Principal's First Principles: What's your rip tale?

Stories: they're one of my favourite things about being a teacher and a dad. I still love getting into the classroom and reading little ones stories when I get a spare moment. I know there's a photo of me in my emu costume floating around somewhere. I'm telling the story of Edward the Emu to last year's Preps and hope I'm invited to read it again when they're doing the letter Ee this year.

But why do we read or tell stories? Certainly, they help with communicating important values and creating moments of connection, but there's another reason yet. Think about something significant that happened while you were a child. A frightening experience for many people in Australia is being towed out to sea by a rip. Remembering back, you don't just visualise the beach and who it was that saved you, you also remember the feel of the current as it dragged you away from your family or friends and the taste of salt as you started to swallow water. Panic may even taste like salt, now.

Our minds reconstruct crucial experiences like these in sensory detail. We relive them, as it were, like a video playing inside our heads - sometimes for minutes at a time before the needs of the present break through our consciousness and we 'time-travel' back to NOW. Story shapes memory, leaving its mark on us and shaping our identity, but before we can know ourselves better, we need to know who we have been.

Everyone in our community has experienced some version of the rip tale. It may have been a traumatic event that occurred in another country, but the stories of hardship and triumph, human generosity and the imprint of culture, shape who we are today. We can have no understanding if we do not know the story.

That's why it's vital that we ask before we judge. Hearing and speaking stories connects us and contributes to a strong, harmonious community.

This week has been Harmony Week, and it reminded me not to assume I know everything about students, teachers, friends, and parents. Yesterday, Secondary Chapel was organised by Larissa Tongafau and Aarush Shelly, the students who lead the Culture portfolio of our new Secondary Student Representative Council (SSRC). A panel discussion facilitated by Pastor JP made up the bulk of the program and we heard personal stories from panellists Larissa, Aarush, Mr Littlewood and our new College counsellor Mr Mgcanga. Their honest, powerful narratives evoked new ideas and compassion and spread understanding.

I'd like to encourage you to take the time to share stories: pass them on to children and share them with each other. Stories make way for harmony.

Principal's First Principles is a series of editorials by Brisbane Adventist College Principal Mr Peter Charleson.