It has been wonderful to return to the classrooms and see the children for their Philosophy lessons. It is always a privilege to listen to children speak from their hearts about knowledge that is innate but just needs the opportunity to be brought out. This week 6th class considered the levels of decision making or discrimination. They discussed how a decision they might make to suit themselves may be changed if they widen their consideration to include the impact on their family or their community. The children had a number of examples from their own experience. This was a very engaging conversation and showed their level of emotional maturity and the effect of an education that strives to develop character.
Deputy Head of School
Over the last two weeks since the children have returned to school it is worth commenting on a few things that have been observed. Firstly the way in which everyone has pulled together to make the necessary changes to our normal school routine. The co-operation and support of parents has made this seamless. Secondly it is delightful to see the Lower 1st children take up the challenge of being independent and happily farewelling their parents at the gate, organising their own bags and belongings and settling into class. Thirdly it has been wonderful to see the enthusiastic responses from our primary students whenever they have been asked to help. Finally the way in which our staff have worked to adapt themselves to every new challenge whether it be a change in learning platforms or following a completely new routine. This has worked to bring us closer together as a community and to be ready to meet any new situations that may come our way.
It has been wonderful to welcome the children back to school this week even if we are at half strength each day. There has been an opportunity to meet with each class individually to discuss the School Value of Truthfulness and to hear from them about how they perceive the meaning of consistency between thoughts, words and actions. One example that stands out is “to tell the story as it actually happened and not how we would like others to think it happened”. An inciteful response which raised a line from Shakespeare: to thine owns self be true, and then it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man. A good principle for life.
It will be wonderful to welcome children back to school on Monday. This has been an interesting time and though initially it was very challenging and stressful we have all managed to adapt to the circumstances and put our best foot forward. As a community we have supported each other and shown resilience. For our children these are valuable lessons moving forward. I am sure we will continue to work together in this way to face whatever the future holds.
We have already completed a week of school and hopefully we are a week closer to being able to come together again. In the meantime, it is good to see everyone back at their lessons. This morning I visited one of the class Zoom meetings and it was so nice to see everyone. I have been speaking to teachers who have told me that they have received some excellent work from children in their class. At this time, it is especially important to remember the School Values so that we continue to treat each other with respect and that we value times of stillness which are so important for our inner wellbeing. This term our value is Truthfulness. I have spent some time looking at what the wise say about this. One way of considering Truthfulness is the conformity and consistency between thought, speech and action.
A very warm welcome back to Term 2. I hope everyone has enjoyed the opportunity to be with family and enjoy a slower and a simpler lifestyle. Hopefully it will not be too long before we are welcoming children back to their classrooms so that they can be with friends and teachers and return to routine and face to face learning. I look forward to seeing all the optional House projects that were undertaken in the holidays.
I would like to start by wishing everyone a very restful Easter break. Hopefully everyone will take the opportunity to have some down time so that batteries can be recharged after what has been a difficult term. The School Value this term has been Respect and this period we are working through has definitely given a new perspective on how this value works in practice. We have had to respect each other’s capacities and capabilities, successes and failures. We have all worked together in a spirit of collaboration: teachers, parents and students to negotiate a way through this extraordinary situation. A big thank you to everyone. Have a wonderful holiday.
I would like to talk about our Teachers today and acknowledge the extraordinary job they have done to move from classroom teaching, to on-line teaching within a period of two or three weeks. Normally we are a school that is well prepared for face to face teaching, so moving to remote learning in such a short period of time is a testimony to the teachers' hard work and dedication. They have all risen to the challenge of providing a full day of lessons everyday while being available all day to provide feedback and support. This is in many ways a far more challenging situation than they would normally face in the classroom. They have truly embodied the values that the School stands for and set a wonderful example to our students.
In 6th class Philosophy lessons we are currently looking at the subject of Unity. Nothing is better than an actual example to show how this works. This week we have seen the effect of unified co-operation and support through out our school community as we work together to navigate our way through an untested situation. In this way we can proceed carefully without panic to ensure that we care for everybody to the very best of our ability and that the children feel safe and confident. A big thank you to our whole school community.
I would like to acknowledge the excellent work of our Leadership Team this year. At the beginning of the year the House Captains decided what kind of fund-raising themes we would have for Market Days this year. Two weeks ago, we had visit from a student from Loretto Normanhurst who spoke to the school about her charity “Fetch it for a Farmer”.
This was all researched and arranged by our Cook House Captain Lucia C and the children thoroughly enjoyed our crazy headwear theme. The House Captains also created activities to introduce our Lower 1st children to their chosen Houses, and the Art Monitors also planned a lovely buddy session. On Tuesday the House Captains met with their respective Houses to prepare for the forthcoming Swimming Carnival (to be held next week weather withstanding). Throughout the 6th class cohort (pictured above) there is a great emphasis on taking up responsibility and setting a good example. They are doing an outstanding job.
This week I have had the pleasure of giving out a number of Eagle Awards. These are given to children to acknowledge the demonstration of the School Values. Any teacher or member of staff can nominate a child for an award. It does not have to be the class teacher. One of the delights of giving out the awards is that children are often unaware that they have been nominated and show great delight and surprise when something they have done without seeking acknowledgment has been noticed by another. It is one way of making the Values practical and a central part of school life.
Every week I visit several different classes to discuss Philosophy. Philosophy is very much to do with the building of character which remains one of the most important aspects of the education that we offer at John Colet. Even though we have a dedicated Philosophy lesson once a week, the substance of what we discuss carries on through every aspect of school life. Starting from Lower 1st and moving up to 6th class it is striking to note that a child is already innately aware of this philosophical knowledge. Education helps to bring out what is naturally in the heart of a child and turn it into a way of life.
This week I went up to visit the Lower 1st classes during their “buddy time”. This is often a highlight each week for both the 6th class and Lower 1st children. Several of the older children commented on how much they enjoy working with the younger children and said how much it reminded them of their own experience in Lower 1st. The system of buddies provides an opportunity for the older children to practise the School Value of Service and to really set an example for the younger children in the most natural of ways. Every year we see that this activity brings out the very best in both age groups.
This week I witnessed many interactions between teachers and their students, and I had many of my own. One interaction was particularly striking because of the depth of love and care that was evident without the teacher even having to say a word. These small interactions during the day, the shaking of a hand, the greeting of a child with a warm smile or the acknowledgement of an effort, all add together to create a strong emotional ground for the children to feel safe and cared for. This is perhaps one of the most important and fundamental building blocks in education.
We have had a very smooth start to 2020 particularly with our new L 1st class children who for the very first time started the school year with full school days. We eagerly await the return of those children who have been caught up in the preventative measures to contain the spread of Corona Virus and thank them for their patience and generosity. All the teachers have worked hard to create a warm environment poised for learning and it is clear from visiting all the classrooms that the children have responded with application and enthusiasm. A great start to the year.