16 Aug 2019

Fragility, Coddling and Parenting

Over the last couple of weeks there has been a spike in articles around parenting and this generation of young people, due to the release of John Marsden’s new book called The Art of Growing Up. His comments around overparenting (arguably taken out of context and simplified) being akin to ‘emotional abuse’ were coupled with comments made by Jonathan Haidt, an American academic, currently in Australia. Haidt highlighted what he called a ‘fragility epidemic’ in young people. Haidt’s ideas stem from a popular piece he co-wrote in The Atlantic in 2015 called ‘The Coddling of the American Mind’.

These articles are interesting as they comment directly on the way we parent, societal trends and to a smaller extent how we believe our boys should interact with the world around them. Haidt’s ideas are based around the university context but he says the issues are due to overparenting and result in young people who are ill equipped to function in wider society.

Haidt’s article about the behaviours of contemporary university undergraduates comments on how students are speaking up forcefully about “micro-aggressions” from others, to the point where much speech is being muted, as offence is being construed and censor given for seemingly innocuous comments.  At some universities, professors are being asked to post “trigger warnings” before they discuss or assign readings on sensitive topics.

Haidt describes how one of his NYU students objected when he assigned an article on the dilemmas physicians face with a patient who is dying of cancer (the professor should have warned students who had lost a relative to cancer to steer clear of this article, said the student). Another objected when, as part of a discussion of weaknesses of the will, Haidt showed a classical painting of Ulysses having his men tie him to the mast of his ship as the Sirens (in this painting were half clothed) tried to lure them to their deaths (this was degrading to women, said the student in a course evaluation, and Haidt was insensitive for showing it). When students take their concerns to university administrators or social media, professors can become reluctant to broach potentially controversial or upsetting topics, which has a constricting effect on discussion of a variety of topics in the curriculum.

‘Microaggressions are small actions or word choices that seem on their face to have no malicious intent but that are thought of as a kind of violence nonetheless. For example, by some campus guidelines, it is a microaggression to ask an Asian American or Latino American “Where were you born?” because this implies that he or she is not a real American.’

Haidt believes these trends are damaging. He feels that we need to engage with topics that may cause us discomfort, “According to the most-basic tenets of psychology,” he says, “the very idea of helping people with anxiety disorders avoid the things they fear is misguided… Attempts to shield students from words, ideas, and people that might cause them emotional discomfort are bad for students. They are bad for the workplace, which will be mired in unending litigation if student expectations of safety are carried forward. And they are bad for American democracy, which is already paralyzed by worsening partisanship.”

At a recent Sydney University forum, Haidt broadened his discussion to what he sees as the reason why university students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like or were at odds with their own beliefs or experiences. He gave some good ‘soundbites’ about the ‘growing concern about the threat posed not only to children, but to the rest of society by parental over-protection in the middle classes of the English-speaking world’.

In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, he commented how many middle-class parents deprive their children of real world experiences due to being risk averse, controlling and overparenting.  “Coddling is the determined effort by adults to deprive kids of feedback from their own experience and replace it with lectures.” This manifests itself in too much structure and not enough time to play and explore. “When you deprive children of [unsupervised] play, you make them vulnerable to anxiety and depression because they fail to develop basic skills of self-regulation and interaction that will make them successful in life.” Haidt said by wanting to control and micro-manage their children’s lives, young people are missing out on learning and real-world experience.

He also commented about many parents’ noble quest to shield their children from the pain of failure has led to unintended changes. “In the United States, we know kids need more failure, so we now have college courses on how to fail. They never learn how to fend for themselves.”

These ideas connect with John Marsden’s new book which looks at a wide range of issues in education but highlights overparenting as a serious issue.

I have included some of these articles below for you to read. These articles question much of what many of us feel to be good parenting and the extent of the behavioural checks that we believe are needed to ensure a tolerant and inclusive society.

It is clear that this issue elicits strong responses from both sides of the debate. I have attached an article which also defends contemporary parenting. Please read and reflect upon the articles below in terms of your own family, your beliefs around parenting and your own thoughts on how society should work with individuals, with all our sensitivities and complexities.

Does the tenor of the articles ring true or it is just another academic trying to sell books through being outlandish and provocative? I would be interested to hear your thoughts. 

