Welcome to the Cornerstone Blog featuring articles from our Principal, Mr Craig Fielke as well as members of the Senior Leadership team, Learning Area Leaders and teachers across the College. We hope that you enjoy reading these updates.


A Creative Influence

Craig Fielke – Principal

On Friday, 21 August the world lost one of the most well-known education thinkers, Sir Ken Robinson, who died at the age of 70 after a battle with cancer. Amongst many reflections, his life was celebrated in a tribute for The Washington Post as “a joyful beacon of hope, calling on us to celebrate and foster the creative human spirit”.

If you have not had the opportunity, it is worth spending a little time viewing two of his most influential TED Talks, ‘How to escape education’s death valley’ and ‘Do schools kill creativity?’ The later has become one of the most watched TED talks of all time, with more than 66 million views. Both orations continue to remain as relevant today as they were when first shared.

A range of skills and disciplines have had to come to the fore as we have individually and collectively responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. One skill has been the ability to think and respond in a creative manner, especially as we have often found ourselves in uncharted waters.

Amongst other things, creativity can help you become a better problem solver, to see things from different perspectives and to deal with uncertainty. Studies have shown that creative people can better manage uncertainty as they can adapt their thinking to allow for the ebb and flow of the unknown.

One of the key capabilities that Cornerstone strategically and deliberately teaches in Middle School and then flows into aspects of learning in Senior School, is creativity. The SACE Board of SA also recognises and embeds creativity within subjects and elements of learning and assessment tasks.

Sir Ken Robinson was at the forefront of getting schools to recognise and understand the challenges old structures and paradigms of education present to enable effective and sustainable learning for the 21st century. He also made educators ponder more critically about thinking and learning, and in doing so enabled us to gain greater clarity about the what, why and how of education.

As stated in the Washington Post tribute, “His influence on the thinking of educators around the world is unparalleled in history and his legacy of critique about schools will have a lasting and profound impact for decades to come. Sir Ken’s loss offers everyone in the field of education an opportunity to honour him by reflecting and acting on his wisdom.”

Sir Ken’s wisdom has been one important source of the journey Cornerstone has and continues to take in providing an environment where learning is valuable, meaningful and purposeful.

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Shane Schoff – Deputy Principal

Learning is at the heart of what we do at Cornerstone. ‘We love, we learn, we grow’ emphasises, not only the value we place on learning, but our holistic approach through caring relationships that promote growth in young people.

It is not just young people who are learning. A thriving learning community is full of thriving learners, teachers and support staff included. Our staff, both individually and collaboratively, are engaged in ongoing professional learning to grow and develop their skills and capabilities to ultimately enhance the learning of students.

All teaching staff develop an annual Professional Learning Plan that is supported by Professional Learning Team Leaders. Each year half our teaching staff present and share their learning at our annual professional learning expo in December.

Culturally, this is an important time for our staff, as it is time prioritised to share and engage in learning with other staff.

A new initiative this year is an opportunity for staff to work collaboratively on a Professional Learning Project.

A number of staff are involved with two projects investigating the following questions:

  • How can we evaluate the impact of our teaching?
  • How can we increase student motivation to learn and appreciate learning?

The longer-term vision is to provide a robust and flexible approach for staff professional learning that strengthens relationships and collaborative skills while building a collective responsibility for improvement.

The aim includes building a culture of innovation in our professional learning that empowers staff to try new ideas and ultimately improve student learning.

When I am immersed in learning I seem to lose track of time. The same happens when others engage me in their own learning. Whether it is student learning or staff learning, there is a strong sense of thriving when we are growing and being stretched in our capacity.

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Graduate qualities

Julie Sampson – Learning Director

Research into the skills desired by employers continues to highlight the various capabilities that are needed in the 21st century. For example, Forbes Media (April 2020) highlighted the top 5 soft skills desired by employers as critical thinking, data literacy, tech savviness, adaptability and flexibility and creativity.

Similarly, LinkedIn (January, 2020) researched their vast network of employer information asking the same question. Their findings showed the top 5 desired capabilities are creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability and emotional intelligence.

University and training courses are developing these capabilities more intentionally in their programs, more so than ever before. For example, university medicine and some other medical courses no longer simply rely on the ATAR for gaining entrance.

Students undertake the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) as well, which includes sections on verbal reasoning, decision making, abstract reasoning and situational judgement. The new Bachelor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (University of Adelaide) includes first year units on design thinking, entrepreneurial mindsets, decision making and innovation and creativity.

The Certificate III in Hairdressing has units on communication skills, creativity, design and planning and problem solving. These are just some examples across a range of different training opportunities.

As a college, we will do our students a serious disservice if we are not rethinking our approaches to teaching and learning to ensure there is intentional inclusion of capability development in our programs.

Hence, the teaching staff have been reviewing our philosophy of teaching and learning at Cornerstone and are naming what we see as the key graduate qualities for our students at Cornerstone College. As parents/caregivers, and for educators, we recognise the shift in education from focusing mainly on the traditional 3Rs, reading, writing and arithmetic (1970s), through a growing focus on social education and environmental awareness (1980-90s) to now focusing greater intention on capabilities (21st century).

  • Our initial set of goals are that graduating students at Cornerstone College will:
  • Know they are valued, unique and loved by God
  • Demonstrate resilience, embrace change and persist with challenges
  • Possess relevant skills and knowledge in preparation for future opportunities
  • Use their heads, hearts and hands to respond to the needs of others
  • Be active citizens who champion diversity, are environmentally responsible and act ethically
  • Think critically and creatively and are curious, collaborative and reflective
  • Show initiative, communicate clearly and work effectively as independent learners

I share this now as many students over this coming term will be thinking about their future, choosing subjects for next year, enrolling in university or TAFE courses for 2021 and looking for apprenticeships and other work. Students can also consider what the employers are indicating as key capabilities for employees in the 21st century.

As we (teachers and families) support students through these considerations, we can assist students to consider the capabilities they need to develop, not just discuss subjects.

Students can consider what are their natural capabilities but also what new capabilities will they need to focus on or develop further given the future pathways they are considering?

We wish our students entering Year 10, 11 and 12 in 2021 all the best as they plan for next year and their future beyond college. For those choosing their path through Senior School, we challenge them to consider what capabilities they may require, not just the content of subjects that they think they might need.

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How applying for jobs is changing in the digital world

Meg Molenaar – Learning Area Leader – Cross Disciplinary Studies

As the world becomes even more digital, we are seeing significant changes to the way people apply and interview for jobs. We need to be aware of the changing ways businesses are looking for candidates, hiring candidates and using technology to streamline the process.

In Workplace Practices, we are always monitoring the changes occurring in the ‘real world’. As we have a task centred around applying for work and undertaking a ‘mock interview’ we need to ensure our activities mirror the changing ways people are advertising for candidates and candidates are applying for work.

Many large corporations no longer ask applicants to send in paper resumes and application letters and sometimes they also don’t even want you to send them in via email.

They have online applications that look for key words to streamline the process for them.
State of the art Artificial Intelligence (AI) software can quickly and efficiently analyse resumes and applications. This sophisticated technology automatically picks out details such as key skills, job history and even (if appropriate) whether a candidate is willing to relocate or not.

Combining this intelligent software with hands-on training and excellent analytical skills, recruiters are equipped with all of the tools to find the most appropriate candidates – without needing the actual copy of your resume.
With more people browsing and applying for jobs on their mobile devices, most job boards and application forms are now optimised for this platform.

For example, services such as ‘LinkedIn Apply’ allow users to simply read a job description, click apply, and their resume is sent to the company in the requested format.

Mobile technology is also being used to make the job hunting process less daunting and labour intensive. New job hunting apps have the functionality that allows you to quickly and easily tailor job applications anywhere, at any time, from the palm of your hand.

For example, on the SEEK mobile app, you can:

  • Upload up to 10 tailored resumes to pick and choose from. For example, order your previous experience so that most relevant roles appear at the start of your resume or list your interests with an eye on how they fit in with the specific roles you’re applying for.
    Tailor your cover letter right in the app or upload different versions from cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive
  • The traditional Portfolio is quickly being replaced with sophisticated ePortfolios. People can now put together copies of their certifications, qualifications, job history and samples of their work in visually appealing websites that can easily be accessed by potential employees.
    Add to this social media websites such as LinkedIn, that are tailored to business and the need to carry around a paper resume and portfolio is quickly diminishing.

It’s important to remember however, that despite the rapidly changing technology, in many cases the old rules still apply. There’s no substitute for a perfectly crafted resume that clearly demonstrates your suitability for a role. The technology just enhances the ability for you to do that more conveniently.

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The story of the eagle

Craig Fielke – Principal

Here is an inspirational story of the eagle, which I found at

The eagle has the longest lifespan of its species and can live up to 70 years… but to reach this age, the eagle must make a hard decision. In its 40th year its long and flexible talons can no longer grab prey which serves as food, its long and sharp beak becomes bent and its old aged and heavy wings, due to their thick feathers, stick to its chest and make it difficult to fly.

Then, the eagle is left with only two options; die or go through a painful process of change which lasts 150 days. The process requires that the eagle fly to a mountain top and sit on its nest. There the eagle knocks its beak against a rock until it plucks it out. Then the eagle waits for a new beak to grow back.

It will pull out its talons and when new talons grow back, the eagle starts plucking its old aged feathers. After five months, the eagle takes its famous flight of rebirth and lives for 30 more years.

This story helps us to consider why is change needed? Many times, in order to survive, we have to start a change process. We sometimes need to get rid of old memories, habits and other past traditions. Only freed from past burdens, can we take advantage of the present.

This is a wonderfully inspirational and motivational story and can be found on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. It seems a story worth sharing.

But the story is not true, it is a fake story.

Eagles do not live for 70 years, more like 30 in the wild, they do not lose their beak (it would lead to certain death) and they never go through a rebirth stage. You can read more about the debunking of this story at

A recent study found false stories on the internet are shared more often and more widely that real stories.

Over the last six months it has been very evident that clear and accurate information has been critical for our communities to respond to the directions and advice of people in authority we trust. This has enabled us to collectively make wise choices and be assured of the pathway beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Having a source of truth to make considered and wise decisions is important.

The Bible is the most read piece of documentation in history and its authenticity has been proven categorically.

  • Amongst other validations of this are the following factors:
  • The sheer number of manuscripts.
  • The small time-gap between events and written history.
  • Because of the manner of textual transmission (the accuracy of the copying process) down through history.
  • By verifying documentary evidence from other written sources and archaeological corroboration.

At our heart as a College we want our community to continually hear, investigate, understand and be transformed by this wonderful, true and life changing story.

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Mathematical Skills

Bruce Lenger – Learning Area Leader, Mathematics

In recent times I have had the opportunity to spend some time living and teaching in the United Kingdom. This experience enabled me to see a different approach to education, and in particular, Mathematics. 

