Motivating Girls to Achieve their Best

The more time I spend with our girls and young boys, the more I realise that St Hilda’s is a very special place that creates lasting memories and shapes character.

The question ‘Why St Hilda’s?” becomes easier and easier to answer as the St Hilda’s secret sauce becomes more transparent.

We are one of many beautiful and well resourced girls’ schools in Perth, blessed with incredible sporting facilities, impressive teaching and learning resources, beautiful green courtyards and state of the art learning spaces. But we all know that schools are so much more than impressive buildings and grounds. It’s what happens at the core of everyday teaching and learning that makes all the difference. I’ve shared before that both relationships and pedagogy (the practice of teaching) are key to St Hilda’s success.

We’ve now discovered more.

One morning, I asked our Dean of Pedagogy and Innovation (Westley Field) to investigate more deeply what motivates our girls to achieve THEIR best. His findings were thought provoking and insightful. His research captured our current girls and past experiences from our Old Scholars.

Many realities were uncovered. Ultimately our students want to perform well because they are motivated and inspired to do so. Furthermore, they want other girls to perform well too, so they specifically target those who may need help, to achieve. Examples of this are plentiful. Whenever a girl gets stuck, other students immediately offer assistance without hesitation. They do this across all subject areas and do it in a very mature way. They ask leading questions rather than simply giving answers. They guide rather than show. They encourage rather than mock. “Let me help you” is part of their learning vocabulary.

As girls work on homework in the quad they will check in on each other to make sure they are ‘doing ok’ with their work, often asking “How are you going with that?”

As observed in a Mathematics class, two students were working on a problem on the whiteboard at the front of the classroom looking slightly perplexed, when another student, who had only been listening at this point, could see that they were not quite on the right track. So she offered her thinking on how to look at the problem in a different way to steer her peers in the right direction. The girls identified her as one of the brightest in the room. Following the work, the girls were asked about this phenomenon of ‘leaning back and bringing forward’. They shared that they thought it came originally from her teachers when they encouraged the girls to “ask three before me”. They added that all teachers encouraged this sharing to the point that it’s ‘just what we do at St Hilda’s’.

Our Old Scholars also confirmed that this power of sisterhood extended beyond the classroom and shared the story of the girl who did not have a dress for the Year 12 ball. The other girls very gently and tactfully ensured that she had dresses to choose from, shoes her size and other accessories to match.

Our girls’ ability to share their gifts for the common good is impressive and is what gives St Hilda’s the point of difference of not just being an academically excellent school, but one with amazingly impressive soul. It is the spirit of St Hilda’s, which comes from within our girls, that makes it the school it is, and a joy to lead.

Girls who support girls, grow into women who support women. When girls support each other incredible things happen. Keep lifting girls!