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.
As always John Colet has been abuzz with activity. Last week we had Science Week and this week we have enjoyed a fabulous Book Week the highlight of which was book character parade on Wednesday. The primary and lower 1st classes are in the throes of preparing for Shakespeare and in a few weeks children will be heading off to Canberra and Milson Island. None of this could happen without the dedication and hard work of the teachers. Their devotion to excellence is reflected in the children’s book work and the beautiful presentation of the classrooms. Over the last week or two I have been invited into classrooms to hear narratives and descriptions written by the children that were outstanding. I would like to acknowledge our teachers’ continuous hard work and commitment to offering our students the very best.
This week it has been wonderful to watch all the students enthusiastically engaging with our Science Week theme of Game Changers and Change Makers. There were a number of projects around the School this week that involved the children applying their problem solving skills to consider ways in which we can more effectively reduce the use of plastic. It was an excellent way to connect the children with some of the larger global issues facing our generation and theirs. It gave them an opportunity to walk the talk and to see that Science and Technology can be used to address these issues in simple but effective ways. We look forward to seeing some of the great ideas in our Science Week competition…….Book Week next week!
This term we are looking at the value of Courage. The infants’ classes have recently started a new initiative on Fridays where they sit in house groups for lunch, so that they mix with children across different grades. This provides a number of different learning opportunities, but we are currently concentrating on courage. Today the children were challenged to have the courage to try new food and to speak to someone that they do not know. They made significant efforts in this direction and were very happy to see stars on their house charts as a result of their efforts. It was delightful to watch them rise to the challenge.
Today I had the chance to observe one of our debating teams in action against Abbotsleigh. Though the children did not win, the outcome was very close. I was struck by a few things. Firstly the clarity and confidence with which our children spoke. Secondly by the respectful way they interacted with each other and thirdly by their level of presence and attention. Being able to speak in front of an audience is a great skill and our curriculum provides this opportunity from Lower 1st. This week I had the great joy of commencing poetry recitation with the Infants children in preparation for their concert at the end of this term.
Next Monday we will be celebrating Teacher’s Day. The idea behind this day is to pay tribute to the great spiritual teachers whose words have guided and continue to guide the development of the values of our School. We also pay respects to the many teachers in our lives that have provided wisdom and fine example. The children have been writing about such teachers and will be presenting their work at our special Assembly on Monday. This is a special event on the school calendar. Parents are invited to attend.
A warm welcome back to parents and students. This term promises to be very full, particularly for Primary students who will be preparing for the Shakespeare Festival. We will have Book Week and Science Week as well as our camps for Primary classes; 3rd and 4th class will go to Milson Island, and 5th and 6th class will be going to Canberra. Towards the end of the term we will have our Annual Sports Carnival. I hope that the long break has given everyone the opportunity to recharge themselves so that they are ready to meet the challenges of the coming term.
We have arrived at the end of what has been a very dynamic term. We started with Open Day and followed on with the Sanskrit Recitation Competition. We also had our Instrumental Evening with a record number of items and finished with the Infants Shakespeare performances which were outstanding. Interwoven amongst these major events, we had our Debating and Chess Competitions our annual John Colet Day Assembly, National Simultaneous Story Time and the PISA interschool sports competition. This is underpinned by our varied curriculum which ranges from the Maths Challenge to Ceramics. It is this wide tapestry across all the learning areas combined with the skill, energy and dedication of our teachers that offers our students a full and enriching education. I would like to wish the whole John Colet community a happy, safe and peaceful holiday.
We are nearly at the end of Term 2 which seems to have gone by in record time. It has been a very full term for the children and teachers alike. Next week we look forward to the infants’ performances for which they have been rehearsing with enthusiasm and focus. It is hard to overestimate the value that the children derive from engaging with the words of Shakespeare. Apart from the obvious benefits of developing confidence, learning to speak with clarity and being exposed to the best of our Western literary tradition, performing Shakespeare gives every child the opportunity to connect with their emotional intelligence.
This coming week our teachers will be meeting to discuss their individual goals relating to the teaching standards outlined by NESA (NSW Education Standards Authority). These goals may include for example, the development of critical thinking skills, visual learning and formative assessment. In addition to these individual goals, the school has an overall goal related to differentiation within the classroom. The aim of differentiation is to help meet the many levels of learning and learning styles in any one classroom. Working on these goals helps to maintain a high standard of teaching practice and to continue to develop new skills. It is inspiring to see the work on these teaching goals manifest in each classroom in so many different ways.