The school I taught in, like many in the area, had a mastery orientated, skills-based approach to the teaching of Mathematics. This approach tried to emulate the success of countries such as China and Singapore in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) Mathematics rankings.

PISA is a study that assesses 600,000 15-year-olds from 79 countries every three years, comparing Mathematics, Reading and Science performance. Whilst PISA is a “test”, some see it as a way to compare educational outcomes in our global economy where our children may well compete for careers with other children from all over the world.

Whilst this mastery approach did lift the UK Mathematics rankings above Australia’s, the PISA test did, however, highlight a very interesting fact. Whilst UK students performed better (on average) in recalling and using curriculum-based factual and procedural knowledge, Australian students performed better (on average) in applying general Mathematical and Scientific principles and skills to everyday problems.

As it happens, global company Dyson has its headquarters in Malmesbury, the town in which I lived and worked. James Dyson, inventor of the Dyson vacuum cleaner, has decided to create his own university to help train engineers to work in his company.  

The entrance to this university is determined not only by academic performance but also an ability to think creatively and work collaboratively. It is a university where both the knowledge and application (creative use) of Mathematics will be the focus, because Dyson desires to develop engineers with a balance of knowledge, practical application and creativity. 

It is my personal belief that good Mathematics classrooms contain a mixture of these different aspects of Mathematics as well.  

Like Dyson, we at Cornerstone College believe that a good Mathematics classroom not only develops important skills but also helps them to approach Mathematics with the understanding that these skills be applied creativity and collaboratively to help solve challenging problems.

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What have you learned and realised?

Dale Hoffman – Wellbeing Director

For many people in our own community and across the world the impact of COVID-19 has been significant and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those that have had their livelihood or health affected by experience.

Recently I have wondered if as a society we will truly learn from what has taken place in 2020 or will we quickly forget about it once it is over and return to our previous ways. Our challenge as a society is to learn and take something out of each of our experiences.

I wonder what we will take out of the COVID-19 experience and will we be able to look back on this as a time in our lives that strengthened us and changed us.

As I reflect on the events of 2020 to date, I have come to learn and realise some of the following things and this is only a small sample of my thoughts.

  • I have realised how much I appreciate the freedom that we have in our beautiful country and how I have possibly taken that freedom for granted.
  • I have learned to become comfortable with being uncomfortable and through this I have become a stronger and more resilient person.
  • I have realised how important my relationships really are to me. I miss catching up with my friends and family and going out to dinner.
  • At the same time, I have learned to be content with having time alone and I have come to appreciate that.
  • I’ve realised how busy my life use to be and more importantly how that busyness is actually not sustainable and needs to be re-assessed.
  • I have realised how adaptable and resilient our young people and our staff are.
  • I have realised that whilst Microsoft Teams and Zoom meetings have served a purpose, they quite simply cannot replicate the feeling you get of being with people in a room and that sense of deep human connection.

A saying I have heard many times in the past few months is ‘I can’t wait for things to get back to normal’. When I hear this, I think to myself; Was life before COVID-19 really normal, or had we just conditioned ourselves to believe that is was normal?

If we heave truly learned anything from 2020, then we will take this opportunity to create a ‘new normal’, that is better, more sustainable and one that each of us will truly appreciate.

So, I ask you: What have you learned and realised? And how will this shape and change who you are and what you do?

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you – Philippians 4:9

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Craig Fielke – Principal

The year 2020 began with such hope and anticipation for the commemoration of Cornerstone College’s 30th anniversary and the number of opportunities to reminisce and celebrate.  I am sure, like me, many of you had other hopes and expectations from a personal, family and professional perspective. 

There is little doubt that Term 1 has seen our lives changed by the news, response and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid the challenges we have all faced in many facets of our lives and to varying degrees, it can sometimes be difficult to clearly see the way forward and envisage our future beyond our current reality.

Many of you would have experienced an opportunity to connect with Dr Tom Nehmy in his engagement with Year 8 students as part of our Healthy Minds approach to student wellbeing. You can see Tom’s story and the essence of his works at  

One key strategy Tom shares to manage our emotions effectively is to ask ‘the magic question’, which relates to considering what the most helpful thing is to do in a particular situation you find yourself. This term, we have all found ourselves in quite different and unfamiliar situations, and consequently navigating a range of options and decisions.

Sometimes this has been very difficult and may have left us with a diminished hope, anticipation and expectation for the future. I think one answer to ‘the magic question’, is to continue to have hope. 

I have found the following actions to be helpful in maintaining and sustaining hope.

  • Acknowledge and validate my feelings, seeking support as needed and trusting my capacity to persevere 
  • Commit to being optimistic in the midst of the reality and challenge
  • Seek ways to be grateful in daily events, actions and experiences 
  • Look for and share kindness and thoughtful connections with family, friends and colleagues

I also find my personal faith an enormous source of maintaining and sustaining hope. Lutheran Media, an arm of the Lutheran Church, has some wonderful resources that are worth investigating and engaging in with respect to hope. The messages of hope scan a wide spectrum of life and can be found at

“But now, Lord, what do I look for?  My hope is in you.”
– Psalm 39:7

We look forward to seeing student’s happy faces when they engage with our Online Learning Environment on Monday, 27 April.

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Learner Profiles

Tony Moffa – Senior School Learning Director and Project Leader

Current discussions in education circles regarding the reliability of a single score such as the ATAR has fuelled debate at the education and employment level for new ways of recognising attainment in learning that is more valid and reliable.

A Learner Profile, highlighting skills, attitudes and predispositions the student has demonstrated could give tertiary institutions and employers a more rounded tool with which to assess applicants to possibly be used together with an ATAR rather than just a score alone.

In the above possible exemplar, as students engage and progress through their secondary education, they are given opportunities to demonstrate predispositions (general capabilities) from thinking creatively and analytically to demonstrating integrity and ethical decision making.

The idea for a learner profile wheel highlights to the intended audience, be it the student, parent or prospective employer, the student’s strengths as well as areas that could be, or need development. In this example the student has demonstrated strengths in leadership, teamwork, integrity and ethics but also has gaps in their global perspective as well as analytical and creative thinking. What I like is that the student has the opportunity to focus on areas requiring attention in the available credits offered by the curriculum (as shown below).

Featured Credits:

  • 7b Foster integrity, honesty, fairness and respect
  • 3b Lead through influence
  • 3c Build trust, resolve conflicts, and provide support for others
  • 3g Coordinate tasks, manage groups, delegate responsibilities
  • 3h Implement decisions and meet goals
  • 8e Persistence

(Source: Sandra Milligan, Assessment and Research Centre at the University of Melbourne, 2019)

The rhetoric for too long has been around schools abandoning the explicit teaching and learning of the 3 R’s for the sake of focussing on developing capabilities. I argue that we can still and should be doing both. Why? Because that’s what employers and academics are telling us students need. The world Economic Forum estimates that 65% of children entering primary school will find themselves in occupations that don’t currently exist.

My son recently began a new job in a large multinational company in Melbourne and his interview was a group exercise where they were given a problem, in this case how to deal with a product line that was losing market share. The group had one hour to come up with a plan to solve the problem.

His group was observed, and assessment decisions were made on his, and the group’s ability to demonstrate the aforementioned predispositions, not what grade he got for subjects in Year 12 or in Business Management at University.

He was fortunate to progress to an interview and at that point was informed that if he was the successful candidate the company would teach him what he needed to know on the job, what they couldn’t teach was how to collaborate, think creatively and make ethical decisions.

Our challenge as educators is twofold;

  • How to create opportunities for students to demonstrate these capabilities, and
  • Making valid and reliable assessment judgments on how well they demonstrate them.

This year Cornerstone is one of four independent schools selected by AISSA in conjunction with the South Australian Principal’s Association, Catholic Education SA and the University of Melbourne to conduct a pilot project on Learning and Accreditation Through a Learner Profile. This aligns with our Future Direction 2020, strategic vision which has at its core, the development of the 21st century dispositions.

“Our aim is for all students to achieve individual excellence which, in turn, empowers them to flourish and contribute to an ever-changing world”, Cornerstone Future Directions: 2020 & Beyond.

As pointed out by Peter Mader, the SA Secondary Principal Association President in The Advertiser on Monday, 3 February, “the aim of the project is to develop valid, reliable and useful assessment of the ACARA General Capabilities”. (Source: The Advertiser, SA schools to work with University of Melbourne on ‘learner profiles’ as ATAR alternative)

SACE is also heavily invested in exploring the way potential graduates present their achievements to the world as outlined in The Advertiser article last October.

I am looking forward to being involved in the project as part of a team of our staff and sharing with our community how this will help shape our direction for learning at Cornerstone in the future.

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The Strength of Community!

Dale Hoffman – Wellbeing Director

Many of you would be familiar with the African Proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”, meaning that an entire community of people must interact with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment.

This proverb perfectly captures my first impressions of Cornerstone College in my new role as Wellbeing Director.

We are indeed a thriving community and in my first few weeks I have witnessed the community in action through year level parent evenings, Year 12 meet the teachers evenings, enrolment evenings for future students, Battunga House Focus week and the ongoing work of the Parents, Teachers and Friends committee.

Community is so much more than just one-off events. It is about collaboration between parents/caregivers, students and staff to provide the best possible outcomes for all of us. Having consistent expectations, values and understanding is pivotal in our community as it ensures that our young people receive a strong and consistent Christian based education.

A great strength of the College is our commitment to Pastoral Care. Our House System seeks to develop and create ‘communities’ within ‘communities’, so that students develop positive relationships with each other, and families develop relationships with appropriate staff.

Teaching and learning are often viewed as the core business of an educational institution; however, we must provide a holistic education that focuses on the spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical development of our young people.

We should never take our community for granted and the College is continuing to identify ways in which we can strengthen our community partnerships. Shortly we will undertake a consultation process with all key stakeholders to assist us in developing a Code of Conduct for all community members. We ask that as valued members of our community you take the time to engage in this process and provide feedback when requested.

Cornerstone College acknowledges and appreciates the amazing efforts and ongoing work that staff, families, students and volunteers do within our community. We are on this journey together, where We Love, We Learn, and We Grow.

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought – Corinthians 1:10.

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30 Years

Craig Fielke – Principal

This year, Cornerstone College will be commemorating 30 years since our establishment. This is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on our past, appreciate the present and consider the possibilities of our future.

Throughout 2020, there will be a number of events to reminisce, celebrate and reconnect with the people who have been part of our journey from 1990.

At last week’s Opening Worship, a number of thoughts and reflections revolved around birthdays and identity. There is little doubt that one element of our individual identity can be found in our birthday. It is linked to a time, place and people within our lives, and as we know, is often celebrated with things like kind words, cards, parties and presents.

