The Elephant in the Room

The Elephant in the Room

Thursday, 15 March 2018  | Gerry - Administration Manager

I’m pretty sure that at one time or another we have all found ourselves at a family gathering or social setting where something has made us feel uncomfortable; then we realise there is an ‘elephant in the room’. Last week Narelle Sketcher, Karissa Esselbrugge and I participated in the Christian Education National (CEN) Executives Conference in Hobart. The theme of the conference was The Elephant in the Room. The presenters had the enviable task of saying, “Look, there’s an elephant.”

Narelle and Karissa took part as an investment in their professional development. I also benefited in that way but was there in my capacity as the Chair of the Board of CEN and as a presenter in two workshops. I’d like to share a few of the issues from the conference, but before doing so I want to say that it is so good to be a part of the flourishing Christian school movement that is CEN. Our connectedness makes us stronger together, and so MECS is blessed by participating in a broader collection of Christian schools, and I believe MECS is a blessing to other school communities in CEN.

The conference was of course about more than one elephant in one room. Some of the elephants pondered were: school communities impacted by crisis, gender dysphoria, academic excellence, difficult people, the flood of technology, court room scenario – bullying at work, Gen Z sexuality and pornography, gender and legal matters, religious freedom, schools’ socio-economic status scores, leadership development, Board – Executive relationships, and risk management. Underpinning our pondering were some biblical reflections each morning.

School communities impacted by crisis was perhaps the most moving ‘elephant’ we pondered. Murray, Principal of Elim College in New Zealand, spoke of how his school community moved through severe grief to a place of strength in responding to the tragic death of six students and a teacher through a flash flood in a canyon in April 2008. Such a crisis called them to be a deeply authentic Christian school; and challenges us to be that too.

The ‘elephant’ of gender and the matters around how we and our society think about gender are at times in the forefront of our minds. Presentations by Dr Stephen S (a Christian paediatric psychiatrist) on the medical maze of gender identity and Libby K (a lawyer) on the legal maze of gender identity, were thought provoking. However, I’d have to say in terms of ‘elephants’ related to sexuality, the elephant of pornography is far more critical to the lives and wellbeing of all our young people. Dr Patricia W (a Christian sexologist – yes there is such a job) brought to us the sobering reality concerning the pervasive presence of porn and its destructive effects on the sexual identity and wellbeing of our children and youth. I’d encourage you to google her to discover some of the resources she has developed.

The final ‘elephant’ I’ll mention in a little more detail is the court room scenario. In this role-played mock court we saw a school and its leaders prosecuted for a poorly managed case of bullying at work. The notion of a mock court as a learning tool was developed by Bruce W of Mock Court International. Bruce’s experience as a Police Prosecutor, and a senior WorkCover Prosecutor led him to ask how businesses and leaders could do better in managing all sorts of issues in their workplaces. In his words, “once an issue gets to court you have lost”. This was not a lesson in avoiding responsibility, rather it was a lesson in taking comprehensive and effective responsibility for the wellbeing of the members of our school community.

Seeing the ‘elephants’ afresh reminded us that leading a school community is not an easy or light thing. So can I ask you to pray for us – that we might be wise leaders who lead with courage, integrity and compassion. Thanks.


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