“‘Really disastrous’: the fragility epidemic that could change Australia” by Jordan Baker in Sydney Morning Herald, August 2019


“The Coddling of the American Mind” by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt in The Atlantic, September 2015


“Stop blaming our parenting” by Wendy Tuohy in in Sydney Morning Herald, August 2019


“John Marsden says parents and schools are failing kids, but his book offers little evidence” The Conversation, August 2019


Ben Barrington-Higgs

Social Emotional Learning – Perspective Taking

As a PYP (Primary Years Program) school the concept of Perspective (What are the points of view?) is one of the key concepts that is explored through numerous units of inquiry throughout the year and as a component of our Social Emotional Learning Program, Second Step.  

During their early years, students experience a strengthening of the neural connections in their brains, making them faster and more efficient processors of information. These changes, in conjunction with abstract reasoning skills and the growth of metacognitive skills (the ability to think about your own thinking) do three important things for students: 

  • Allow enhanced creativity 
  • Allow students to experience deeper empathy 
  • Provide an opportunity to develop stronger perspective-taking skills 

Researchers often refer to this growth in cognitive skills, and the opportunities it provides, as adolescents’ “developmental assets.” Yet, despite their increased capacity for problem solving, students often have difficulty using these skills when they face interpersonal challenges. So how do we help our students to improve their perspective-taking skills? 

Perspective Taking in the Second Step Program 

The Second Step Program harnesses students’ developmental assets by providing opportunities for them to analyse some of the common social problems they face. These exercises require perspective taking (the ability to identify and understand how a person is feeling), a skill that’s critical for maintaining healthy relationships and avoiding and resolving conflicts. Perspective taking is also the foundation for developing social awareness and cultural competence because it allows students to understand, empathise with, and show compassion for people from different cultures and backgrounds. Perspective is an important component of our PYP learning framework as it promotes ‘international mindedness’ and our pastoral care policy with its focus on ‘respect for all’. 

How Students Can Avoid and Resolve Peer Conflict 

To develop strong perspective-taking skills, students need to practice. The Second Step program that we use for our Social Emotional Learning sessions explicitly teaches perspective-taking strategies that help students learn to avoid and resolve conflicts. Examples include: 

  • Checking your assumptions about other peoples’ thoughts and feelings 
  • Keeping an open mind and seeking information instead of jumping to conclusions  
  • Making amends to someone you’ve hurt 

You can also explore these two books for further insight about adolescents’ developmental assets: 

  • Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Daniel J. Siegel, MD 
  • Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence by Laurence Steinberg, PhD 



Jagers, R. J., Rivas-Drake, D., & Borowski, T. (2018). Equity & social and emotional learning: A cultural analysis. Frameworks Briefs, Special Issues Series. 




PYP Curriculum

In this edition of PrepTalk we look at the curriculum and it’s connection to Primary Years Programme (PYP) and the mandated outcomes of NSW and Australian curriculum. A curriculum provides schools, teachers, parents, students, and the community with a clear understanding of what students should learn, regardless of where they live or what school system they are in. The PYP extends this definition to allow learning to be more than content. It aims to help our students think deeply and creatively about important issues that affect the world in which we live.

Please click on the link below to view the presentation.

PYP Curriculum

Sue Gough – PYP Co-ordinator

Faith Matters

For me, the last few months have been wonderful enjoying a prolonged English summer of cricket. I’m a mad cricket supporter and so have spent many nights in front of the TV until the wee hours of the morning watching the Cricket World Cup and now the Ashes.

For anyone who’s been a fan of Australian cricket it’s been a tumultuous 18 months since the now infamous ‘ball tampering scandal’ in South Africa in March last year. At that time, we saw the then captain and vice-captain of Australia banned from cricket and disgraced because of their acts. But since then we’ve had a redemption story for those players and for Australian cricket itself.

At the time I reflected on how personally betrayed I felt by the whole saga. As a young kid I, like so many other young boys, dreamed of one day donning the Baggy Green and playing for Australia. So, to see those players so wilfully throw that privilege away because of a “win at all costs” mentality was quite devastating. I was surprised how let down I felt personally in this situation. Of course, for so many young people it was even more difficult to watch because they’d idolised people like Steve Smith and David Warner for so long. For us as adults working with young people, or as parents, it was difficult to explain to them what their heroes had done.

Yet, over the last year we’ve seen a great redemption story and those three banned players working so hard to regain the trust of the public and make amends for their wrongdoings. For me, it’s just wonderful to see Steve Smith back to his usual brilliance scoring back to back centuries in the First Ashes Test.

