Principal's Education Update
What Makes a Good School?
I love observing new Kindergarten students as they make their first tentative steps at the start of the school year. They may be a mixture of enthusiasm or nerves and are sometimes very tentative as they settle into something new.
I compare them to the mature, relieved, joyful and sometimes sad yet confident young men and women who graduate at Year 12 following their years of ups and down in the maelstrom of school life.
In the 13 short years between the two events, the process of ‘education’ has taken place. Through this stage children will spend more time ‘doing’ school than anything apart from sleep. How is one to measure the success of the journey from Kinder to Year 12 and finally leaving at age 18?
A Good ‘Vibe’
Dennis Denuto, in the great Australian movie ‘The Castle” is famous for his mutterings on ‘vibe’. “It’s the vibe of the thing that matters,” he says.
The ‘vibe’ of a school is most critical and can measured in the enthusiasm, the confidence and participation of the students? Each of the Calrossy campuses is a high energy, bubbly and inclusive place in which individuals can fit into and find their niche. There is plenty of laughter, zest for life and excitement.
The sparkle and bounce in many students as they head off to class is strongly evident. There is a positive response to the high expectations of parents and staff, contributing to busy academic environment. Curiosity, excitement, use of technology and recognition of different learning styles allows a focus on learning, growing skills and knowledge. The teachers know and understand adolescents and their vagaries, supporting them through their stages of growth. It is easy to observe that our students are not silent and passive but rather question, challenge(mostly appropriately) and engage. Sometimes they don’t even realise that they are working. The skills they are developing will assist them for life.
A school with a strong culture focuses on relationships. People matter and students know that they are important. The interactions between them, their teachers and within the school community are respectful and healthy. Learning to forgive, to listen and to interact is important. In a school like ours we also seek to develop a relational tone that reflects the love that God has shown us, as we relate with each other in our community.
Regardless of the standard of achievement of an individual, a good school promotes learning for all. A strong commitment must exist to build confidence, provide skills and promote growth. It is not just about the ‘top’ students but all students believing that they can grow, achieve and succeed. Students also learn to learn together.
A balanced school provides opportunities for students to engage in a wide range of interests and activities inside and outside the classroom. A variety of musical, drama, artistic and sporting exploits allows students to develop interests. Camps and excursions also complement classroom activity, aiding growth in resilience, and perseverance. These qualities are not only vital in surviving adolescence but are valuable for life.
My list isn’t complete but as someone with fresh eyes at Calrossy I have observed all of these things in our school which is encouraging. The vibe, enthusiasm and engagement of our students and the warmth of relationships is quite heartening.