From the Principal

Dear School Community,

As a result of a fabulous conversation with one of our parents, I was able to read an interesting article by Tom Chatfield (New Philosopher Issue 12), titled ‘The Classroom of the Future’.

From this article I was able to draw some very strong comparisons between what is arguably, best practice and Montessori Curriculum. The element resonating with me from this article was Chatfield’s suggestion “ …he learns the power and fertility of language by twisting, turning, playing, laughing, taking a delight in throwing words at his parents and seeing how they react.”, and further “…the great enabling conditions of learning are time, attention, love and permission.” Daily I walk around our school and have conversations with even our youngest children who ask big questions and enjoy the ‘to and fro’ of meaningful discussions. One of the constants for me is “Anthony, how did you lose your eye?” and I regale our student (conscious of those receptive to humour) with an elaborate tale of pink elephants and man eating lions, only to be told in various ways by our student, this is not possible (this is indicative of a move away from concrete thinking), and we then move into a discussion about parasites and how these affect the human body. These conversations to an observer may seem trite, but actually enable the development of rapport based on pragmatic discourse in an area of interest. These students always stop to have further conversations to develop their understanding of what not having an eye, means to me.

Chatfield goes on to suggest “ be pragmatic, he needs to run around a lot, sleep and eat well, engage loudly with people and ideas…and to be told to sit still as little as possible.” This too I see on a daily basis in our school; our Cycle 1 classes reflect a constancy of movement and engagement, students grabbing a snack when they sense they need one, interacting through social learning opportunities and actually enjoying their time at school. Early in the week I saw a number chain extending across most of the covered area outside the classrooms and students actively discussing numbers and how the number chain could be extended further. This is a far cry from the fixation with technological tools, such as iPads, often used for the purpose of directly teaching concepts, rather than as a potential tool to augment understanding. ‘Gadget Fixation’  is identified by Chatfield describing the contemporary classroom as a series of disembodied minds hovering in rows before a whiteboard, being dazzled by digital possibilities “…technicolour seating and tablets for all, virtual and augmented reality environments..classrooms of the future”. I look at our beautiful classrooms, the practical materials, and fully engaged students, and see such a contrast to the visions of digitised virtual worlds and the real potential for social impairment this may bring without a balance through self management and discernment.

To see excited learning and engagement with ‘real problems’ is an exciting part of my time in schools and one of the fundamental reasons I love what I do. There are days though when I see students a little out of sorts, not wanting to attend class, or unable to leave the comfort of mum & dad. This is normal in a school environment and our staff are always happy to assist when these or any concerns at school are encountered. I hope our school community is noticing the many opportunities being made available to communicate with staff and to be engaged with the learning occurring at school; we do believe in the importance of strong collaborative partnerships with our parents/carers and are actively seeking to ensure what we do as a school, our philosophy and our strategic plan is embedded in our culture of communication. Please help us by joining school committees, helping with our learnscapes and making use of facilities as an opportunity to enhance partnerships with our school, our staff, our philosophical approach and our desire to provide … ‘simply the best for every child’.

Anthony Vandermolen