As a Chaplain reflecting on this saga I can’t help but come back to the teachings of forgiveness. Forgiving someone who’s wronged you is something what we’re taught at a young age to do, yet it can be an incredibly difficult thing in practice. When we feel hurt or let down by somebody often the last thing we want to do is forgive.

We see in the Bible that Jesus’ disciples struggled with the notion of forgiveness just as we do today. In Matthew 18 they ask Jesus how many times they should forgive someone who has done them wrong. Jesus replies that you should forgive someone “not seven times, but seventy-seven”. Effectively, what Jesus is saying is that there are no limits to how many times we should forgive someone who does wrong by us. This is a difficult teaching to put into practice, yet is one that we should always be striving for.

In many of the RE classes of late we’ve been looking at Jesus’ teachings and what it means to rise above wrong doings to do the right thing; how you can be the ‘bigger person’. This is challenging. Yet, if we strive to be a good person this is the kind of challenge that we aim for. Forgiving someone is not always easy, and often it’s not quick, but it’s something we should try for whenever we can.

For me, I’ve forgiven Steve Smith for how he wronged me. All three banned players have owned up to their mistakes and worked to do better. Now what we can hope for is a convincing win in the Ashes Series!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Richard La’Brooy

Book Week 2019

What a magnificent day we had celebrating Book Week 2019. The festivities began with our annual parade on the Junior Playground area. Many parents and friends were there to witness the variety of costumes. The theme for this year’s Book Week was:


This year’s theme challenges us to choose to represent book characters who are a hero to us. This may include characters of stories that have meant something to us at any time in our lives – fiction or non-fiction. Book character parades help us to recognise and make connections with characters in stories that exercise our imaginations. They highlight experiences shared, values and attitudes that characters hold, hopes, dreams, aspirations and qualities recognised in them.

During the day each class had the opportunity to take part in a Book Hunt in Swain Gardens. Ten books were placed throughout the grounds and each class had to locate numbered books and answer questions to solve a puzzle. The boys loved getting outdoors exploring the grounds and competing against their peers.

Some of the feedback from the day:

‘I enjoy Book Week because you get to see all the boys dress up and see what books they really admire. I like action books. Today I dressed up as my favourite rugby star who is James O’Connor’. Adian C. (Y6)

‘I like how we got to do a Book Hunt and a Book Parade it was entertaining. It was cool seeing all the teachers dressed up. It was a fun day and I learnt about different books’. Thomas. A. (Y6)

‘Book Week was fun because I got to dress up. It was also fun because I got to go for a book hunt in Swain Gardens.’ Angus.R (Y1)

‘I like Book Week because we get to go to Swain Gardens on a Book Hunt and write down things on the paper. I had fun.’ Michael (Y1)

Kylie Bain – Teacher Librarian


Kindergarten – Dramatic Play Centres

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious leaning. Play is really the work of childhood”. Fred Rogers

Our Kindergarten boys learn a huge number of different skills through play. It allows them to explore, discover, negotiate with peers, take risks, listen to others, take turns, create meaning and solve problems. All of these important skills have been shown to help develop literacy, numeracy and social skills.

Research shows that ‘children who engage in complex forms of socio-dramatic play have greater language skills than non-players, better social skills, more empathy, more imagination, and more of the subtle capacity to know what others mean’ (Edward Miller and Joan Almon 2009).

We know that children are inherently active learners and that they learn best when they’re having fun. We also know that they are more likely to be having fun when they are playing!

To help develop the boys’ vocabulary and provide authentic opportunities for writing, real life dramatic play experiences are set up within the Kindergarten classroom. These centres provide space for the boys to practise writing in context and through dialogue. Boys will naturally engage in writing through play when the opportunity is given. When writing occurs through play our Kindergarten boys become increasingly confident and believe they are good at writing, which in turn helps them to feel successful.

Writing is promoted in the dramatic play centres through various forms. For example, in the class restaurant the boys design the chalk menu board, fill out customer order forms (that are then given to the chef), create restaurant menus, and write the bill!

To maintain a transdisciplinary approach to learning, the play centres are linked to our unit of inquiry. Kindergarten are currently learning about ‘Living Things’ and have had fun playing in our class Veterinary Surgery, Restaurant and Science Laboratory.