Now, not all presents are equal and some we may find not entirely to our liking. The idea of regifting is a relatively modern phenomena, which entails the passing on of unwanted gifts to another ‘very fortunate’ friend or peer.

A recent study found that some of the most regifted presents include candles, gift cards, houseware, clothing, bath soups, gels and cream, books and perfume.

My birthday is coming up in March and I hope not to be given some of these ‘regifts’, especially the perfume.

So, what of Cornerstone’s 30th birthday and our identity? Well, these are things that we will celebrate and explore in 2020.As a starting point, it may be worth briefly reflecting on the statement you see in our College publications and communications:

We Love, We Learn, We Grow

This was developed a few years ago and was chosen for a number of reasons, including:

  • ‘We’ signifies our collective involvement and responsibility.
  • They are words of action and provide an aspiration for all regardless of individual abilities or talents.
  • They encompass the heart, head, hand and soul.
  • It is a contemporary and succinct way to express some core aspects of our College ― our mission, values, learning, wellbeing and our identity.

So, as we begin another school year, and we look to celebrate our 30th birthday, I encourage us all to explore, recognise, understand and live out who we are as a College and the essence of our identity.

Putting into action our identity is a ‘gift’ worth regifting and passing on, as it will make a purposeful difference in our community and beyond.

May God bless our learning, teaching and support in 2020.

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The Educator Innovative Schools Awards 2019

Craig Fielke – Principal

Cornerstone College has been recognised as one of just 44 schools across Australia in The Educator’s Innovative Schools Awards for 2019.

The Award recognises schools at the cutting edge of change and innovation in Australia. In particular, Cornerstone College was recognised for the innovative teaching and contemporary learning practices of the Middle School.
“The inspirational programs and initiatives showcased in the report prove that quality teaching is alive and well in Australian schools.

It should be noted that the report only offers a small snapshot of the ground-breaking work being done in these schools to improve the educational outcomes and wellbeing of Australia’s young people.” Brett Henebery, Editor of ‘The Educator’.

Cornerstone will always have a strong and deliberate focus on underpinning core skills connected to numeracy and literacy, and specific subject disciplines.

The College has been working to enable a more integrated approach in lower Middle School, with an ability to utilise team teaching, when appropriate, across the learning areas of English, Science, Mathematics and Humanities. Teaching teams are given allocated time to plan, prepare learning experiences and moderate student work.

These subjects are integrated using lines of inquiry such as ‘Fake News – How can we identify the truth?’ or ‘Contagion – Will we survive the next major pandemic?’

A more intentional and purposeful approach is also being taken to teach the General Capabilities of The Australian Curriculum by using a ‘6Cs model’ of Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Control of Learning and Connections.

The 6Cs have been deconstructed and taught so students know how to improve in these capabilities.

The Middle School has also moved to an assessment model where learning progressions based on the Australian Curriculum achievement standards are used.

The goal is to have learning progressions used across the Middle School so that teachers, parents and students can clearly see a student’s current individual learning level, recognise growth in the student’s learning and know what the next steps are for progress.

The flow, scope and sequence into and through Senior School has also been an important consideration and driver in our Middle School teaching model.
Students continue to develop the necessary understanding within specified learning areas and subjects, whilst building a greater understanding and capacity in skills and dispositions necessary for the 21st century.

I am extremely proud of the outstanding expertise, commitment and care demonstrated daily by the staff at Cornerstone College, and the quality of the learning experience they consistently provide.

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Craig Fielke – Principal

During the recent holidays, our family had the opportunity to spend some time on the Gold Coast. As part of this holiday, we were able to relive and experience the excitement and fun of a range of activities, which were part of another holiday when my children were much younger. I particularly enjoyed a full day at Wet’n’Wild and the daily walk along Mermaid Beach.

Reflecting on the week, the Queensland slogan Beautiful one day, perfect the next came to mind, and seemed quite apt, if only for this small window of time. Slogans are one way all Australian states try to provide an imagery of experience or an aspirational intent and purpose. At the induction of the 2020 College Leaders, I shared again the essence and heart of the words We Love, We Learn, We Grow, and how our thoughts, words and actions can be guided and shaped by our understanding and commitment to this slogan. From a spiritual perspective, the following bible reference can provide some insight about how we could enact We Love, We Learn, We Grow at Cornerstone College.

We Love:
Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always “me first,” doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others make mistakes, takes pleasure in the truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, ut keeps going to the end. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

We Learn:
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and reflect on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling and gracious − the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized − Philippians 4:8-9

We Grow:
As Jesus said: I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in Him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me. − John 15:5

May God bless our teaching, learning and support for Term 4.

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Alcohol and Drug Education

Andrew Day – Acting Wellbeing Director

Students in Years 10, 11 and 12 were privileged to hear Paul Dillon from Drug & Alcohol Research and Training, Australia (DARTA) speak on Monday, 9 September. While Paul’s presentations included some confronting, and sobering stories at times, his research-based information, non-judgemental approach and engaging style ensured that the message was thoughtfully received. I am confident that our young people came away from these sessions with greater knowledge and several protective strategies for them and their mates regarding alcohol and drugs.

The DARTA website has excellent resources, information and summaries of the latest research in this field. It is interesting to note the positive trends relating to alcohol use amongst young people, as seen in the following excerpts from the DARTA website:

2017 ASSAD data released: School students and alcohol and other drug use

December 2018

The Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug (ASSAD) survey examines school-based young people’s use of licit and illicit substances. The findings are mostly positive, particularly when it comes to alcohol and tobacco. The number of 12-17 year olds who reported never drinking alcohol increased once again to more than one third (34%), up from only one in ten in 1999. Non-drinking appears to be increasingly seen as a viable option for young people.

More Australians are changing their drinking behaviour by quitting, drinking less or drinking less often.
A PDF version of the 2017 survey results, together with a Word and PDF version of the 2014 report, is available on the Australian Government’s National Drug Strategy website.

October 2018

New research from La Trobe University found that 30% of Australians recently reduced the amount of alcohol they drank and a further 29% reduced the frequency of their drinking, while 6% quit altogether. Most interestingly, those in their 20s were leading the way in reducing alcohol intake, citing lifestyle reasons such as work, education and family as to why they made the change.

“Most surprisingly, we found that intoxication is not as acceptable as it once was, with more than a third of 14-30 year olds who had quit drinking doing so because they dislike the impact alcohol has on their social experiences,” said lead researcher Dr Amy Pennay.

“They believe in moderation, they are concerned about violence and they want to avoid drunkenness or genuinely dislike how getting drunk makes them feel.”

I encourage parents to open the following links for direct access to more interesting facts and information from this excellent resource.

To further support the education of our students in this area, we are pleased to have the Encounter Youth Education team present seminars for Year 8s (Regard the risks), Year 9s (Know your limits) and Year 12s (Safety at Schoolies) on Thursday, 26 September.

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30/30 Vision

Craig Fielke – Principal

In 2020, Cornerstone College will celebrate the first 30 years of being a part of The Adelaide Hills community. The College has consistently been guided by the foundational mission of being “…. a caring Christian community nurturing within students a growing relationship with Christ which promotes individual excellence, learning and responsibility for life.”

This has been both an aspiration and inspiration as “We Love, We Learn, We Grow”, and underpinned by our strategic intentions and master planning. The decisions and directions taken to continue to be true to that enduring mission and to sustain the high-quality learning for which Cornerstone College is renowned does not occur by chance.

Amongst other elements, outstanding educators and continuous investigations and assessment of the world we live in now and will encounter into the future help guide and direct the future.

One such source of important information to reflect upon comes from my membership of AHISA (Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia).

I invite you to take the opportunity and time to browse and reflect upon the current landscape in which we make important decisions in how and what we do at Cornerstone College. I welcome your comments and thoughts as we journey into the next 30 years of Cornerstone College:

  • The OECD Future of Education and Skills 2030 project offers a range of resources to support policy shifts in education based on projected future skills needs, including the Learning Compass a framework that defines the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that learners need to fulfil their potential and contribute to the wellbeing of their communities and the planet.
  • The OECD’s Centre for Educational Research Innovation hosts an ongoing project, Trends Shaping Education Resources include a series of briefing papers.
  • Google for Education has published a report, Future of the Classroom: Emerging Trends in K-12 Education, which identifies eight emerging trends: digital responsibility; life skills & workforce preparation; computational thinking; student-led learning; collaborative classrooms; connecting guardians and schools; innovating pedagogy and emerging technologies. The report offers links to research and further reading.
  • The 2018 NMC Horizon Report focuses on trends in higher education. Key trends identified in the short-term are a growing focus on measuring learning and redesign of learning spaces; mid-term trends are proliferation of open educational resources and the rise of new forms of interdisciplinary studies long-term trends are advancing cultures of innovation and cross-institution and cross-sector collaboration.
  • An article published by GettingSmart, Preparing all learners for an uncertain future of work discusses a framework for work readiness developed by the KnowledgeWorks Foundation and offers suggestions for how schools and tertiary institutions might ‘flip their focus’ to help students prepare for the future.
  • KnowledgeWorks has also published Forecast 5.0: Navigating the future of learning which identifies five trends likely to transform teaching and learning: the automation of choice; the rising power of engaged citizens and civic organisations; neuroplasticity; new measures of success and reshaping of communities.


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Embrace challenge

Jamie Cameron – Acting Deputy Principal

Most educators will be very familiar with the work of Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934), a Soviet psychologist and social constructivist who introduced the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).

In recent years the ZPD has been referred to as the zone where students can learn, with support. One role of education is to challenge students, thus working in their ZPD. This applies to academics, but also extends into social and emotional benefits as the young person is confronted with new knowledge and experiences.

As learning occurs, the child’s current achievement will grow, and more complex learning, previously beyond reach, becomes closer and perhaps even achievable with support.

We want our students to embrace challenge and know that it is okay to sometimes not be okay. Again, only by stepping out of the safety of what they already know can students fully grow. Some challenges may be unwanted, but by leaning into them more skills and strategies can be developed.

Life is complicated and seldom smooth. By stepping out of their comfort zones, our young people are preparing for what is ahead. Don’t rescue them, allow them to experience challenge and develop strategies in the safe and supportive environment of the College.

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Intercultural Understanding

Julie Sampson – Learning Director

Over the holidays I was very fortunate to travel to Mauritius to volunteer at Lighthouse Christian School. This is the school at which colleagues Matt Pearce and Kristen Felgate-Pearce are presently working for two years.

I travelled with fellow teacher Deanne Bovingdon and another teacher friend.

Matt is the Head of Secondary School and Kristen is volunteering in the school three days a week.

It was wonderful to visit another school in another culture, to meet Mauritian and ex-pat teachers who are equally committed and professional in their work, and to learn about a new culture.

