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.
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.