Last night I had the pleasure of attending the end of year concert put on by the children who learn musical instruments at school. I was struck by the number of children who performed and the variation in pieces. Music is a fundamental aspect of education here and even if children don’t learn a specific instrument they are taught music notation and they sing twice a week. The results of this over time are obvious in the quality of singing that we hear at Open Day and Speech Night. There is much research to show the beneficial effect music has on other areas of learning. Plato is said to have made this comment about music “It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”
This week the children in 5th class will put themselves forward for leadership roles for 2019. It is always quite exciting to watch the next group of children step up to take responsibility in the School. In a recent conversation with 5th class it was very encouraging to hear what they had to say about the qualities of a leader and what a broad and mature understanding they have. On Monday morning the children who have been nominated for the positions of Head Boy and Girl and House Captain, will have to write an impromptu speech on a topic. They will then present their speech to the 4th ,5th and 6th class who will cast their votes. It is always wonderful to see the respect and attention that all the children give to this process.
This week we welcomed the new intake of children for 2019. It was wonderful to see all the new faces and on visiting the classroom during the morning it was easy to see that the children had settled well and were very engaged in the activities that had been very thoughtfully prepared by their new teachers. Equally wonderful was the excitement of the current 5th class children who were looking forward to meeting their buddies for next year. They had gone to some trouble to prepare welcome cards for each child. It is a great service to be able to provide such a loving and welcoming environment.
his term the Value that we are focusing on is Service. This quality has deep and wide significance that underpins many aspects of life. This week I was able to watch all the Primary dress rehearsals in preparation for next week’s Shakespeare Festival. Many things struck me about the performances but one thing in particular stood out. Every single child without exception was giving the very best they had to give. Every child was working for the good of the whole. This was then reciprocated by the audience from Lower 1st through to 6th class. This type of service, working to support each other, reflects an aspect of the excellence that we strive for at the School.
Term 4 is always the busiest term at John Colet and this year is no exception. The children are engaged in Shakespeare rehearsals, assessments, preparation for Speech Night and the Nativity play. In addition to this 6th class will be preparing speeches for their graduation. The value of Stillness is paramount at this time. I recently meditated with a group of 4th and 6th class students and was struck by the power it provided for them to become collected and focused. The continued practice of the pause during the day has the same effect and helps the children to manage a very full program. This is a life skill they can choose to access at any time.
Earlier this term we introduced House lunches on a Friday for the Infants classes. The children sit with their own House group for lunch instead of their class group. This has given the children an opportunity to meet other children and to make new friendships. Each week the atmosphere of friendship and service is more and more noticeable as the children grow to know and look after each other. Our buddy system forges many beautiful friendships between the Lower 1st and 6th class and this was very evident at our Athletics Carnival last Tuesday. All the Infants gathered at the side of the running track to cheer on the 400 metre races. It was a lovely example of the joy that flows from a united community.
This week we are still looking at the quality of Courage and in particular the courage to try again if we fail. At the back of one of the classrooms, I was interested to see the stories of some great figures in history who failed many times before they succeeded. Had they not had the courage to keep going our lives would never have known the treasures of an Einstein, a Helen Keller or the Wright Brothers. The ability to embrace failure and learn from it is a life skill that prepares any person to face whatever challenges may lie before them.
This week we have taken time to concentrate on good manners. I would like to quote our chef Mr Galloway, “Manners cost nothing but they mean everything”. In particular we have concentrated on using the teacher’s name when greeting them or when asking for something. It is remarkable what a difference such a small addition makes. The children have responded very well and it makes for a connected and respectful interaction.
When John Colet was established in 1985, the advice given to Mrs McKendrick and Mrs Donald by the worldwide founder Leon MacLaren was to make sure that the study of Sanskrit, Singing and Shakespeare play a prominent role in the curriculum. These three subjects nourish children at the spiritual, mental and physical level no matter what their individual abilities may be. Despite the challenges of fitting these three subjects into an already full curriculum, we have stayed true to this directive. We have found and continue to find that this provides every child with a deep and rich experience in education.
Recently the infants children have been preparing for an afternoon concert to be held at the end of the term. One of the reasons for having the concert is to give the children an opportunity to commit words to memory. This type of exercise is excellent for developing focus and directing attention. It also helps to develop clarity of diction and confidence of delivery. Finally it exposes children to some fine poetry. In an age where the exercise of memory is becoming less and less part of education, it is important to develop these pathways.
As always John Colet has been abuzz with activity. Last week we had Science Week and this week we have enjoyed a fabulous Book Week the highlight of which was book character parade on Wednesday. The primary and lower 1st classes are in the throes of preparing for Shakespeare and in a few weeks children will be heading off to Canberra and Milson Island. None of this could happen without the dedication and hard work of the teachers. Their devotion to excellence is reflected in the children’s book work and the beautiful presentation of the classrooms. Over the last week or two I have been invited into classrooms to hear narratives and descriptions written by the children that were outstanding. I would like to acknowledge our teachers’ continuous hard work and commitment to offering our students the very best.
This week it has been wonderful to watch all the students enthusiastically engaging with our Science Week theme of Game Changers and Change Makers. There were a number of projects around the School this week that involved the children applying their problem solving skills to consider ways in which we can more effectively reduce the use of plastic. It was an excellent way to connect the children with some of the larger global issues facing our generation and theirs. It gave them an opportunity to walk the talk and to see that Science and Technology can be used to address these issues in simple but effective ways. We look forward to seeing some of the great ideas in our Science Week competition…….Book Week next week!
This term we are looking at the value of Courage. The infants’ classes have recently started a new initiative on Fridays where they sit in house groups for lunch, so that they mix with children across different grades. This provides a number of different learning opportunities, but we are currently concentrating on courage. Today the children were challenged to have the courage to try new food and to speak to someone that they do not know. They made significant efforts in this direction and were very happy to see stars on their house charts as a result of their efforts. It was delightful to watch them rise to the challenge.
Today I had the chance to observe one of our debating teams in action against Abbotsleigh. Though the children did not win, the outcome was very close. I was struck by a few things. Firstly the clarity and confidence with which our children spoke. Secondly by the respectful way they interacted with each other and thirdly by their level of presence and attention. Being able to speak in front of an audience is a great skill and our curriculum provides this opportunity from Lower 1st. This week I had the great joy of commencing poetry recitation with the Infants children in preparation for their concert at the end of this term.
Next Monday we will be celebrating Teacher’s Day. The idea behind this day is to pay tribute to the great spiritual teachers whose words have guided and continue to guide the development of the values of our School. We also pay respects to the many teachers in our lives that have provided wisdom and fine example. The children have been writing about such teachers and will be presenting their work at our special Assembly on Monday. This is a special event on the school calendar. Parents are invited to attend.