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The Power of Belief and Positive Relationships – By Principal Peter Houlihan, De La Salle College, Malvern VIC

Traversing the journey through childhood, adolescence into young adulthood can often be fraught with challenges. Finding your way and establishing “your” place in a large boys’ school can be remarkably smooth when young men are instilled with a sense of belief and are immersed in positive relationships with peers and staff.

Many of my most rewarding experiences in my ten years as a Principal stem from witnessing students build increased confidence then genuinely thrive in our supportive environment. This is particularly true for those who come from an environment or mindset where that degree of confidence was perhaps lower than they would have liked.

Two prominent examples are front of mind; three very different young men who flourished in their chosen pathway. This integral feature of De La Salle – the fact that it is a place for all, where each student can successfully follow his vocation – is what our staff and families value most highly. One recent graduate came to us as a shy, quiet Year 4 and in his nine years at the College grew to the extent he was selected for a significant leadership role in Year 12 and attained an ATAR above 98. Staff recognised and encouraged his strengths and potential. The growth in confidence gained from his relationships with pastoral and inspiring educators and caring friends changed his life.

The second came to De La Salle halfway through his secondary journey after his previous school didn’t work out for him. Lacking confidence and suspicious of what traditional schooling may be able to offer, this young man embraced his newfound supportive environment. Staff instilled self-belief and purpose, friends built his self-esteem and confidence and he successfully navigated his senior years with positive outcomes, skills and a positive attitude he didn’t dream possible years earlier. 

A successful school is built around positive relationships at all levels. In an open-entry, mixed ability school it is crucial each student feels comfortable and that there is a pathway and a place for him and his goals. Each student brings his own unique set of gifts and talents and a good school must be able to work with each child to identify, explore and utilise these.

The formal academic program is of course central and critical, but creating a space which students feel builds trust, belief, self-assurance and resilience is unquestionably of equal value.

Image: Principal Peter Houlihan, De La Salle College, Malvern VIC


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