This Q&A profile follows the recent announcement of Ms Michelle Carroll's appointment as the new principal of Matthew Flinders Anglican College, commencing in Term 1, 2024.
We asked Ms Carroll to share her insights over more than 25 years of education and explain the vision she has for her new role, so that our College community can learn more about her. Enjoy the read!
Q: Michelle, what makes a good school culture? And do you have a vision for the culture you wish to develop at Matthew Flinders Anglican College?
A: During this time of the year, I often find myself contemplating the journey of each Year 12 student as they walk across the stage and receive their graduation certificate. I reflect on the challenges they have encountered along the way and the triumphant moments we have celebrated together. I firmly believe that behind every student's successful journey through school, there is the unwavering support of a brilliant teacher who has guided, nurtured and cheered them on. The way we offer support, acknowledge achievements and express gratitude speaks to a school's culture and, in turn, shapes how we foster a positive ethos. A vibrant school culture is enabled when core values foster inclusivity, respect and trust. In my vision for the Flinders school culture, I see it encompassing the true Flinders spirit and reflected in a thriving community of learning, active participation and a sense of belonging.
Q: Your educational background is mainly in girls' schools? How will your approach differ (if at all) in a co-ed environment?
A: I have been very intentional with my decision to step into a co-educational school environment, and I am looking forward to understanding the nuances and educational needs of all students at Flinders. I doubt my approach to leading a school will vary significantly, as I will seek to continue a culture of academic care and nurturing of each individual, regardless of gender. The role of school principal is so often defined as one of ‘stewardship’, and with this in mind, whether in a single-sex or co-ed environment, my focus is always on providing a quality education that caters for every student. At Flinders, I look forward to supporting the academic and co-curricular growth of young children in the Flinders Early Learning Centre, the vibrant Primary School students and the emerging adults in the Secondary School.
Q: Student and staff wellbeing are important aspects of school life these days. How do you support students and staff in this area?
A: It is certainly important for schools to continuously assess the wellbeing needs and concerns of students and adapt programs accordingly. An effective approach involves a combination of proactive measures and responsive support systems to create a nurturing and caring educational environment. Helping students manage anxiety, creating safe and inclusive environments, and promoting resilience and emotional intelligence are just a few key focus areas.
For staff, a healthy working environment is pivotal to their wellbeing. For me, this would include ensuring a supportive Leadership Team that invests in ongoing professional development for staff, encourages a positive work-life balance and enables opportunity for career progression, and professional fulfilment through collaborative and collegial practice.
Q: Do you have a vision for building a strong school community?
A: I am a firm believer in the African proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ as it conveys the message that it takes many people to build a strong community to support young people. In schools, this includes students, staff and parents working collectively towards a shared sense of purpose that is not only about academic achievement but also encompasses character development and emotional wellbeing. I recognise families are an integral part of the school community and their involvement through volunteering, particularly in supporting their child’s co-curricular pursuits, can have such a positive impact on the school’s sense of unity.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing young people in the 21st century?
A: As I encounter young people today and think about their future with optimism, I grapple constantly with their over-reliance on technology and social media, which can result in screen addiction, cyber bullying and, often subsequently, a diminished sense of self-worth. Coupled with this is the frenetic pace of change brought about by Generative Artificial Intelligence and how students will actually use AI engineers, like Chat GPT. Encouraging students to ethically engage with technology to enhance their understanding, rather than opting for the easy route of assignment outsourcing and potentially misrepresenting abilities, will be a challenge for every school and university.
I have always been a great supporter of the co-curricular activities at schools, and firmly believe that as long as students are involved in the life of the school and have, for example, a football, tennis racquet, clarinet or surfboard in their hand, they can find valuable time to disconnect from their phones and the allure of technology.
Q: What are the core aspects to students achieving their potential across the spectrum of school life?
A: The journey of each student brings with it a unique set of challenges and opportunities, yet the core aspects to students achieving their potential include providing high-quality education with engaging, well-trained and passionate teachers. Teachers are at the heart of creating an exceptional educational experience that is transformative and fosters understanding, critical and creative thinking, and encourages self-belief that will equip students with a sense of purpose and a curious mind to learn more.
Biography | Ms Michelle Carroll
Michelle Carroll is an outstanding leader with a passion for and academic interest in adolescent wellbeing. Prior to her appointment as the new Principal of Matthew Flinders Anglican College, commencing January 2024, Michelle was the Principal of leading all-girls school, St Catherine’s School in Melbourne, Victoria over 10 years.
Her focus as Principal of St Catherine’s School was on creating and delivering an educational environment that supports students’ individual strengths to flourish and empowers all students to learn and grow as confident, capable and healthy young people.
In her previous roles, Michelle was Deputy Principal at St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School and Dean of Students at Ipswich Girls’ Grammar and Junior Grammar School. During her early career in education, Michelle worked as a Teacher across Science and Health and Physical Education subjects in Brisbane Girls Grammar School and Loreto College, and in an international school in Singapore.