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.
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.