This week the Infants classes have been preparing for next Thursday’s concert, which will provide an opportunity for the children to showcase Poetry, Singing, Dancing and Sanskrit recitation. All the children have been exemplary in putting their best efforts into learning lines and actions and giving their enthusiastic best. It is always staggering to watch the speed at which younger children absorb material that they are given. It underlines the responsibility we have to give them the very best.
It is very nice to be back at John Colet after a three-week break. It is striking to see how much actually takes place in a short period. At the moment the children are concentrating on the School value of Courage, in particular the aspect of resilience. The reading in Assembly this week made reference to the choices we make and where they lead. In a number of conversations with the children this week we have spoken about how the wise choice is often the harder choice because it involves going against habit and sometimes strong feelings. However it is the wise choice which ends up being the best choice in the long run. To quote the poet Robert Frost:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
Next week 5th and 6th class will be traveling to Bathurst for a three-day camp. This is part of their study of the Gold Rush and is by and large an educational event, however, it also allows an opportunity for the children to spend three days learning to work harmoniously together. Often on these events a lot is learnt about co-operation, sharing, making small sacrifices where necessary and sometimes even managing disappointment. In many ways this builds resilience and is the more important aspect of the camp. No doubt we will be proud of the way children will represent our School Values. I look forward to seeing you in three weeks after my return from long service leave at a philosophy retreat in the UK.
Very soon the Infants children will begin to prepare for the Infants Concert to be held in Week 10. This provides an opportunity for the children to showcase poetry and Sanskrit recitation, singing and dance. One of the very valuable aspects of such an exercise is the practice of committing things to memory. This practice develops important brain pathways which transfer to general learning. In addition, the children are gaining confidence and learning to serve others with their talents. The children look forward to performing for parents and guests on Thursday afternoon, 26th September.
During the course of the week the children study Philosophy. One thing that is important about this study is the introduction of important words into their vocabulary. This week for example the following words have been discussed across Infants and Primary classes: dignity, honour, noble action, wisdom, self-discipline, harmlessness, respect, generosity of spirit, uprightness and brightness. The aim is that these words are heard, then practised and finally they become part of one’s character.
William James (1842- 1910), an American philosopher and psychologist, wrote; “The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgement, character and will. No-one is master of himself if he have it not. An education which should improve this faculty would be an education par excellence.” At the beginning of this week the teachers met together and reflected on this statement in relation to their own teaching practice. Learning to give attention is one of the most important factors in the education of children. In an age where there is ever increasing distraction and diversion it becomes even more important to teach this simple but fundamental skill. It cannot be presumed that children develop this skill without explicit teaching. We were able to share the many different ways this is approached in the classroom and how the practice can be refined. One example is the use of good manners. This means that attention must be given directly to the person being acknowledged. A simple but far reaching practice.
Reflecting on the week, the thing that is most striking is the opportunity that performance allows for children to let their light shine. Learning to be confident and to have the courage to share a talent with others, is the way in which that talent is magnified. It is also a way of learning to use a talent to serve others. This was most obvious during the week when watching the Infants classes do their dress rehearsals for Shakespeare. Many hidden talents became obvious on stage. Similarly, last night at the Instrumental Concert despite some children feeling nervous everyone stepped up to give of their best.
This week we have been carrying out Parent /Teacher interviews. This communication provides a vital part of the underlying fabric of the School. The guidance given to Mr MacLaren, the founder of the world wide Renaissance Schools of which John Colet is a part, about the wellbeing of the child was; that unity between the home and the teacher produces a strong and confident child. Where this unity is lacking the child can become confused and lose confidence. Regular communication goes a long way to support this unity.
This week we celebrated Founder’s Day which provides an opportunity for the children to learn about the great people whose work and inspiration led to the establishment of our School. The most important amongst these being Leon MacLaren who worked tirelessly to pursue an understanding of truth and justice. One of his guiding principles was the pursuit of excellence in all that we do, no matter how small the task may appear to be. This pursuit of excellence is reflected in the School today in so many ways: in Shakespeare, in Debating, in Maths Challenge, in Writing, in Art and most recently in our Sanskrit Recitation Competition. The level of refinement in the presentation and sounding was outstanding, but equally outstanding was the level of respect offered by the children when they were listening to their peers.
Walking around the classrooms on Open Day provided a timely reminder of one of the key aspects of John Colet - the pursuit of excellence. It is the detail that makes excellence obvious. The beauty of a piece of handwriting, the precision of a recitation, care in the way a uniform is worn, the respect conveyed by a courteous please or thank you; these are by themselves small things but together they lift us from the ordinary.
This week has been striking for the demonstration of resilience that has been noticeable throughout the School. Most obviously in the preparation leading up to Open Day on Sunday. The children have had a number of rehearsals where they have been required to perform one part of a piece a number of times to get it right, or to wait while another group of children are practising to get their part correct. Some children have had to forgo a favourite lesson to attend a rehearsal. In other situations children have had to face the challenge of overcoming an upset to perform or represent the School. In all cases the children have really worked to dig deep and go the extra mile even when they would have liked to stop. I am sure that their effort will be reflected in their whole hearted performance on Sunday.
This week we have been practising for our annual Open Day event. The children showcase their singing and recitation skills as part of the day. It is striking to see how each year this practice becomes easier, steadier and takes place with a minimum level of fuss. Reflecting on this, it is clear that tradition builds up within the school and each year the children who arrive at the school naturally fall into a rhythm that has been set by the efforts of all those who have gone before. This has been particularly obvious with our Lower 1st class who during their first rehearsals this week conducted themselves with the same quiet focus as the rest of the school.
We live in times of extraordinary and rapid change. This of course affects our children and our School and it can be difficult to achieve a balance between holding on to those things that make us unique and those changes which cannot be avoided. The one thing that remains unaffected and eternally relevant is the adherence to our School Values. This term we are focusing on the value of Truthfulness. The value of teaching a child to tell the truth cannot be overestimated and it is reassuring to see this very much in evidence in daily dealings with the children.
Welcome back to Term 2. The children have returned refreshed and ready to meet new challenges. We have recently engaged in an advertising campaign inviting “Thinkers” to join John Colet. A number of occasions have passed this week where it is obvious how apt this invitation is. I would like to mention two. This morning I was in a 5th class room and was shown some work that had been done on a Visual Thinking routine in relation to a new Science topic. The questions the children had posed on Space were both creative and insightful. Yesterday in a Philosophy lesson with L1st on the story of Creation in Genesis I was both delighted and amazed by the children’s responses to some thought provoking questions. For example, when we create something, how do we start?
This term seems to have passed in the blink of an eye. Looking around the School it is evident that we are in good health. The children are engaged, vigorous and focused on their learning. This is apparent whether you walk into a Lower 1st, 3rd class or 6th class room. The school is a buzz with Shakespeare, Debating, Sport, Art and ceramics. There are various Science projects on display and every classroom has beautiful examples of written work on the walls. The children are confident and on the whole committed to demonstrating the School Values in whatever way they can. This is all supported by the hard work and dedication of our teaching staff. It has been a wonderful first term.