Both English and French are national languages so I was also able to practice my French, which I learn as a hobby. In many ways, teenagers are the same the world over. Lighthouse Christian School has a similar curriculum to us, their students enjoy sport, complete (or don’t complete) homework, face major exams to complete their high schooling and teachers deal with similar student and classroom issues to what we do.

Also over the holidays, Pastor Al visited Nepal on a trip with fellow Lutheran pastors. And the Habitat for Humanity team travelled to Fiji to serve the community by constructing two buildings.

This week we have 25 Chinese students and two teachers visiting as part of our reciprocal relationship with our sister school in Beijing.

They are enjoying some outings with our students to see the sights of the Adelaide Hills, a homestay with a family and interaction in classes.

Why does Cornerstone involve itself in such activities, as a school, in student groups and as individual students or teachers?

Encouraging our students to look outside themselves, to their local and global communities is an important part of developing global citizens who give back to their society.

One of the Australian Curriculum and SACE capabilities is Intercultural Understanding. We desire to build in students an appreciation and respect for other people’s social and cultural backgrounds and to learn about the diversity of our nation and the world.

By having the opportunity to learn about other cultures, serve through school programs or to take up exchange or broader volunteering opportunities, students and staff have the chance to consider how their own values, languages, beliefs and morals compare to those of other cultures.

A broader intercultural understanding of our society is an essential part of living in the 21st Century in multi-cultural Australia, in the workplace and in our communities.

Through explicit teaching in subjects and extra-curricular activities, we encourage our students to express empathy, respect, and responsibility towards other people.

We are called as Christians to respect others and to serve in our communities. We have unique gifts that we can share, and serving others further develops our understanding of them and of our gifts and talents.

Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well. (1 Peter 4:10)

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Craig Fielke – Principal

Whilst I particularly enjoy watching elite sporting events, over time I have found it increasingly difficult to engage with the sport of tennis.

The monotony of baseline rallies, the screeching and grunting of combatants and the embarrassing antics of a growing number of players (and unfortunately a significant quota of Australian players) has dulled my enthusiasm.

Against this trend, during the recent Queen’s Birthday Public Holiday, I was heartened to experience the incredible success of Ashleigh Barty at the French Open.

Barty started playing tennis at the age of four. She had an impressive junior career, winning the 2011 Wimbledon girls’ singles title and reached No. 2 in the junior world ranking.

Upon entering the professional ranks, she had immediate success in doubles, reaching multiple Grand Slam finals in 2013. However, she grew disillusioned with the rigours of the sport, and in 2014 announced that she would be taking a break from tennis.

Barty then proceeded to play competitive cricket, representing Brisbane Heat in the Women’s Big Bash League. She returned to tennis in 2016, after realising that she missed the sport too much.

Beginning at a world ranking of 623 at the beginning of 2016, Barty steadily climbed up the ladder in both singles and doubles on the WTA tour, and after the recent success of winning the French Open, is currently ranked No. 2 in the world.

Much has been written and said about Barty’s ups and downs, and the reasons and motivations for her choices and ultimate return to tennis. Determined, tenacious, honest, persistent and courageous are some of the words that have been used to describe Barty.

From my perspective, what has been equally highlighted, and in many ways exceeded her sporting achievements, is the manner in which she interacts with her world.

These are some words reflected by her friends, peers, coaches, sporting opponents and wider public, of which the world saw many in the recent fortnight in Paris. They include: humble, gracious, respectful, empathetic, thoughtful and kind.

Ash Barty has begun to rekindle my interest in tennis and provides a timely and enduring reminder to us all about the importance of healthy core personal values.

These are the sort of qualities that build, strengthen and sustain relationships and the communities in which we live. It is these qualities I wish for us all to continue to recognise and endeavour to be a part of our interactions regardless of our other abilities.

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What We Want for our Students

Tony Moffa – Senior School Learning Leader

Recently I had the privilege of attending the Scholarship Ceremony for the Adelaide University Principals’ Award to see Jacqueline Smith (2018) receive her award.

This scholarship is for new University of Adelaide students of high academic merit who have also made a significant contribution to their school and/or wider community.

Jacqueline met both criteria by taking responsibility for her learning, setting high standards and maintaining a balance between academic, social and community life.

Increasingly, tertiary institutions and employers are valuing the contribution young people make to their world and not just how well they do academically. What stands out in Jacqueline’s resume, besides her well organised and self-directed approach to learning, is her involvement in extracurricular activities and interactions with a wide range of people. In other words, her willingness to connect.

This led me to ponder what we want for our students when they depart through the gates of Cornerstone at the end of six years of secondary education.

An article I read recently by Michael Fullan on Deep Learning, makes the point that with the introduction of high-stakes comparative testing, like the Program for International Testing (PISA) and NAPLAN, we have had a frenzied approach to increasing achievement scores and lost the sight of the human wellbeing goal of connectedness.

Similarly, Vygotsky (1978) believed that learning does not occur in isolation, rather it is a social process, guided by interactions with others.

At Cornerstone we continually strive to find the balance between supporting students and creating an environment that challenges them, while fostering goal setting and collaboration in their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).

For those unfamiliar with Vygotsky’s theory, the ZPD is the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can do with help.

From Fullan’s perspective we need to redefine the moral imperative to have “high expectations for all students in both academic performance and in connectedness in life”, or in other words having healthy connections in one’s life.

So how do we go about transitioning students from being reliant, to independent and interdependent learners?

I believe the teacher’s role is to facilitate the learning process rather than direct it, by creating an environment that fosters goal setting and collaboration in the learner’s ZPD. This, I hope, provides students opportunities to develop from teacher reliant into independent learners and live out our learning vision to Wonder, Think and Act.

For those wanting to find out more about Michael Fullan’s ideas around Deep Learning, I recommend his book, Nuance: Why Some Leaders Succeed and Others Fail, A Joint Publication With the Ontario Principals’ Council and the B.C. Principals’ and Vice Principals’ Association.

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Second-class robots or first-class humans?

Shane Schoff – Deputy Principal

Martin Westwell (Chief Executive, SACE Board of SA) led a workshop at Cornerstone with our staff recently, challenging us to consider how we could redefine our understanding of student success.

To provoke our thinking, Martin borrowed a line from Andreas Schleicher – Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills. According to Schleicher, society’s preparation for the future of work is wrong. We’re scared that human jobs will be replaced by robots. But we’re still teaching kids to think like machines.

“What we know is that the kinds of things that are easy to teach, and maybe easy to test, are precisely the kinds of things that are easy to digitise and to automate,” Schleicher said. It’s fairly easy to teach and test maths skills, for example – but robots happen to be pretty good at maths, too.

Children can, however, imagine, create, question, and collaborate in ways that robots cannot. These are the skills that Schleicher wants the world’s education systems to emphasise.

“The advent of artificial intelligence should push us to think harder of what makes us human,” he said, adding that if we are not careful, the world will be educating “second-class robots and not first-class humans.”

How do we build capacity in young people to grapple with a problem and develop perseverance or to deal with uncertainty and risk?
How do we promote entrepreneurial thinking (the pursuit of opportunities beyond the resources you currently control)? Martin suggested a core capability in our curriculum should be titled ‘getting stuff done’ to emphasise the importance of actions.

Entrepreneurial thinking enables us to do things that are beyond the capacity of machines or robots. Things like creating a new company, leading a new social enterprise or devising a theatre production that captures the hearts and minds of others.

With emerging opportunities in South Australia like cybersecurity or space industries, the skills that young people will require are skills that are beyond technology or artificial intelligence. Knowing stuff is important, but just having knowledge is insufficient.
Martin Westwell highlighted the need for expertise within disciplines while also building the capacity for interdisciplinary actions. It is the capabilities in the Australian Curriculum like interpersonal and social capabilities or ethical and cultural understandings that enable young people to connect and collaborate.

At Cornerstone, we seek to nurture individuals, who are aware of their humanity and are open to the influence of the Holy Spirit. As a Christian community we are passionate about growing capabilities in young people that enable them to do so much more.
Our challenge is so much more than educating first-class humans. Just look at our Mission Statement, “We are a caring Christian community nurturing within students a growing relationship with Christ which promotes individual excellence, learning and responsibility for life.”

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Student Wellbeing

Jamie Cameron – Wellbeing Director

It is widely accepted that positive wellbeing is crucial to student success and there are numerous factors to consider as we promote wellbeing at the College. This includes reviewing literature on best practice nationally and internationally; and gathering data on the specific needs of our own students.

Last term, students completed the Wellbeing and Engagement Collection survey to measure wellbeing and engagement in the Middle and Senior School. This is the first year the survey has been offered in Years 10-12 and will build upon the understanding collated for Years 7-9.

The survey results increase our understanding of each cohort at the College and allow us to identify trends. For example, comparisons over time and between year levels or gender. There are analyses with students across South Australia and their key wellbeing and engagement issues in terms of trends over time.

As we await the results from this year, we know that the 2018 data outlines a marked difference in the wellbeing of Cornerstone students in the four variants of bullying when compared to all South Australian students.

It suggests the College has achieved some success in combatting bullying. This may be due to our extensive Restorative Practices approach or certain policies, such as the removal of phones from Middle School students at the start of each day.

Of note is that 86% of Cornerstone students in 2018 report high wellbeing when surveyed about cyberbullying, compared with the state average of 78%.

Yet there is always more to do. Student wellbeing is an ongoing venture in which we are all stakeholders – parents, educators, the students themselves and the wider community.

It is our aim that our young people can learn to understand themselves and others, and manage their relationships, lives, work and learning effectively.


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Emma Reiger – Gifted and Talented Coordinator

At Cornerstone, we strive to build a culture of challenge and excellence whilst fostering a spirit of curiosity in our students.

One unique way we do this is through our students requiring extension through challenge (STRETCH) program.

STRETCH is a program which allows our gifted and talented students to connect with each other across a range of year levels.

Every day, students can engage with carefully curated educational resources from around the world; learn about the latest scientific discoveries; consider ethical dilemmas in our modern society; and explore topics of interest across an incredibly wide range of subjects.

Through engaging with this program students also develop strong friendships with like minded students, encouraging intellectual, social and emotional growth.

For example, during Term 1 students have explored amazing careers in the field of mathematics; pathways to computer science careers; and how batteries work.

They also listened to educational STEM podcasts and so much more.

STRETCH is a program that allows a highly individualised approach to learning.

Students are extended and enriched across a range of disciplines, and are encouraged to pursue their interests and passions, sharing these with their peers.

Extension modules are available to any student of the College who wishes to access them.

STRETCH is just one way we encourage students at Cornerstone to be visible and successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens of the world.

We would love to invite you to explore just a small sample of the resources that have been shared with our STRETCH students at STRETCH at Cornerstone website.