In the Veterinary Surgery boys take turns adopting the role of the customer, receptionist and vet. They are encouraged to use vocabulary linked to their role and these words (with accompanying pictures) are displayed in the play centre. For example, stethoscope, x-ray, thermometer, injection, bandage.

In the Science Laboratory the boys observe a range of living things using microscopes and magnifying glasses. They are encouraged to ask questions about the living things and record their observations using drawings and labelling.

Our class restaurant is where the boys can make connections between living things and how they can be used by people in the form of food. The boys take turns adopting the role of the customer, waiter, chef and cashier (link to our maths unit on money). It’s wonderful to hear the boys taking and writing down the customers food orders and explaining the specials on the menu board (which they create/write). To date there have been no food critics!

After playing in one of the centres we focus on writing a recount. The boys think about one of the roles that they played and what they did in that role, focusing on addressing the ‘When’, ‘Who’ and ‘What’ of recount writing.

It has been absolutely wonderful to observe the Kindergarten boys play and as a result write! Long may they continue to stay curious, creative and playful.

Belinda Smallhorn – Kindergarten Teacher

Year 5 – Digging up the Past

Last week Year 5 visited the Ku-ring-gai Historical Society and Gordon Library as part of their current Literacy unit on informative writing. The aim was to engage the boys in the local area and provide them with an authentic and purposeful use of both these fantastic resources. Across the grade, the boys are researching into a number of local places with the end goal of presentingto Ku-ring-gai Council, an innovative way of sharing this information  

Their initial searches of the internet threw up some interesting results. There were many links with Newington College in the local area, including the fact that William Hardy Wilson, the architect of Eryldene House and designer of the Stanmore War memorial was an Old Newingtonian. AlsoClaude Ronald Morley who fought in World War I was a boy at Newington as was his father. Whilst another group discovered a link between some bricks presented to our School in 1988 and Captain Arthur Phillip’s family home in Lyndhurst, Hampshire UK  

The boys have been using their group work skills to assign roles and share the load when investigating the following local areas:  

St Ives Showground 

Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Gardens 

Swain Gardens 

Seven Little Australians National Park 

Two Creeks Track 

Gordon Library 

Eryldene Historic House and Garden 

Newington College 

Lindfield Soldiers Memorial Park 

Thrilled about what they were discovering online, the visit to the Historical Society was even more exciting as it provided actual documents that they could search throughWhile difficult to wade through all these primary resources, it gave the boys a real sense of digging into the past :   

I found out about Arthur Swain’s daughter and that she and other volunteers helped to restore and preserve the garden after he died.”  Matthew A   

“I found that my family has a connection with Eryldene House.” Callan G  

The boys look forward to sharing their findings in a future edition of Prep Talk. 

 Phil Trethewey and Pascal Czerwenka – Year 5 Teachers


Oh, the places you’ll go! – language learning and soft skills for the future

When I was a child, there was a job position called a typist, a position that does not exist anymore. Many years ago, we had this thing called a Walkman and it played a cassette tape which we brought from a music shop. Nowadays, we purchase music straight from the Internet onto our devices. Oh, hang  on, downloading music is so yesterday. We now use Apps such as Spotify, Tidal and Pandora to listen to music.

Welcome to this forever changing world.

In our job as teachers, we vow to guide our boys with the knowledge they need to learn and guide them as they explore the world for as long as we can. Apart from higher grades, good education, the skills to do many great things, we value the importance of the soft skills – the skills that will help our boys to be flexible, to work in a team environment, to navigate an unknown situation calmly no matter where they go. Most importantly, these types of skills cannot be taken over by robots.   

Of course, I can dedicate this article to talk about the bells and whistles on the latest cool apps to enhance the boys language learning, but at some point in time, we have to come back to the original question, WHY? Why learning another language, other than the mother tongue, will develop the boys soft skills? How to approach it? What can parents do to help?

We all need to step out of our comfort zone in order to make progress. Learning another language and using that language to communicate with others and gently push a person outside his/her comfort zone. Throughout the process, mistakes will be made, embarrassing moments will occur and moments of frustration and anxiety may accompany the learners. What can our boys learn from this? Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out – strong work ethic; empathy – treating people with respect, especially people who cannot speak your language; be positive – forge a growth mindset towards learning; and last but not least, a communicator – including a person with an active listening skill, as one can’t be  good communicator without good listening skills.

