6th class are having their final excursion today and it is nice to take the opportunity to reflect on what a fabulous year group they have been. They are a very bright and enthusiastic group who exhibit great confidence and an ability to readily engage in conversation with a child of five, a teacher or a visiting parent. They have been excellent role models for their Lower 1st buddies and have taken up their many and varied leadership responsibilities with commitment and enthusiasm, whether it be in the Library, the Art room, supplying technical support for Infant’s Shakespeare or just making sure that younger children are ok. There is no doubt that they are well prepared to take on the next step in their education.
On Thursday we welcomed the new intake of students for next year’s Lower 1st. It was lovely to see so many enthusiastic children and parents. The parent morning tea was very well attended and gave the opportunity for families to meet each other and converse. One of the highlights of the morning was the opportunity for our senior students to serve the school. Our Leadership team did an excellent job of greeting all our new families and guiding them to Cowan House. Later in the morning 5th class joined the children as their potential buddies for 2020. This was an enriching experience for all the children.
I would like to revisit Shakespeare again this week. It is hard to watch the work and dedication that has taken place during this week’s Festival and not celebrate it further. This week I have spent a significant part of the week watching rehearsals and final performances. There are many aspects to comment on. The obvious growth that has taken place in so many students not only from year to year, but from the beginning of this year’s rehearsals till the final production. The growth in ability to focus and to draw on inner resources. The dedication of each child to what they were doing was outstanding and the willingness to adapt and follow direction was notable across all year levels, particularly our third class students who were performing at Glen St for the first time.
Di Renshaw Deputy Headmistress
Above: 4th class student Nakita addressing the audience in Richard III
This week the Primary classes performed dress rehearsals of their plays at school in front of their colleagues. Several things are worth mentioning. Firstly, the great dedication and focus that every single child without exception brought to their performance. It was hard to miss the steadiness and resourcefulness that children adopted when things did not go according to script. They were unperturbed if the technology did not work as it should have. In one class, two students stepped forward at a minute’s notice to fill in for another student and their performance was seamless. Finally, I need to mention the audience who at all times were quiet, respectful and supportive. A perfect demonstration of all our School Values.
It is always a delight to see the children when they return after the holidays. So much work goes into preparing programs and lessons it is always good to be reminded of the most important thing which is the well being of the children. Every pupil free day there is a study session for the teachers which focuses on an aspect of the philosophy behind the way we approach teaching at John Colet. On this most recent occasion we considered four attitudes of mind which allow positive interactions with others. The first aspect, friendliness when interacting with friends, was shared with a 4th class Philosophy class this week. They came up with the following qualities: loyalty, service, care, support, love, understanding, kindness, generosity and respect. The children rightly concluded that we can all benefit from engaging with each other in this way.
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.