We encourage all students engaged with STRETCH to check in every few days to see the constant flow of new material.
Please don’t hesitate to make contact via email if you would like more information about any aspect of STRETCH.

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Digital Technologies

Nathan Gray – Technology Learning Area Leader

I remember as a child helping my parents to program the video cassette recorder (VCR). Fast forward 25 years and I still find myself helping my parents. However, unlike my parents who let technology pass them by, being a teacher in this area requires me to stay up to date with emerging technologies so that I can teach the most up to date curriculum.

It is suggested that as technology continues to evolve, up to 40% of Australian jobs could become automated processes by the year 2025. For this reason, it’s essential that students develop a sophisticated understanding of digital technologies to equip them for life.

Digital Technologies is a relatively new subject that falls within the Technology Learning Area. At Cornerstone College, it is a compulsory subject throughout Middle School and is offered as an elective in Years 10-12. Digital Technology can be described as any technology that is controlled by a set of digital instructions, many of which we use daily such as personal computers, mobile phones and smart tv’s.

Where the previous curriculum model, Information Technology, focused on digital literacy (the ability for students to use digital technology effectively), the new Digital Technologies curriculum extends this by focusing on how digital technologies work, how they are created and how they are coded.

For students to be successful in each of these areas, they need to be able to demonstrate general capabilities such as creative thinking, problem solving, logical planning and critical evaluation. These capabilities are embedded in student learning and are transferrable to many life and work situations.

While not all students will leave school to become full-time computer programmers, there will be many jobs emerging in the next 20 years that will rely heavily on the skills, knowledge and capabilities students gain from studying Digital Technologies.

To ensure students are adequately prepared for these jobs, it is important that we vary the types of coding environments and languages they experience. Some of the languages currently used at Cornerstone include Scratch, Python, C++, Java and Lua. These languages are used to control different devices including Sphero Robots, Computer Programs, Mobile Phone Apps and Arduino Microcontrollers.

While we are currently using up to date digital technologies at Cornerstone, it’s extremely difficult to predict what will evolve in the next 20 years.To put things in perspective, approximately 20 years ago:

  • The first Apple iMac was announced yet there were no iPods, iPads, iWatches or iPhones. In fact, the most popular mobile phone on the market was the Nokia 5110
  • Google was founded (1998) but Alta Vista was the most popular search engine
  • Social Media was very limited. There was no Myspace (2003), Facebook (2004) or Twitter (2006) let alone Instagram (2010) and Snap Chat (2011)
  • Microsoft launched Windows 98. There have been 9 versions and countless editions launched since

This flashback suggests that what we are currently teaching in Digital Technologies will not be current in 5, let alone 20 years’ time.

To ensure Digital Technologies remains current at Cornerstone, we’re constantly evaluating and updating teaching programs and resources. This allows us to engage and challenge students with different technologies, preparing them for the future and giving them the skills to succeed in this digital age.

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Healthy Minds

Craig Fielke – Principal

Cornerstone College continues to be privileged to maintain and extend our connection with Dr Tom Nehmy. For the last four years, Tom has led and facilitated the Healthy Minds Program as part of the Year 8 curriculum. During Term 3, students and their parents are provided with information and tools to understand and utilise such concepts as:

  • The keys to understanding the function of emotions, and the most helpful ways of navigating our emotional lives Psychological flexibility
  • Realistic thinking
  • Self-compassion as an antidote to self-criticism (and why this is far more important than self-esteem)
  • Challenging the unrealistic media ideals that promote body-image dissatisfaction
  • The cultivation of gratitude as an every day perspective (it has been shown to improve sleep, immune system function, and wellbeing)
  • The motivational techniques that change problem behaviours into helpful, healthy, and high-performance behaviours

I strongly value the work of Tom, and the tangibly practical means to access and embed the habits that make an ongoing difference for our wellbeing.
Tom’s work has been internationally recognised and his Healthy Minds Program for schools is continuing to gain attention and momentum, and Cornerstone will continue to explore ways to stretch and deepen the program.

At the beginning of this year, Tom spent a day with our staff to further explore and share ways to support ongoing staff wellbeing. This included resources and an initial 30-day challenge to reflect upon and practice the habits deemed critical for an ongoing healthy mind. This will be an enduring focus for our staff.

Many of the underlying values, structures and practices across all year levels at Cornerstone can be matched as elements of Tom’s Healthy Minds framework, and during 2019, our Wellbeing Director, Jamie Cameron, is working with a small focus team to better map and express these connections.

Parents of Year 8 students would already be aware of what is planned for Term 3, which includes a Parent Forum on Tuesday, 23 July from 7pm. I strongly encourage all Year 8 parents to attend this evening and encourage other parents who may be interested.

You may also like to visit The Healthy Minds website

The educational landscape is continuing to evolve, and as we refine and redefine the essential components, careful consideration of the underlying research and worthwhile outcomes is prudent. Wellbeing is one such component and one we deeply understand at Cornerstone College and know is critical for the sustained health and learning of our entire community.

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Education in Focus

Julie Sampson – Learning Director

I love photography. I grew up taking photos with my Dad’s camera and eventually bought my own Minolta SLR, both of which used film. There was that anticipation in waiting for the 24 or 36 photos in print from the local store, often times to only find that some of the photos did not turn out as expected.

Then came the digital camera. What a revolution for the avid photographer! I am now free to experiment, craft and edit my photography without the limitations of film. I can be the picture storyteller I love to be as a photographer.

Did you know that the first digital camera was invented by Kodak in 1975! However, Kodak was worried about protecting their film business, and missed the opportunity to move successfully into the digital age. “Unfortunately, the company had the nearsighted view that it was in the film business instead of the story telling business” (Forbes, online, Jan 2012). Kodak missed asking the right question and now have sold off any connections to cameras and photography, and only exist as a printing enterprise for business.

What is the right question to ask about education in the 21st Century? What are schools about in 2019? Are schools there to teach subjects, to impart information? Do we teach skills? Is our role to prepare students for their ATAR? Are we preparing students for their future vocation in the workplace?

For example, did you know that only approximately one quarter of all university students gain entrance via their ATAR? The Mitchell Institute reported that the ATAR is becoming less and less relevant as a tool for university entrance. This includes school students applying to universities.

If this is the case, what is our future role as a school, given that schools, families and media have placed a great deal of emphasis on structures, curriculum and methodologies to support gaining an ATAR and on academic success to get the highest possible ATAR for university entrance?

Without the constraints of prescribed curriculum, what would schools do to enhance the development of life-long capabilities in our students? Capabilities, more than specific information, will serve them better at university, in the workplace, in community activities and as valuable citizens of the global society. This is the new growing focus of SACE.

We will continue to value appropriate content and encourage students to strive for their best, but will the focus in education remain what we as a society have become accustomed to for a long time? We don’t want to be a ‘Kodak’ school and miss the opportunity.

This week the SACE Board has confirmed their renewed focus on the Research Project as a valued part of student’s learning. The subject will be reviewed from its current format but is confirmed as remaining an important component of the SACE.

Additionally the SACE Review conducted last year recommended the need for reduced content so that students can focus on deeper learning and opportunities to specifically develop the capabilities. In the SACE, these capabilities include creative and critical thinking, personal and social capabilities, ethical understanding and intercultural understanding.

Cornerstone College’s focus on the 6Cs (creativity, communication, connection, collaboration, critical thinking and control of learning) in Middle School supports and flows into the SACE capabilities in the Senior School.

We will continue to develop richer and deeper understandings as to how to develop these skills in classes. Hopefully the ongoing focus on these in the wider educational world will result in decisions that reduce the current crammed curriculum and allow students to explore their capabilities in greater depth.

It is not about dropping the content completely, but rather having a focus that allows students to explore their own deeper learning to develop core capabilities that will take them into their futures.

We await with interest the ongoing developments at SACE and in the tertiary sector, as the value of the ATAR is reconsidered and, hopefully, other meaningful measures are put in place to support those students who do wish to do further study.

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Adaptive Education

Natasha Cass – Adaptive Education Leader

Adaptive Education is an integral part of schooling at Cornerstone for many students. The care, support and flexible space are accessed by students from years 7-12 at various times throughout the day.

Once students enter their secondary school years, it is not unusual for them to begin wondering what the future holds. Are they able to complete their SACE certificate?

Will they find a job? Through Modified SACE programs and Life Skill lessons, the Adaptive Education staff cater for the needs of students. This practise makes a difference in students’ lives and adds value and enrichment to the curriculum offered at Cornerstone.

In senior school students work towards completing their SACE certificate. The SACE Board provides flexibility for schools to make reasonable adjustments in curriculum and assessment to enable students with disability to access and participate in SACE programs, and associated assessments, on the same basis as other students.

However, to meet the learning requirements of our high needs students, the SACE Board makes available a set of modified subjects.
Modified subjects are highly individualised subjects in which curriculum and assessment are designed around the development of one or more SACE capabilities and personal learning goals that are appropriate for the student.

This year students are engaging in a variety of modified SACE subjects tailored to enrich learning and improve learning outcomes. Adaptive Education staff design, write, resource and implement these highly demanding programs based on individual need.

Students are currently involved in the following subjects:

  • Modified: Business and Enterprise
  • Modified: English
  • Modified: Creative Arts
  • Modified: Maths
  • Modified: Research Project
  • Modified: Health

Running these programs allows students to achieve their SACE requirements, develop a sense of belonging and nurture self-respect as they are provided with opportunities to achieve success equal to their peers in a main stream school environment.

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Find Your Passion

Shane Schoff – Deputy Principal

Has anyone ever encouraged you to find your passion?

Find your passion and you will never have to work a day in your life. The idea here is being immersed in a passion won’t feel like work. Time flies when you are doing something you love. I love teaching, and time always disappears when I’m in the classroom.

Perhaps you have found something that you thought was your passion. Something that you initially loved doing, but then you have a ‘high gravity day’ – a day where gravity feels stronger, and you start to question whether you have really found your passion.

A fixed mindset can lead us to think we should always be highly motivated about our passions. Where did my passion go on a high gravity day? Maybe this isn’t my passion?

Finding your passion also implies that there is a thing out there that we can find. It is just waiting to be discovered. This type of thinking is based on the idea that our passions are fixed.

Carol Dweck (psychologist), in her book Mindset, poses an interesting question – What are the consequences of thinking that your intelligence or personality is something you can develop, as opposed to something that is a fixed, deep-seated trait?

If you believe that your traits are unchangeable – the fixed mindset – you will want to prove yourself correct over and over rather than learning from your mistakes.

In Mindset, Dweck writes: “There’s another mindset in which these traits are not simply a hand you’re dealt and have to live with, always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of tens. In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts”.

A growth mindset creates a powerful motivation for learning. Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, Dweck writes, when you could be getting better?

Stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of a growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.

Finding your passion is not about uncovering a hidden super-power. Finding your passion involves wrestling with challenges to grow and develop capabilities. It is often through challenges our passions emerge.

And, interestingly, the greatest challenge that Christ faced, the cross, is what we refer to as the Passion of Christ.

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Jamie Cameron – Wellbeing Director

Resilience is the ability to deal with challenging situations; being able to sustain some form of balance in our lives when things get tough.

According to Psychotherapist Joshua Miles, developing greater resilience includes the following benefits:

  • Improved learning and academic achievement
  • Lower absences due to sickness
  • Reduced use of risk-taking behaviours such as excessive drinking, smoking or use of drugs

When our young people navigate their way through challenges at the College, they are practising in a safe environment. As they make mistakes and are given the opportunities to learn from these mistakes, they build resilience. If others step in and fix things for them, their resilience development is impaired. Resilience can be learned in the usual way – practise.

It is important students learn what it feels like to be under pressure or to make errors, so when it happens in real life they are more experienced in dealing with it. Teachers and parents all want young people to become independent and balanced, fulfilling their potential. Allowing, even embracing, discomfort in the short term is necessary to maximise wholistic growth into the future.

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Dux of the College, 2018

Amy Hein – Dux of the College, 2018
Amy is pictured with Principal, Craig Fielke (left), her mother Merrilyn (right) and Learning Director, Julie Sampson (far right).

On Wednesday, 30 January we congratulated Amy Hein on being awarded Year 12 Dux, 2018.

Amy gave a wonderful address to the school which can be read below:

“I feel extremely humbled and honoured to have achieved the Dux award for the College in 2018, as there were a number of students that worked incredibly hard throughout the year and achieved exceptionally high results as well.

Cornerstone College has both taught me so much and offered me so much support throughout my entire schooling, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank some people specific to my time in Year 12.

Firstly, to my parents. Mum and Dad, you have quite literally been a part of my schooling every day, and done so many little things that have helped me out. Thank you for supporting me in following my passions and interests and forgiving me for getting slack about doing the dishes throughout Year 12.

To my friends, I can’t thank all of them enough. They have been with me for some of the happiest memories I will treasure forever and have supported me whenever I needed help. They are all so very special to me, and I hope to continue doing life with them all.

To my Year 12 teachers – Mrs Kennedy, you accommodated for a new art student in Year 12 and taught me so many life skills through your passion, also passing that passion on to me. Mr McDonald, your unwavering belief in me encouraged me through difficult patches, and your humour certainly helped to brighten Year 12 General Maths. Mr Brazzalotto, you were rightfully a harsh critique of my work, and I appreciated your wisdom as I strived to achieve my best. Miss Zerner, forever the optimist, you made light of the dullest moments of music theory, and constantly supported me in and out of the classroom. Ms Willis, you have been such a caring Home Group teacher throughout the last 3 years as well. I cannot thank each one of you enough for your support throughout Year 12.

A special thanks from me must go the Music department here at Cornerstone. The opportunities and experiences that music has gifted me throughout high school are immeasurable. If ever you have the chance to be involved in music and ensembles here at Cornerstone, grab the chance with both hands!

My most important thanks must go to our Heavenly Father. God has played such a massive role in my life. With God, there is no judgement, there is no bar to measure up to, no expectations for so-called ‘success’ – he accepts you just as you are.

With God, I feel loved and supported throughout any circumstance. Actively pursuing God totally changed my outlook and purpose in life, and I attribute all of my talents and successes on earth to Him.

How did I do it? Well, generally in the lead up to Year 12, you would have been told to prepare yourself – complete your prerequisite subjects, do subjects you have done before and been successful in, and stick to your subjects.

However, in Year 12, I took up Visual Art, a subject I had dropped in middle school, I changed Maths classes 8 weeks into the term. I kept myself busy with extra-curricular activities such as Music, and kept busy with dance lessons, catching up with friends, and church life.

In the lead up to Year 12, I found that, for me to do well, I needed to be happy and to stay positive. And I found that I could achieve this by keeping balanced. It was just as important for me to have healthy relationships and a healthy mind and body as it was to have a healthy-looking report card at the end of it.

And I achieved this by doing a variety of subjects and things outside of school, not just sticking to highly academic textbook subjects or focusing just on homework.

My point in telling you this is to show you that there is no recipe for success, or for a high ATAR. That being said, I don’t think true success in life can be measured by a number.

You probably hear it all the time that your ATAR won’t matter after the initial reaction, and I’d definitely agree.

I’m incredibly proud of every one of my close friends and peers that worked their hardest and got into the course they dreamed of, no matter the number.

Rather than my grades, I am proud of my experiences, from getting involved in as much as I could. I am proud that I pushed myself and put the maximum effort into every opportunity.

Finally, a big welcome back to all students! Whatever year level you’re in, you’ve got this one year, one year to make it count, whether that be trying out every elective in middle school. The Journey Year 10 experience, or whatever experience you have lined up for this one year.

Why are you here? I mean, why are you really here right now?

Maybe you’re excited about this year, maybe you’re dreading it, but this year is an opportunity, and it will really be what you make of it. School is an opportunity that we are lucky to have available to us here in Australia. You are blessed, you are privileged, you are loved.

Make yourself proud, make sure you make time to make yourself happy, and make others happy too. School may not necessarily be easy, but it’s also not going to be unenjoyable if you get out there and make the most of it.

You don’t have to excel at school by any means, but what you do here, and what you put in to your schooling, is going to define what you do out of school now, and out of school later.

As for me this year, I have enrolled in a Bachelor of Business majoring in Marketing at Uni SA. I’ll be continuing to pursue music in other areas of my life. I am continuing my casual job, as well as picking up dance teaching and singing teaching at a primary school level.

Cornerstone College has shaped me and helped me grow so much into who I am today. It has pretty much been my second home for the last 5 years, and I’m definitely sad to leave. You’re not leaving yet though – so make the most of it! Thank you.”


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Character Traits?

Matt Pearce – Middle School Learning Leader

Recently I sat down and watched the film Hacksaw Ridge. I had read much hype about this film and I had been putting off watching it because I didn’t want to be disappointed.

I shouldn’t have waited so long! The story is based around the life of Desmond T. Doss, a man who despite his objections to war and the killing of people, joined the US Military during World War II as an Army Medic.

By refusing to bear arms on religious grounds, Doss was ostracized by fellow soldiers for his pacifist stance but went on to earn respect and adoration for his bravery, selflessness and compassion after he risked his life – without firing a shot – to save 75 men in the Battle of Okinawa.

We all have stories of people who we admire because of the character traits they display, often in times of difficulty or conflict.

Focussing on developing these traits in adolescents provides the foundation for them to be good citizens when they mature into adulthood.

A learner will seek to:
1. Know and display good manners to all
2. Understand the difference between equity and equality
3. Have the courage to admit mistakes
4. Demonstrate an attitude of service to others
5. Work at their highest capability
6. Acknowledge and celebrate the success of others
7. Show compassion and empathy where possible
8. Act with fairness
9. Show love and be willing to receive love
10. Appreciate beauty, quality and mystery.

It might be a worthwhile conversation to have with you child/ren about what character traits you see in them and also spend time sharing stories of people who have inspired you to be a better person.

“By doing this, we can build this generation into people of character, who are courageous, humble, empathetic, act fairly and serve others. The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in time of comfort and convenience, but where they stand in times of challenge an controversy.”  – Martin Luther King

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To 30 Years and Beyond

Craig Fielke – Principal

I would like to thank the contribution from our community in helping to develop our strategic plan – To 30 Years and Beyond.

We are in the final phases of aligning key statements to achievable action plans, and the living document will be published for the beginning of the 2019 school year.

One exciting theme that flowed from our consultations is the opportunity to build upon the ongoing developments the College has sustained since being established, by reviewing our current, and recreating a Master Plan for the next 5-10 years of the College.

The Cornerstone College Board is in the process of engaging expert external advisors to support the discussions and preparation for the next phase of master planning for the College. During 2019, the College community will be consulted to capture the hopes, dreams and visions that will provide a foundation for our future planning.

The Master Planning Project will enable us to continue to deliver and provide a unique learning environment that allows an holistic approach to learning, a distinct sense of belonging for students, clarity in understanding and capacity to explore, create and innovate.

It is also vital to recognise that relationships are crucial in developing a sense of wellbeing and a focus on learning, and that we continue to create an environment that is connected, stimulating and empowering.

By utilising research, consultations and networking with a wide range of experts, students, staff and families, we will be able to continue providing rich and deep learning experiences for our students well into the 21st century.

I look forward to the invaluable input from our community over the coming months.

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Matt Pearce -Middle School Learning Leader

When I was going through my schooling, I used to love working with my mates in groups. I found that bouncing ideas off someone else was enjoyable and often we created a better product in the end. When I went to University, I found it a little more difficult. The pressure of getting the highest grade possible and working with people I didn’t know well, meant that I often judged other members of my group because they weren’t “thinking the same way I was”!

There was lots of stress because I didn’t necessarily trust other’s opinions and often they didn’t work the way I thought we should.

When collaborating, a learner will seek to:

  1. Work productively with others
  2. Balance listening and speaking, leading and following in a group
  3. Demonstrate flexibility and compromise
  4. Respect the ideas of others
  5. Recognise and use the strengths of others
  6. Encourage shared leadership
  7. Be wary of “group think”
  8. Assume shared responsibility for completing work
  9. Identify areas of agreement and disagreement, and
  10. Participate respectfully in frank discussion and debate

Increasingly, the work environment is relying more and more on collaboration between different groups of people, often from different companies or work environments.

Developing collaboration skills now, allows students to be “good” team members who learn to be flexible and who value as well as respect the strengths of others. It enables students to develop their skills in leadership and group responsibility and this will provide the landscape for a richer learning experience.

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The Value of Holidays

Cornerstone College Leadership Team

Summit to School is our traditional last day of Term 3 and a wonderful opportunity for our community to connect with each other and participate in an event with an equal measure of friendly competition, cooperation and fun.
It is also a time to enjoy the natural environment together, to get outside, experience fresh air and space, and have a time to think, laugh and talk. The Talent Show is always an enjoyable end to the day.

Summit to School is a great way to mark the end of the term and a fitting beginning for the holidays.
Holidays provide an important opportunity for rest and relaxation.

Away from the daily routine of school, students also have the time and space to engage with other interests and activities.
We acknowledge that for our Year 12 students, there will need to be time to have a dedicated focus on the final commitments of their academic year. We wish them every blessing in their study and preparations for final assessments in Term 4.
Our child/ren might not tell us, but they often crave spending time with family and friends over the holidays. If you can, find time to create some new memories, whether it be going to a movie together, visiting a museum, going on a bike ride, taking a short trip away camping, or simply spending time baking or completing tasks together.

