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Life @ Russell High

The Russell Way(ve)

For many, the first encounter with our Russell Ladies often includes an introduction to our ‘wave’, resembling that of the English monarch – however, for us, this wave represents the Russell High ethos – humility, mutual respect and a sincere appreciation of excellence, wisdom and character.

At Russell High we acknowledge that twenty-first century students should not be passive consumers of knowledge; instead, we encourage our ladies to actively and enthusiastically participate in constructing their own knowledge, working in partnership with their teachers and peers, taking responsibility for their learning, perceiving obstacles they encounter as challenges, and failure as an opportunity for self-inquiry and growth. We serve to guide and support our young women as they become self-directed, persistent and innovative problem-solvers, refining their communication and collaborative skills through cooperative opportunities.

Much has been written about the skills needed to confront complex problems and improve our society within an ever-changing, interdependent novel world. Personal development, empowerment and civic competence is deeply rooted in Russell High’s historical deliberate and hidden curriculum, and flourishes in our present to meet the societal needs of this century. One of the core 21st century ‘competencies’ cited by most sources if that of ‘learning to learn’ – being adaptable, resilient, self-aware and armed with metacognitive knowledge to be lifelong learners. At Russell we strive to engender self-efficacy, foster confidence and nurture intrinsic motivation and critical reflection in our students. We encourage service learning and agency through our peer-tutoring programme; and mindful mentorship, empathy and informed decision-making is the basis of our student leadership portfolios.

We are fortunate that on a limited budget, with the assistance of local organisations and schools, and a supportive Governing Body, we have during the last fifteen years equipped our school with technological and ICT teaching tools to complement our practice; and address this crucial 21st century competence. We believe in the importance of being digitally literate; placing an instructional emphasis on being able to find, validate and manage the use of information with critical discernment.

I am often asked why Russell is such a ‘happy place.’ What secret ingredient do we have that makes our staff gel? How have we engendered the strong familial bonds between students and teachers, and how do we sustain our ethos of sisterhood? A possible reason is that we not only accept diversity and multiculturalism in our make-up; but instead celebrate our differences as invaluable assets. At Russell we also believe in the notion of inclusivity – choosing to rather adapt our pedagogy by scaffolding instruction, providing differentiated support, and making use of multisensory approaches, to meet the learning needs of our ladies within this authentic context. We aim to embrace the advice of Karl Menninger, aiming for our “instruction (to) inspire while it informs.” Furthermore, at Russell we create spaces to spread our wings. Our school culture encourages creativity and innovation from our young ladies and teachers; providing a safe space within which all leaders can develop their skills, and where all can become leaders.

Ours is a place where we nurture habits of mind and heart; a place where creative, impactful citizens and leaders are borne. When next you encounter a lady of Russell High and bear witness to our wave, know that this gesture embodies the Russell Way.

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