Building community and active learning

08 February 2019

Building community and active learning

One of the joys of being a principal is having the opportunity to mix with students in the playground, chat to parents while I am on morning bus duty and visit classrooms. Over the last week and a half I have gained a real sense of warm community and active learning in the life of the school, whether that be the kindergarten girl who grabbed my leg to say hello, kicking a soccer ball (badly) with some secondary school boys, mixing with parents at the Year 7 laptop launch night or visiting a class and seeing lots of focused students.

Two key themes for 2019 are active learning and building community. In the week before school started our teachers were working together to develop strategies to help ensure that students are learning actively and enthusiastically. These teaching approaches are designed to maximise learning opportunities for students and ultimately help them to achieve strong academic results.

For students to be able to learn actively and enthusiastically, it is important that they have a sense of belonging in a community. While I appreciate that there may be odd days where a Shire Prep girl doesn't want to leave Mum, or a Year 9 boy would prefer to go surfing than come to school, I trust that all of our students have felt a sense of belonging in the first couple of weeks of 2019.

Creating a climate of belonging in a Christian school community relies on teachers and students treating each other as God has taught us in the Bible. Our teachers recently spent time on their own reflecting on verses from the Bible and how these verses can shape and influence how they live their lives and relate to their students. Two passages I asked our teachers to reflect on were:

But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 2 Peter 3:13, 14

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idol, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seeks to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5: 14-18

As the passage above indicates some of our students can, at times, be faint hearted or weak. Therefore, as a Christian school community we desire to help those students to develop resilience.

Part of living in a sinful, fallen world is that people don't always treat each other as they should, and sadly our school is not immune from this. In most instances when our students don't treat each other as they should they are reconciled quite quickly either by their own initiative or through the thoughtful intervention of a teacher. On a handful of occasions students mistreating others can become ongoing and targeted, needing more thorough intervention by the school to ensure that every child has a sense of belonging and is emotionally safe.

With this in mind, the focus of the plenary session at the 2019 Parent Engagement Evenings will be resilience and bullying. Our guest speakers will be our school psychologists, Mr Jair Graham and Mrs Karlie Carroll. I trust that you will be able to come to either the Secondary or Junior School evenings to hear Karlie and Jair speak on this important topic. 

Mr Brett Hartley

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