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.
This term we have focused on the value of Respect and its different manifestations. For the rest of this term there will be a special emphasis on uniform. It has been observed that over the term, the standard of the uniform has dropped and children are leaving school without their hats, with shirts hanging out and with laces untied. Attention to a standard of dress requires a conscious effort and ultimately reflects the level of regard that we hold for both ourselves and the School. As with all things this is a matter of education.
This week I was invited into classrooms in both Infants and Primary to look at and listen to pieces of work that the children have recently completed. From cinquains in 4th class to first pieces of writing in Lower 1st, the standard of work is inspiring. The pursuit of excellence is something that every child can aspire to at their own level and when it is achieved it brings with it great confidence and self-respect. It was a delight to see the pride that the children take in their work and the eagerness with which they want to share their achievements.
Just over half way through Term 1 it is most encouraging to see the number of Eagle Awards that have been given out to children in both Infants and Primary. The Eagle Awards acknowledge the demonstration of the School Values. Any member of Staff can nominate a child for an award if they feel that there has been a noteworthy action performed by a child that embodies the Values. Looking through the awards to date it is particularly pleasing to see the number of children in 6th class that have been nominated for acts of Service to the School. This sets such a positive example to the rest of the children.
This week we had our Primary Swimming Carnival at a new venue in West Pymble. It was very exciting to have the use of a 50 metre pool and to enjoy the fresh air even if it was very hot. All the children participated with courage and enthusiasm and it was wonderful to see so many displays of sportsmanship. A number of times, race winners were cheering and encouraging children in the same race who were struggling to finish, regardless of what House they were in. It was also wonderful to see children giving their best for their House even when they knew that a place was unlikely. At the end of the day all the children joined in to ensure that the venue was left clean and tidy. In all an uplifting demonstration of our School Values.
Every day the children say a prayer before they eat their lunch. Early this week, there was a rather enthusiastic discussion with Infants children about what this prayer means. We discussed the fact that we receive food that is given by grace; we do not have to work to get the rain, the sun or the soil in which it grows. It is prepared for us and placed on the table. The prayer promises that the energy that comes from the food will be used in the service of others. Most of all the prayer is an expression of gratitude for what is received.
During the week we have been preparing for the older children to take up Meditation. It is very encouraging to see the increasing number of children who feel drawn to take up this practice and the way in which it has evolved within the School. Every year it is noticeable how much easier the children find it to become still and focused and how they can very clearly articulate the benefits of the practice. The foundation for this is based in the practice of pausing. This week in a discussion with Lower 1st class they were able to give many different expressions of how the pause made them feel: peaceful, still, ready, awake, rested, a break between one thing and the next. They were in no doubt about its value.
This week 2nd Class are looking at our school motto Testare De Illa Luce “Bear Witness of that Light”. This is an important concept for the children to understand, it speaks of showing what is true. The children responded with a deep innate knowledge that Truth resides in the heart of every human being and that it can be accessed in Stillness. When asked to go to their hearts there was no confusion, when asked how big their hearts were the reply was instant; enormous. This is a valuable seed to plant early in the education of a child.
It is wonderful to see our Lower 1st Class settling into the John Colet routine. Our new school community initiative “Gathering on the Garigal” to be held on Friday the 15th of February will provide an opportunity for parents to meet the larger community of the school. The “Gathering” has been timed to coincide with the conclusion of class meetings so that parents are able to stop by and socialise even for a short time. We hope that all parents, including those parents with children in more senior years will take up this invitation to mingle, enjoy the Jazz Band and support this new initiative to help build a strong sense of community which is so beneficial in the education of our children.
After so much preparation during Teacher's Week, it was a great delight to receive the children back to School last week. The ease and the steadiness with which the week proceeded have been striking. Our new 3rd class children have moved into Primary with a sense of maturity and responsibility and are settling into their new classes well. I enjoyed two enriching conversations with our 6th class children about the way in which they can serve the School. It is worth commenting on their ability to become very still particularly in Meditation. This ability to become still lends them a great strength. It was also wonderful to meet our new Lower 1st children and to see how they are already being supported by the steady environment in the School.
Welcome to a new year. We are looking forward to receiving all our current students back after the long break and in particular to introducing all our new students and our 2019 Lower 1st to the John Colet Community. Our new Leadership Team will be on board to meet children and parents and to help in any way that they can to make everyone feel welcome. Lower 1st will have their first full day at School on Friday after two days of individual assessments and a half day on Thursday. All the teachers have spent four days working together to make sure that all our students have a warm, smooth and inspiring entry to the new academic year.
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.