I am often in awe of how children can take quite complex ideas and concepts and explain them in practical ways or put them into simple actions. We had a few wonderful examples this week as we continue with the focus on our Value of Respect, particularly at present on how we widen our circle of happiness. The idea being that the pursuit of individual happiness is ultimately hollow and is only realised through bringing happiness to others and the wider world.
We introduced this idea at our assembly this week and we had one brave young boy in Year 3 who stood up and gave the following explanation; ‘Happiness isn’t something you can keep, you can’t hold it, you have to give it away if you want it to last longer’. I also had one of our Year 3 girls who visited my office during the week to tell me she had built a rubbish trap from seaweed whilst at the beach to help the environment so that both people and sea life can be happier. All of our students have the task of bringing happiness to others over the remainder of the term. They may not notice that they are doing it, so if you do see it in action do let them know.
We would like to offer our thanks to the school community for your patience, understanding and support during this period of building works at John Colet School. The construction of our two new classrooms is moving along steadily and we are beginning to see some real progress. Due to changes in access we have also incorporated some upgrades to pathways and repairing of our grass areas. It was wonderful to see some of our students discussing the process of construction and even some of the maths involved during their break time this week.
We have had a great deal of rain over the past few weeks which has unfortunately resulted in cancellation of our inter school sports events as well as the postponement of our Walkathon to 31st March. We have also experienced flooding within our uniform store. The good news is that we have not incurred any damage to our stock and we have identified an alternate venue while we seek a permanent solution. An email will be shared early next week once we are all set up, with directions and opening times for the store as well as information for parents if they wish to order by email for student collection.
The way I see it, is that if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain – Dolly Parton
The teaching of philosophy is a cornerstone of our program at John Colet School. The exploration of which is directly beneficial towards the traditional ‘core’ subjects such as English, Science and Maths as well as our concept of our place in the world. The term ‘Philosophy’ translates to a love of wisdom and as we tackle the ‘bigger picture’ it allows us to place our other subjects within the standard curriculum into context.
As an example of this one of our 4th class teachers, Mrs Kearney, was recently interviewed with regards to a philosophy program she had developed. This program on human potential involves exploring what is possible, the limits we put on ourselves and how we make use of our talents for the benefit of all. Our potential is impossible to develop on our own and as such requires a collective aspiration towards improvement. This is relevant to our current focus on the Value of Respect and ensuring our actions are to the advantage of all.
Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings – Salvador Dali
You may have seen an article in today’s Manly Daily regarding John Colet School leading the peninsula in NAPLAN results. We are always proud of the outstanding achievements of our students. However, it is important to note that this is just one test and that it is an indicator of attainment rather than progress. We are not a selective school and with a growing population I do expect that this ‘ranking’ may change from year to year.
Our focus remains on the growth and progress for each individual child, starting with character and an ethos of being our very best self. The academics stem from this foundation which our students will take with them into the wider world. As the article points out our strength is a result of our unique program yet is ultimately a product of our passionate and dedicated teachers who focus on the progress of each individual.
Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory – Mahatma Gandhi
Our work on Respect, particularly on how our actions can benefit all and are a good example to all, has been explored through the theme of sportsmanship this week. It is a particularly good time to study this area as we have many new students at play during our breaks, our school sport competitions have begun and we also had our swimming carnival this week. We discussed during assembly this week what it means to be ‘a good sport’ and how positive encouragement, being humble and giving thanks adds to the experience of competition. We look for action as a practical application of the development of our Values. Our sport teachers are aware of this focus and they have been highlighting this within their program. Likewise our staff, throughout the school, are on the lookout for evidence to celebrate both inside the classroom and at break times. I hope that if you attended our swimming carnival this week that you saw this in action yourself. Great camaraderie and pride within the Houses, combined with support for other swimmers whether they came first or just did their best.
‘One man practicing sportsmanship is better than a hundred teaching it’ - Knute Rockne
It was gratifying to hear this week of changes to the HSC involving a focus on deeper learning and a focus on core areas in language such as grammar and writing, an area also under review in the Primary system. Unfortunately, these changes tend to come and go depending on new research, government change or popular belief. There is certainly a need to keep up to date and be responsive to the shifting needs of children, however the fruits of such fluctuations are often not seen for many years. It is difficult for schools where such swings in pedagogy require new curriculum, resources and training for teachers on a regular basis.
We are fortunate at John Colet School that we have retained the very best practices and materials for over thirty years. Our continued focus on attention, phonics, grammar, and mathematical understanding has resulted in our teachers refining our curriculum and their skills over time. This consistency is directly related to the learning and progress of our students.
Shakespeare is also back in the HSC which is great to hear. If you missed the story in the news I have included a link here
While I was having lunch this week one of our Lower First students asked me if I had to follow school rules, I assured her I did! Some of her classmates joined her in quizzing me on every rule that they could think of. As their list grew so did their surprise that I had to follow all of them too. Our rules, or common expectations of behaviour towards ourselves, others and our environment is what binds us.
Many of these common rules and expectations are directly related to our current focus of Respect at school. Respect is a particular Value that brings us together through shared expectations and trust. It is the basis of our relationships at school and is evident in our actions as they unify our community. Working with love, honour and respect for one another is what we strive for from our Board, Staff, Parents and Students.
As you will be aware the weather in Sydney has continued to provide us with a very long and hot summer. Some of our sports were cancelled today and others shortened to reduce heat stress. Our P&F marquee came in very handy for some extra shade for our students during their lunch time play today.