Spending face to face time with friends (not through social media) is also important. While two-thirds of teenagers communicate with friends daily on social media, just over one in 10 see friends in person during the holidays. Maintaining and investing in time with friends contributes significantly to the strength and depth of meaningful relationships.
Finally, holidays provide an opportunity for our children to reflect on how they are going at school and to set some goals for Term 4. We encourage parents to have conversations to provide support and direction in this area.

May the Lord bless you and keep you and your family safe over the term break. We look forward to students returning for Term 4 on Monday, 15 October.

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Leading Learning

Craig Fielke – Principal

I recently have had the privileged to reflect on this topic for the national educational magazine, Independence. You will be able to read the full article later this term at the following url:

I provide the following snippets from the article and encourage you to read the full article when it becomes available:

As Stephen Covey eloquently expressed in his book “The Eight Habit”, the key to the effectiveness and sustainability of an organisation, and the underpinning to any structure and process, is the capacity to find your voice and to inspire others to find their voice.

Lead learning begins with being clear and honest about your vocational purpose (an unapologetic, explicit and persistent focus on student learning and wellbeing) and personal wellbeing (resilience, contentment and fulfilment). The quality of the relationships and level of trust you have within your community then underpins the ongoing culture of learning you distribute widely. This is obviously supported by the programs, structures and processes that are clearly defined, consistently enacted and broadly owned.  A concurrent cohesion of these elements provides great synergy for a learning community.

I think three key things flow from this approach for students:

  • Students being more engaged with feedback and learning rather than being simply results focussed
  • You develop much more self-directed and empowered learners.
  • There is enhanced empathy for, and improved relationships with staff. There is a greater sense that we are in this learning journey together.

It is very important to have clearly defined and structed mechanisms to articulate, drive, measure, celebrate and review learning, but people and relationships must come first, middle and last if you want a sustainable and deep culture of learning. In general, this comes down to three broad considerations – the value you place in people, the care you show and the voice you give them.

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Failed Generation

Craig Fielke – Principal

This was the headline bolded presented on the front page of ‘The Advertiser’ on Monday 30th April 2018. There was a follow up article which highlighted key aspect of a recent report on the review of the Australian education system and recommendations for the future. There was significant reference to the PISA “2015 World Rankings” in Reading, Mathematics and Science of Australian students. This statistic is based on PISA test results of students in all educational sectors of Australia.

More detailed analysis of the data reveals the following:

PISA 2015Australian Schools’ Average Score and (OECD Rank)Australian Independent Schools’ Average Score and (OECD Rank)
Reading Literacy503 (16th)544 (1st)
Mathematical Literacy494 (25th)532 (equal 5th)
Scientific Literacy510 (14th)552 (2nd)

Source: AHISA (Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia)

Regarding the PISA 2015 results, Australian Independent Schools, including Cornerstone College rank exceptionally well from a global perspective and out-perform all other educational sectors in Australia. More information about PISA can be found at:

There is always opportunity to make progress in education. I am a strong advocate for continuing to reflect on and interrogate current practice to ensure we provide the most effective and valuable learning for our students. I am also very confident Cornerstone has and will continue to be at the forefront of quality learning and sustained wellbeing for our community.

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Visionary Insight

Craig Fielke – Principal

History is littered with predictions and visionary insights, that over time, have been proven quite inaccurate.

Here are just a few:

“Fooling around with alternating current (AC) is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever.” – Thomas Edison, 1889.

“There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” – Albert Einstein, 1932.

Remote shopping, whilst entirely feasible, will flop – Time Magazine, 1966.

“Children just aren’t interested in witches and wizards anymore.” – Anonymous publishing executive writing to J.K Rowling, 1996.

“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.” — Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, 2007.

In reality, without the imagination, curiosity, creativity and daring to be wrong, many of the advancements in our world may never had come to fruition.

Here are but a few of God’s ‘visionary insights’:

” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” –  John3:16

“Jesus was given to die for our sins, and he was raised from the dead to make us right with God.” – Romans 4:25

” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” –  John 6:35

” Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.” –  John 8:12


Predictions and visionary insights can influence our hopes, dreams and realities of the future. For humanity, there can be a mixture of success and failure, of challenge and opportunity in predictions and visionary insights. While there can be a deviation of accuracy from human wisdom, from God there is a strength, certainty and assurance, which has great importance for our planning and actions.

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The Power of Imagination

Craig Fielke – Principal

As Albert Einstein once reflected:

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

So why is imagination important? Well, here are some thoughts, which I hope we all can reflect upon and utilise in the year ahead:

Imagination stimulates creativity and innovation.

Every field of human endeavour has been blessed and progressed by people allowing their imaginations to stretch and expand their thoughts.

Imagination is an inventive force for our future.

When we focus only on the day to day, we are prone to recreate the same experiences. But, when we use our imagination to focus on the reality beyond our current experience, wonderful change can occur.

Imagination compels and propels.

Thinking of the possibilities and opportunities can stir a strong sense of meaning and purpose.

Imagination provides a sense of awe.

Perhaps this can be best exemplified by children playing, and the joy and marvel that imagination brings.

Imagination can help us to deal with the challenges we face in our world.

Imagination can enable us to take some time out, recharge, refocus and empower us to cope with what may otherwise seem insurmountable.

In short,
Imagination enables us to wonder, think and act to a width that we would otherwise believe to be impossible, and to hope, connect and serve to a depth we would otherwise think impossible to believe.

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Hearing or Listening

It seems a little while now, but earlier this year, I undertook some extended Annual and Long Service Leave. It was aligned with our eldest child completing their secondary schooling and the opportunity to travel, possibly one last time, as a family. One of the most enjoyable aspects of my leave was the opportunity to holiday with my family in the USA. It was a fantastic trip, filled with adventure, experiences and enjoyment. However, one vivid memory was linked to my very unsuccessful belief that my inability to cope physically with theme park rides had miraculously been cured. Whilst at Universal Studios in Florida, I had managed to cope with a couple of tamer escapades, and with blind courage, decided the Simpsons Rollercoaster was for me. After many pieces of wise and considered advice from my family, and numerous visual and verbal warnings from the operators, I had heard much and listened little. Suffice to say that at the ‘click’ of the door that preceded the beginning of the ride, I knew I was in trouble. The bright, colourful, spinning lights, the loud rambling sounds and varied, violent random movements went on and on and on. One hour after this ‘experience’ I began to feel slightly normal again. If only I had listened and not only heard. So, what does ‘good listening’ involve and achieve? As a start, I suggest three ideas:

  1. Good listening requires patience and concentration.
  2. Good listening asks perceptive questions.
  3. Good listening prepares us to respond well.

As we teach and learn, it is important to “listen well”, as it will make a significant difference in the journey and outcome of our relationships and learning.

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It’s Holidays Parents – Now What?

Summer is one of the seasons that many Australians particularly look forward to, as they have the opportunity to experience and enjoy things like the sun, the surf, catching up with friends and the wonderfully long summer of Cricket… well each to their own.

I know for some parents, it does also provide some challenges, as they juggle a range of commitments while their children are not at school.

Well here is a list of some ideas that you may like to suggest to your child so that they get the most out of the break ahead. So sit them down and suggest:

1. Rest, relax and recuperate
It is important to be able to be able to de-stress from the year gone by and recharge for the year ahead. Catching up with friends, doing things you enjoy that you may not had much time to do, or taking up a new adventure are some things that may help.

2. Volunteer
There is a great opportunity to consider and actively pursue ways to support and help out your community in some way. At the very least, helping at home is a great start.

3. Take up a holiday job
This not only builds a range of skills, develops networks and improves your CV, it also provides a little more independence and choice with your finances.

4. Catch up on studies
Depending on your year level, a little preparation and organisation for the year ahead can help you ‘hit the ground running’.

5. Clean your room!!
Do I need to say anymore?

You may also like to hear me discussing what children can do over the Summer Holidays in my latest Pow Wow with Mel Dzelde on PowerFM by clicking here:

Have a blessed and safe Christmas!

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Learning for the 21st Century

There continues to be many words, thoughts and debates around the focus, scope and sequence of education and learning into and for the 21st Century. For me, at the heart of the why and how sits these five words and a quote from Nelson Mandela:

Purpose, Meaning, Contribution, Influence, Legacy

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

If you’d like to hear more about Learning for the 21st Century at Cornerstone, listen to my latest POW WOW with Mel Dee from PowerFm by clicking here.

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Happy or Healthy Minds

One area of significantly increased focus within learning communities over recent times has been the psychological wellbeing of their students and staff. Decisions around resourcing, curriculum, special programs, whole school models and the like, have been made to provide a means to support and guide people to a better understanding and empowerment of their own and community wellbeing. An often embedded element is the ‘happiness’ or ‘positive emotions’ state. Over time, through reflection and experience, and encounters with the thoughts and works of a number of educators and psychologists, it has become increasing apparent that attention to a broader and deeper application of the mind in wellbeing is required. Understanding how the mind works and developing habits and skills to healthily engage with the wide and varied experience of life is an important key to overall wellbeing.

This year, Cornerstone College has been fortunate to begin working with Dr Tom Nehmy, with a focus on healthy minds. There has been an intentional emphasis on recognising and practicing the habits that will better enable students, as Tom stresses, to:

  • Be resilient in the face of stress
  • Demonstrate flexibility in the way they think and respond to change
  • Have balance in their view of the world: a combination of being positive in attitude but also realistic in their thinking
  • Make helpful decisions consistently
  • Manage emotional impulses
  • View messages from the media (including social media) with a critical eye
  • Cultivate self-compassion, not just self-esteem

Having positive emotions and being happy are important, but there is so much more that contributes to a healthy mind.

If you would like to learn a little more about The Healthy Minds Program, click on the link below to hear Dr Tom Nehmy and Cornerstone College Middle School Learning Leader, Matthew Pearce, chat to Mel Dee on PowerFM.

Healthy Minds Program, PowerFM

You may also like to visit The Healthy Minds website:

Healthy Minds website

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Service Learning

One way Cornerstone actively facilitates service learning is through involvement in Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS) programs.

A recent example involved Cornerstone Science Teacher, Mr Andrew Weiss, who joined eight other teachers from Lutheran schools across Australia to take part in an ALWS Teacher Study Tour. These teachers visited refugee camps in the small African country of Djibouti. Djibouti is one of the poorest and least developed places on the Earth. Lutheran World Federation (LWF) works in two refugee camps in Djibouti: Ali Addeh and Hol Hol, both of which the teachers visited as part of the tour. When visiting these camps the teachers were involved in shared learning and teaching experiences.

