attend their annual camps. We encourage all students to participate in this outdoor education program, for the benefits far outweigh the potential discomforts. We notice that it is becoming more challenging for parents to hold their teenage children to this aspect of the curriculum, possibly because the resistance is too intense. Students attending camp do not have access to electronic devices, are involved in group activities, undertake physical challenges, and confront their self-imposed limits. They laugh a lot, sing a bit, get wet and dirty, may feel uncomfortable, but always come back saying camp was awesome. Unless there is a health concern, please hold the line on this issue. In confronting fears and complacencies, resilience is developed. Our Year Coordinators are available to talk this through with you if necessary.
As we seize each day and its opportunities for new experiences in play and discovery, we are grateful to be surrounded by bush, beauty, and interesting people. With the green tips sprouting in the charcoaled bush, wallabies with joeys have returned to our grounds again.
Let’s take time to notice!
A Window with a View
Week 1, Term 1, 2019
It was wonderful to welcome your children and yourselves back to Korowal on Thursday morning. Our Summer break away from routine is perceptible in the energy and focus brought to bear at the start of the new school year. For the past three weeks staff have been preparing, either back at school or at home, to have everything in place for the moment when our students return, for then it all has meaning and we are whole again.
It is strange where you hear things about Korowal, and what you hear people say. Today for the first time (while at the hairdressers) I mentioned that I worked at Korowal, and was met with smiles and two people saying simultaneously ‘Ah, the cool school!’ So maybe we have moved away from the reference of ‘the hippy school’ to become thoroughly contemporary in other people’s eyes. It’s not really a surprise to us, but it’s great that people are looking at us as we are today. We value play, and academic rigour, and we expect students to act responsibly in order to embrace the freedoms that this enables them.
The more we all spread the word about what a beautiful school Korowal is, the more people will find out about us, ‘the best kept secret in the Mountains’! Reflecting on the past few years we can confidently state that they have been harmonious and we have strengthened our commitment to stay relevant to current as well as future needs. It really is a peaceful place to be. With our refined communications systems, Open Dialogue sessions, Restorative Practice and increased playground supervision, any tensions between students are being eased before escalation. We value parents and students raising issues and concerns and provide the space for them to be heard, as we strive to remain aligned with our values.
Korowal Community, Primary and High School, BBQ this Friday
To propel us in to the year, Talulah (a parent and our Primary art teacher) has again offered to coordinate our Korowal Community Picnic/BBQ. Please come along after school this Friday 8th Feb. 3:30 to 5:30pm. This will be a great opportunity to chat with fellow Korowal students and parents, and meet new families joining us this year.
As this was very successful last year, we would like all students to contribute a piece of fruit or vegetable for salads. Please send these to school on Friday morning.
Talulah will be organising volunteers for Friday afternoon to slice, dice and prepare salads. We will also need BBQ chefs and servers, and the essential cleaners and assistants afterwards. If you are able to help out please email
Talulah - email@example.com
Looking forward to seeing you all there!
Chinese visiting students
We will have 19 students from China visiting us all week in order to experience education at Korowal. The students will be undertaking their own English language classes each morning, and joining Primary and High School classes after recess. This visit beautifully coincides with the Chinese New Year on Tuesday 5th February. Our Chinese language teacher from Western Sydney University, Bing, has invited students to wear red clothes on Tuesday to acknowledge this significant day of celebration for Chinese people. Bing will share the traditions and meanings behind the Chinese New Year in her language class with Stage 3 on Tuesday. We are sure our Chinese student visitors will also have much to share with us!
Calendar of Class Meetings
We have now emailed all families the Term 1 Calendar of events. Please take time to review this. Class meetings begin on Monday evening and continue for two weeks. We encourage you to prioritise these as they are few and far between, and the best way for creating class community. As your children grow and move towards independence, keeping communication channels open is easier if you know the parents of their friends and have an understanding that it’s ok to check in when necessary.
Now, until we meet at a class meeting, or at the Community BBQ, may you enjoy the cooler weather. Also, if you have not already done so, check out the new Korowal website!
It is great to be back.
As we ended Week 6 of our term we opened our School to welcome new families to meet our staff, see the School, have questions answered, and also be shown around by some of our Year 10 student guides at our Information Morning on Saturday. This is an active time of the year particularly for people exploring options for Kindergarten, Year 7, and HSC, all key points of transition in a student’s life. We also met with people who are just looking for somewhere less pressured and more focussed on process than test results. We were fortunate to have a recent graduate James Campbell working for us at the information table, plus current students, to speak frankly of their own experiences of Korowal.
Thank you to all of the staff who made this day most enjoyable.
On Friday for International Women’s Day I had the pleasure of attending ‘The Women of The West Awards’ at Homebush, as a guest of ANZ women. The Hon Julie Bishop was the guest speaker, and is an impressive woman who has created a pathway through halls of power and held her own at tables amongst the world’s leaders. Regardless of party politics, her message to all women and men is that ‘no nation will meet its full potential until it fully embraces the 50% of people that are female. Women and men complement each other’.
From her experience, gender deafness is real, and having been the only woman present in rooms of suited men, she can categorically state that the men responded differently when hearing themselves to hearing her sole woman’s voice. Ms Bishop encouraged women to mentor each other, for in so doing we strengthen our resolve and build our self- confidence. ‘It need not take 80 years for the growth rate of Senior female executives to meet parity with men*. We can make this happen from today’.
*Gender Equity Insights 2019: Breaking through the Glass Ceiling. 2019 Research conducted by Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre in WA
The lingering messages from all of the women receiving awards for services to community on Friday, as well as from Julie Bishop, was to ‘not let others define who you are’, and to ensure that we mentor each other. To make it easier, not harder, for other women.
Speaking as Principal for our beautiful School, where we work consciously to develop authentic relationships and model respect, it is important that we also look into our own shadows and challenge each other for any biases that we may hold. We have open and honest young men and women around us each day, and a responsibility to nurture their passions and talents equally, and to encourage their voices.
On that note, we have a display of talents ready to entertain you on Thursday and Friday evening from 7.00pm at our ‘Cabarette’. Even the staff are frocking up this year for a special musical number driven by the passions of Deb and Caroline in the School office. They have brought us together and we have all laughed a lot. The proof is in the pudding!
While this week in this post, I was intending to write Part 3 of our Introduction to our Staff. I will postpone this until next week and instead, invite you to come and see the talents on stage this week. Students and staff will entertain you. Tickets to our ‘Cabarette’ are available through phoning the Office on 47587466 from 8.30am -4.30pm Mon-Wed.
May your voice be heard by those around you.