You know what?  When the boys arm themselves with the right soft skills, as Dr Seuss wrote: You will be on your way up, you will be seeing great sights, you will join the high fliers who soar to high heights… Oh the places you will go!

Eva Angel – LOTE Teacher



The Importance of Play and Free Time

Pause a moment, take a deep breath in and picture a day in the life of your childhood. Each of us has had different experiences in a variety of environments and social structures, however, play was an activity we engaged in every day. Play is not just time to switch off from the demands and pressures of life, it also develops the skills children will need when navigating life.

“You can have a break from work and relax.” Connor Moseley, Year 6

Play is essential to the development of the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and pre-teens. Play is essential, although when we enter primary school it is often forgotten, pushed aside or seen as a trivial waste of time.

From a young age, children use play as a vehicle to explore the world around them. A small rock can be a provocation for hundreds of different purposes, to skip on water, as a character in their story, or to purely observe. Children can conquer their fears and challenge themselves in safe and secure environments where they develop their imagination, creativity and self-advocacy skills. Play needs to be driven by the individual to delve into decision making, moving at their own speed in their own interests and be passionate in their choice of play. If this time is externally controlled, children will lose opportunities to practice lifelong skills of creativity, leadership and individuality. When students play in the playground, they are not only getting a mental break, but working on their social skills of communication, speaking and listening, understanding and empathy. They are actively entertaining themselves through the simple joy of youth.

“I get to use social skills to solve problems in the playground.” Ollie Fisher, Year 3

There are many factors that can reduce time for play including busy lifestyles, family structure, and the increased attention and importance placed on academics. With the stresses and business of everyday life it is paramount that children, no matter the age, have time for free, child driven play.

This is not to ignore the benefits of extra-curricular activities, tailored academic programs and the impending factors of a busy lifestyle, however the inclusion of play for children and youth is essential to balance the challenges and development of life.

Another reason for a decrease in free play can be attributed to the passive entertainment of television, computer and video games.  Primary school children are still kids.  They need an outlet multiple times a day for free time or play. If this includes boredom, that is completely acceptable and a normal part of life. Allowing a child to freely explore being bored within a comfortable and safe environment enhances the ability to recognise it and deal with it appropriately.

When talking to the boys at Newington about their play, many only spoke about sport in the playground. We then took the time to discuss the many other opportunities within their day that they play, including in their classrooms.  They have the opportunity for free play time or ‘thinking time’ to explore their interests either individually or with their peers. They share their interests, knowledge and collaboratively develop their skills and confidence in a safe environment. We encourage this throughout the day, allowing the boys the freedom of play and exploration.

“It’s good for you, making you healthy and happy.” Angus Raffles, Year 1

Elissa Julian – Learning Enhancement Intern


Book Donations

Did you know that Papua New Guinea is our closest neighbour?  Many people there still live in very poor conditions without running water, electricity, a good standard of education or health care.

Many schools just operate out of a shed without lights, walls or proper flooring and there are a lot of children who go to school in just thongs or without shoes at all.  

Earlier this year we asked people to donate books no longer being used, to schools in PNG.  Children’s understanding grows out of books, and school curriculums are richer and the learning more meaningful.  Also, here in Australia there is a lot of waste when people don’t know what to do with their old books. 

We collected and packed around 140 cartons of books from different schools, businesses and friends.  These were then shipped to Papua New Guinea.

During the school break our family went back to New Guinea, and while we were there I organised for the books to be sorted into different school levels, and we distributed these to 10 schools.  We brought our 3 children to one of these schools to help distribute these books.  When they did this, they could see the different standards of schooling everywhere, and have an appreciation for their own school here in Australia.

On behalf of the schools that have received these books, I would like to thank Newington College and everyone that contributed their pre-loved books.  Everyone was amazed and grateful that the teaching material and textbooks are so current and relevant.  The students were all looking forward to reading their new storybooks. 

While there are many problems we can’t fix for these schools, it was good to have helped in a small way towards some schools by providing reading books and text books.  We also helped to reduce waste in the environment by saving these old books from being thrown out.  Everyone had to do only a small part to help, but it had such a positive impact.

Schools that we contributed to:

– Rabaul Play School
– Kokopo Primary
– Ranguna Elementary
– St Marys Vuvu Secondary
– Takubar Elementary
– Viviran Primary
– Tauran Primary
– Malabunga Secondary
– Destiny Elementary
– Chanel Teachers College

Joanne Seeto – Newington College Lindfield Parent