Earlier in the week at our assembly we took time to discuss examples of how our students have shown respect for their teachers. There were some very practical examples from Upper First through to Year 6 as well as actions that have been noticed by our teachers. At John Colet School we do look for the practical application of our Values both at school and at home. If you do witness a change of behaviour or a special action at home, do share it with your class teacher, it is wonderful to share and celebrate.
We hope you find some ‘cool’ activities over the weekend and we look forward to more temperate weather in the weeks ahead.
It has been wonderful welcoming our students to school this week and catching up with them about their many adventures in the holidays. Our new students, including those in Lower First have settled in so quickly that it seems we have been together for a great deal longer. That being said we do spend time in these first few weeks going over routines, expectations and explanations of some of our unique features, such as our practice of pausing during the day. New parents joining our school may also have questions at the start of the year and I encourage you to let your child’s class teacher know or pop by the office. We are here to help.
The core Values of our school are Stillness, Truthfulness, Courage, Service and Respect. With our students and staff we work through these values in all that we do throughout the year. However, we do select a Value to concentrate on each Term, along with an aspect of that Value. This Term we will be exploring Respect and in particular Respect for our teachers. Teachers are not just at school, but all around us if we can just stop, listen and reflect.
We were all very excited to welcome your children to school on Monday. We hope you have had an enjoyable and rewarding time together. However, we do understand if you are now ready to take a break yourself!
In the past couple of weeks we have been buzzing with the construction of our new classrooms, refreshing our landscaping and preparing together for a great year ahead. Our teachers have engaged in some wonderful professional development on curriculum, assessment and our approach to the Philosophy and Values that our school holds so important. I am continually in awe of their commitment and passion towards education.
The strength of our school is centred on a community approach to learning and I do encourage you to become involved as much as possible.
I wish you and your family all the very best for 2017.
I have had a few parents in the past weeks talking with me about the correct amount of sleep for their children. My answer is often not that helpful as it is usually; they need about as much as they need. In short sleep is extremely important for both the education and health of children, however the amount will differ regarding their age and the specific needs of the child. Professional recommendations tend to indicate between 9 and 11 hours of unbroken sleep.
Approximately 30% of children will have some difficulty with sleep during their schooling. As we move closer to our holidays I thought it may be wise to offer a few tips that may help with their experience and your sanity over the break. Try and keep to a regular routine which may include sleep time, bathing, brushing teeth and the reading of a good book to quiet the mind. Be aware of changes to regular diet, amount of screen time or alterations within the general home environment. A good routine and the correct amount of sleep over the break will also help when that first alarm bell goes off in January for the start of school.
I’m so good at sleep I can do it with my eyes closed
This week our Head Boy and Girl, together with their Deputies, spoke at our assembly as to what made them seek leadership positions within John Colet School and what they had gained from the experience. All four spoke with confidence and from the heart, providing examples of how they had grown and the skills they had developed over the year. They provided a wonderful model to our younger students of leadership, yet also of the practical nature of living our Values.
The fine examples provided by our 6th Class were continued on Thursday as our 5th Class students gave speeches to the Primary for next year’s leadership positions. There was very little to separate the children and it was inspiring to see such a depth of maturity and passion with so many seeking to give their time in these roles. It would be difficult to find better examples for our students of how the Value of Service could be articulated in such a positive and relevant way.
The concept of Service is often seen as a value that requires a specific tangible action. We give of our time or attention to help others, or perhaps assist with material goods. This can be difficult for young children to independently put into practice in their daily lives. One of the practices within Service that we are currently addressing is encouraging the use of a positive attitude. This can have an immediate effect on ourselves and those around us.
We all know how a person’s negative or pessimistic attitude can affect a group or community. There are of course times when bad events may occur or things don’t go our way that can get us down. However, it is the attitude we have when these events occur that often leads to solutions or at least allows the journey towards a resolution to begin. We cannot change the past, nor manipulate the future. We can only truly act on our present and a positive attitude will always result in the possibility of a better outcome than if we dwell in seeing the fault in all options.
Last week I wrote regarding our current Value of Service and our practice of giving full attention, particularly as it applies to focus, deep learning and understanding. Our Shakespeare Primary Festival, occurring this week, is a true example of the use of high levels of concentration, attention and passion. These performances also encourage commitment to the wider cast, empathy for the characters and a deeper appreciation of history and language. An education involving a strong Arts component promotes self-knowledge and empowers children to look beyond their comfort zone. These are powerful experiences that will be with them for many years to come.
Our students have raised themselves to the task, as did our younger students earlier in the year during their performances. Thank you to our teachers for their commitment, our parents for their help with props and make up, and a special thank you to Ms Zoe Emanuel who has led our productions this year.
Am I giving full attention? This question is the first within our Mission under the Value of Service and one which is central to the educational approach within John Colet. Our practice of Mindfulness and of pausing throughout the day allows the children to focus, become still and centre themselves within the present. They practice letting go of thoughts and emotions tied up with the past while also releasing considerations or judgements of the future.
Holding oneself within the present is not easy and can be fleeting as our minds are quick to be distracted and busy. Like a muscle working on a new activity or task it takes practice over time for this to feel more natural. At school we take a developmental approach to this, whereby the children begin with small steps leading towards more sustained periods of attention.
Much of the information our students (and adults) are presented with outside school these days is surface material. For example the rise of news feeds, memes, headlines, googled facts and blogs within modern communication has fostered the practice of skimming without often taking in the full picture. Fostering mindfulness, being present and giving attention promotes skills which foster deep learning and holistic understanding which remains a critical ability for the future.
A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring; There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again
Alexander Pope, 1711 The Pierian Spring was the mythical spring of the Muses, a literal fount of wisdom.