In September, 3 students and a staff member from Cornerstone  will be joining with other Lutheran Colleges around Australia, travelling to Cambodia with ALWS’ Student Christian Learning and Service Tour. They will be working with ‘Life With Dignity’,  which is an autonomous Cambodian Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that ALWS have partnered with in Cambodia for over 20 years. The focus of their work is rural integrated development and empowerment programs, so the students spend quality time in rural villages learning about the joys and challenges of rural life in Cambodia and the need for justice action.

Last year Cornerstone students and teachers joined Habitat for Humanity in Cambodia. They worked alongside families to lend muscle to help build homes. Habitat for Humanity believes a decent home provides much more than bricks and mortar. It’s the foundation for the future, giving families the opportunity to be more secure, healthy and content,  and leads to stronger communities that can grow and sustain themselves.

There are a growing number of ways that schools can engage students and teachers with the opportunity to develop the core value of ‘service’ through service learning experiences.

If you’d like to hear more about service learning at Cornerstone, listen to Andrew’s interview with PowerFm on the link here.


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Growth Mindsets

One aspect of quality education is the ability to critically consider the latest research and ideas that support and enhance the learning and wellbeing of students. While original ideas can provide wonderful inspiration and energy for transformation, often, the ability to refine and redefine previous thoughts also provide significant opportunities for progress. Carol Dweck is perhaps the most recognisable voice to the ‘Mindset Movement’, someone who has given an effective and meaningful language, and a tangible set of tools and strategies for learners to understand the why, what and how of improvement in learning. In simple terms, recognising brain power can grow and understanding how this will occur, provides learners with a sustainable ‘growth mindset’, realistic strategies and learning for life. Like Cornerstone College, many schools now intentionally teach and embed the thoughts and practices of growth mindsets.

If you have not had any experience in mindsets, perhaps a good place to start is with the following Ted Talk:  The power of believing that you can improve.

You may also like to hear me discussing growth mindsets in my latest Pow Wow with Mel Dzelde on PowerFM by clicking here.

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New School Speak

Last year, Cornerstone College celebrated its 25th Anniversary. At times like this, reflecting on the past and contemplating the future are natural. It is interesting and significant to note the changes and background to the educational priorities and foci over these years. The mission and purpose of a school, broader educational philosophy, government policy and ‘megatrends’ all form part of the vision and planning, now and into the future, of any educational community.  Education is also packed with terms and acronyms that can distance and confuse the very people that are an integral part of student learning; the parents and caregivers. Part of our role as educators is being able to share and explain, in constructive ways ‘what and why we are doing things’, often in new and creative ways. In my most recent conversation with Mel Dee at PowerFM, I reflect and discuss some of the current ‘states of play’.

Click here to listen to my interview with Mel Dee on PowerFM discussing new school speak.

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Serenity Now! – Coping with those Year 12 Exams

For many Year 12 students, their first experience of significant external examinations is just around the corner. So how can you be prepared and calm throughout this journey? Here are a few of my tips, gained from investigation, discussion and personal experience.

Leading up to the exams:

  • Be planned, organised and disciplined with your study. Use your strengths of how you learn best in revising the year’s work and remember to refer to previous exam papers and examiner reflections.
  • Ensure your dedicated study space is set up to optimise your time and focus.
  • Eat well and exercise.This helps maintain health, alertness and overall wellbeing.
  • Your brain will work best when it’s well rested, so it is vital to continue getting those 8 – 10 hours of sleep per night.
  • Engage in activities that enable you to have a sense of relaxation, calmness and serenity. This will vary for each person. Reading, walking, cooking, gardening, spending time with family or friends are some examples.
  • Continue to maintain a consistency, normality and balance in your daily life.

On the exam day:

  • Set the alarm to wake a little earlier so that you have plenty of time to eat breakfast (yes, do eat breakfast) and organise yourself.
  • Double check you have everything required for the examination and that it is in working order.
  • Head to the exam with plenty of time.
  • Take some brain food (fruit and nuts) and a bottle of water to the exam.
  • Go to the toilet before the exam starts.
  • Read all the questions carefully before starting to help you plan your answer order.
  • Unless there is a set sequence to which you must adhere, start answering the questions that you feel most confident about.
  • Keep to the planned time on a particular section/question so you can have an opportunity to answer all questions in the exam. And, leave any questions that you are unsure about for the end.
  • Try to leave time to review your answers.

And some advice you can gently give to your parents, is that it is important to provide as much support for the above to occur in a calm, encouraging and caring manner. Their words and actions will make a difference to your mindset and preparation for the examinations. This is one time in your life where reducing or minimising other commitments may be valuable.

Finally, remember that the results of the examination may have an influence on your short term goals and aspirations, but they do not define who you are, the dreams you have or the opportunities you can take into the future.

Click here to listen to my interview with Mel Dee on PowerFM discussing coping with exams.

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Let’s talk about homework

One topic that produces a wide range and varied views amongst students, parents and teachers alike is that of homework.  From my perspective, it does make a difference to students’ learning, but ‘the devil is in the detail.’ Signifcant bodies of research have produced a range of conclusions, with some quite opposing views. There are, however, some common threads that are worth consideration.

Homework must be much more that rote learning, and at its heart should build essential skills, deepen a student’s understanding and extend their learning. For younger students homework should spread beyond academic focus, also emphasise the habits and mindsets of learning and must include reading at its heart. Older students need homework that is purposeful and meaningful and gets the ‘best bang for its buck’. Students will gain much more from homework when they feel a strong sense of ownership to their homework, with a blend of review, practice and ‘stretch’.

The quality, targeted focus and the optimal quantity of homework (I suggest around 10 minutes per year level as a guide), does make a difference in both the attitude towards learning and the level of success a student experiences. It is too simplistic to say “Do more of the same stuff you did today in the same way.” The strategies employed to enrich homework, when associated with the understanding related to a student’s learning styles and the context and purpose of a learning experience, can have a profound and ongoing effect on the depth, width and length of the learning.

There are many and varied competing demands in the lives of our students that were perhaps not as complex a generation ago. This means that the planning and organisation of homework around other weekly demand needs to be carefully considered.

Within the home, consideration of place, space and time are essential. Limiting distractions, especially of the technological kind, is important. Parents also need to be mindful to provide enough controlled freedom, with minimal ‘over the shoulder’ supervision, to enable a reasonable balance of support, guidance and self-determination.

Homework still has a place to build essential skills and attitudes and complement the learning that occurs within the school. The challenge and opportunity is to ensure that homework does make a tangible difference to the experience and quality of learning for each student.

Click here to listen to my interview with Mel Dee on PowerFM discussing homework.

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Co-ed or Single Sex School? Confused? Here’s the pros and cons……

While there exists co-ed and single sex schools, there will always be debate of their value, worth and benefits and, as an extension, which is the better? It can be an enormously emotive and divisive issue.

While gender composition of a school may be vital for some, I believe it can distract from the deeper consideration and declaration of the heart of good teaching, learning and education. If the structure of either coed or single sex schools was the defining factor of what makes THE difference, then it would be a debate very worth having. From my experience and learning, there are more central elements to consider and ensure are embedded within a school language, culture and practice. That is not to say that we should be mindful, that at times, there will be differing needs and structuring of the learning environment which will benefit girls or boys.

Significantly, the research by educational researchers such as John Hattie have consistently demonstrated a range of gender neutral factors that make a substantial difference in student learning. From his extensive research, Hattie makes the key point that the “biggest effects on student learning occur when teachers become learners of their own teaching, and when students become their own teachers.”

For the time being, there will still exist the option of coed or single sex schools, and for some, this remains an important distinction. How we ensure there is great quality and care in the learning, development and wellbeing of all students is always at the forefront of my thinking. I suggest that it is critical to look beyond the gender composition, and at the heart of what makes for excellent teaching and learning, regardless of the background, capacity, ability or gender of the students.

For me, what matters most is not whether a school contains co-ed or single sex students, but how we put into practice what best, supports, engages, inspires and empowers them.

Click here to listen to my interview with Mel Dee on PowerFM discussing the pros and cons of co-ed and single sex schools.

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The hopes and dreams of NAPLAN

It has now been 8 years since the introduction of NAPLAN (National Assessment Program – Literacy And Numeracy) in Australia, with related expenses now costing the Government around $100m a year. It is fair to say, there have been varied views and levels of reaction to its purpose and value. As we look into the future, there is also intent to enhance and extend the systemic testing of students’ ‘learning’, in and beyond NAPLAN.

So what have we gained and learned due to NAPLAN?  From my perspective, the test itself is a tool that can support the improvement of individuals and cohorts numeracy and literacy skills. Perhaps an unintended consequence of NAPLAN is the broader discussion on what is at the heart of great and sustainable learning, and what is important to teach? I believe there has also been an enhanced collaboration of educators and a sharpened focus on using authentic and valid data to measure learning and improvement.

On the flip side, the development of and focus on various forms and reporting of ‘league tables’ lacks authenticity, value or clarity of purpose, especially when they are often generalised to system or ‘philosophy’ comparisons. Factors such as differing approaches schools have to preparation and access for students and the complex nature of school demographics add to the futility of such comparisons. NAPLAN is also an extremely narrow measure of learning. The real opportunity for schools is how to maintain focus and reliably quantify the learning and development in areas that are critical for living and thriving in the 21st Century. Empathy, creativity, grit, collaboration, kindness, critical thinking and problem identification (not just solving) are just a few of the areas that need equal or perhaps greater attention, and ones that will transform and empower well beyond what NAPLAN could ever hope and dream to achieve.

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Do Year 7s belong in High School?

It’s fair to say, given the fact Year 7 is still predominantly undertaken within a Primary School in SA, families have an important and sometimes challenging choice about when to make the transition from Primary School.

In 2014, Cornerstone College extended its educational offering to Year 7 and expanded its Middle School as part of this transition. This year we welcomed our second year of Year 7s into our community. Over the last 12 months, families have embraced this new opportunity and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. So I thought it was worth sharing the reasons why we, and our Year 7 parents, see the value in commencing High School in Year 7.

Obviously, I am a strong advocate for Year 7 moving to a High School environment, and here’s why – at the heart of my support is their readiness and the opportunities; be they social, emotional or learning, which match the developmental stage of the Year 7 student. Other reasons also include:

  • The ability to combine specialist Middle School teachers with the expertise of teachers in key learning areas.
  • Access to a wide range of dedicated facilities such as Design and Technology, Music, Drama, Art and Science.
  • The readiness, and often strong desire for Year 7 students to be stretched as learners and to be connected with older students.
  • The aspirational and inspirational environment senior school students can provide.
  • Greater capacity to effectively implement the Australian Curriculum.
  • Aligning with all other mainland Australian state educational systems, where Year 7 students are in a High School setting.

While I understand there can be great emotional, structural and financial challenges in moving all Year 7 students to a High School setting, I believe the opportunities are so much greater and a better match for today’s adolescent.

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