autumn 2011
Meet Linda Douglas
How does it feel to be back at Ruyton?
Now that I have returned to Ruyton, it is hard to believe I ever left. I have always
wanted to return to this school.To do so is like coming home in some respects.
The warmth and authenticity of the community have not changed in the 12 years
I have been away. It has been wonderful to meet up with people I have known
previously and to meet so many new people.
What has changed and what has remained constant about the school?
Whilst the physical landscape has changed and the School has grown in size, Ruyton
has retained its special ambience.The culture of this School is clearly an important
ingredient in both the appeal and the success of Ruyton. I always remembered it as
a place where there was a strong relationship between staff and students, where
individuals are nurtured and challenged to be the best they can be.These
characteristics are just as evident now as they were then.
How would you describe a Ruyton girl?
Ruyton girls are characterised by their high rate of participation in the wide variety
of learning opportunities and activities the School has to offer.They not only strive
to be the best they can be, they are also willing to give new things a go. Ruyton girls
are active citizens with a strong sense of belonging and a real focus on community
engagement. Most importantly, a Ruyton girl is not defined by what subjects she
takes or what co-curricular activities she takes part in. Her individuality is
acknowledged and nurtured.
The Centre for Creativity opens this year. How will the Centre influence teaching
and learning in the Junior School?
As educators are redefining learning and teaching to suit the needs of the learner
in the 21st Century, we are increasingly aware of the need to develop a new skill set.
As much as we need to continue to develop reasoned and logical construction of
knowledge in various disciplines, we also need to cultivate a culture that nurtures
creativity in a world where there is universal demand for creative innovation and
imaginative thinkers.
The Centre for Creativity will enable our staff to develop new learning programmes
that build on the natural curiosity of our youngest students. It will facilitate
interdisciplinary learning with purpose-built facilities that also encourage
collaborative learning styles.We know that young students learn by doing and these
facilities will enable them to not only actively engage in their learning but also to
construct it with their teachers.
What is the value of a girls-only education?
Having experienced a girls’ school secondary education and then teaching in co-
educational and single sex schools, I firmly believe in the value of girls’ schools.
Girls’ schools are exclusively dedicated to the education of girls.They redefine
competitiveness and collaboration along with autonomy and connectedness to best
meet the needs of girls.We know that the culture of a girls’ school enables girls to
have the freedom to concentrate on their studies, particularly during the early
adolescent years when the physical and emotional development of girls and boys are
so different. Girls can develop a strong sense of personal identity and confidence.
Educating girls is never simplistic but in a girls’ school it is the focus.
What are your thoughts on leadership in a school? And how would you describe
your own leadership style?
Leadership in a school is never dull. Between overseeing the management of the
school and working with the Board to determine the strategic vision, there are
a multitude of leadership perspectives that take place. I certainly see one part of this
leadership responsibility as modelling leadership to our girls.They need to see
leadership as dynamic, achievable but also challenging. My dream is that every girl in
this School believes that she has the ability to lead so that if the opportunity arises
she can embrace it fully. An understanding of leadership and the opportunities to lead
are important for all girls as they move through their school years.
I would describe my own personal style as authentic and collaborative. I believe that
as an individual we must learn from our own experiences to grow as leaders.
Feedback and self-reflection are important factors in achieving our true potential.
How will the proposed national curriculum affect the curriculum currently being
taught at Ruyton?
The Australian Curriculum will provide a framework of consistency across all schools
in Australia.This will provide national testing regimes with greater legitimacy and
will provide unity across the Australian educational community. At Ruyton, we are
very conscious that this is a framework.While it is necessary to cover the essential
learnings outlined in the documentation, it is also important to retain the elements
of curriculum that are unique to the Ruyton experience and maintaining individuality
during the transition to the national curriculum is essential if a school is to retain
its own identity and point of difference.
What are some of the challenges facing educators at this time?
As Australian educators, we are facing a national funding review and the introduction
of a national curriculum framework.The funding review in particular could bring
significant challenges for independent schools along with the development of
performance pay structures in schools.
We are moving into an era where the very definition of learning is being challenged
and redefined. Digital technologies, communication and learning styles as well as
the earlier onset of adolescence are all important factors for educators to consider.
The learning landscape will ultimately be defined by the needs of the learner and
these needs are rapidly changing. Values education, sustainability, community
awareness and supporting the development of a strong moral compass in our young
people are all becoming important components of a well-rounded education along
with academic excellence and co-curricular opportunities.
What are you aspirations as Ruyton’s thirteenth Principal?
Ruyton has a reputation both nationally and internationally as an outstanding school
for girls. As we move into the next decade, the challenge is to continue this tradition
by providing our girls with an educational experience that enables them to develop
the necessary skills, knowledge and values to be active contributors and leaders in this
changing world and to chase their dreams. As a school we need to remain current
with progressive and research based educational pedagogy to support our students
and to fulfil our vison.
Do you have a favourite place at the School?
As most people would expect, the Gym is a special place for me as I have many
memories from when I coached there many years ago.That group of gymnasts were
an amazing group of girls who achieved a great deal at State and National level in
a very short time and really established Ruyton as a high-performing gym club.
What do you like to do when away from Ruyton?
I am an avid reader with a passion for travel, particularly to Europe for culture and
Bali to recharge. I still enjoy regular exercise and walking my very spoilt dog Zari, a
Japanese Spitz.
As my family are in Adelaide and Tasmania, I spend a good deal of time visiting them
although they are now rediscovering the joys of Melbourne with me. I am also
reconnecting with my Melbourne-based friends.
When I lived in Melbourne previously I began quilting and have continued to do so,
making individual quilts for all the children in our family. One day I will have enough
time to work through the impressive collection of quilting material I have
accumulated and make a few more.