A principal reflecting on life at St Brigid's Primary School

Sailing the Open Seas!


Education for the future has left the harbour and is already on the open seas. Some educators are still clinging to the belief that the ship hasn’t left and are invested in business as usual. Some educators are enjoying the freedom of the open seas …. excited about the foreign ports and places they will visit.”

Renata and Geoffrey Caine

Reflecting on the above quote I am pleased to say the staff at St. Brigid’s are ‘enjoying the freedom of the open seas.’ Being a contemporary or 21st century school our vision is to create a modern and innovative approach to learning that is purposeful and relevant to the lives of our students and their families embracing their diversity and equipping them with skills for today and well into the future.  

We see ourselves as a community of life long learners that provides an environment that is both challenging and stimulating and one that fosters creativity. The staff at St. Brigid’s are excited about new ways of doing things and learning new skills that challenge our students to think deeply, investigate, collaborate and problem solve.

Our School Vision: ‘St. Brigid’s is a Catholic community where children know they are valued and experience the love of God in an engaging and contemporary learning environment’ was developed following the School Review process and encapsulates our belief and commitment to our school’s approach to learning.

The teaching here at St. Brigid’s is balanced and consistent across all levels enhancing the quality of education for our students. We recognise the importance of social and emotional learning and the part that it plays in the student’s capacity to learn as part of a community. Our flexible spaces have been designed and used for the needs of our students. Having creative spaces assists in providing learning opportunities that are relevant, rich, personalized and explicit.

We are enthusiastic about the new places we will visit on our learning journey and the experiences we will be able to offer our students.

How is your school sailing?

Our School Library


“The more that you read, the more things you will know.

The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Dr. Seuss

Mrs. Denise Cook and Mrs. Cathie Waters have been diligently preparing the double demountable to house our new Library. They have worked hard to present a library that is an extension of our engaging learning environments. It still needs the finishing touches, the elements that will enhance the environment and suggest that you enter into a different world when you arrive.

School libraries seem to have been reduced and appear to be on the chopping block with most new contemporary schools; however, I believe they are just as important as our resources in all of our Learning Centres.

The brief for our school is to develop a library that is welcoming and nurturing and that will support students and teachers learning.  It must be a place where students want to visit and stir their interest, imaginations and curiosity. Places where they want to read and borrow books such as fairy tales, novels, play games, do research and enjoy the library space.

Our challenge is to keep the printed material just as relevant as the Internet search engines and combine the two to reach out to students to provide material that is relevant to their learning and their interests. I use my iPad constantly also my e-reader, laptop and computer, however there is still a joy I feel when I hold a printed book in my hand and physically turn the pages not just a swipe of my finger or a push of a button.

I would like to see the library accessible and not in isolation. It is important that students are able to take home books to read. We hope to be able to provide innovative access to resources all within a tight budget and keep abreast of new technologies that we can offer for our school library.

We are trialling opening the library during lunchtime. We have constraints due to teacher duty at this time. The library was open at lunchtime last Thursday and we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of students that came in and enjoyed their time in there, reading playing board games and listening to a story read by Mrs. Cook.

Students should be given every encouragement to read and to love reading. If you enjoy reading when you are young chances are that that love of reading continues into adulthood and lasts a lifetime. We need to model reading and show our students that we value the library and we are passionate about its purpose.

Children learn by what they see and hear so set a good example by reading too.  Like most teachers, it goes without saying that I love giving books as gifts to children. A book can take you away to a different land, time and place meeting new characters along the way and you can keep coming back to it time and time again.  One of my favourite sayings from my former Parish Priest and friend, Fr. Bill Bainbridge when he was alive, was that: ‘You can never be bored or lonely if you have a book.”

The gift of your time to read aloud to your child is so valuable as it is one of best ways to impart a love of reading in the young.  There is much research to suggest that reading with children on a daily basis can make significant changes in the child’s literacy levels.

Parents are able to encourage a love of reading by:

  • Reading aloud, no child is ever too old;
  • Read books you love;
  • Read books your child loves;
  • Ask questions about what they are reading;
  • Explain words they find hard to understand;
  • Talk about the characters;
  • Predict what is going to happen and see if you are right, and
  • Discuss alternative endings.

I urge you to take the time to read with your children. Keep them curious and wanting to learn more. As Mem Fox said, “When I say to a parent, ‘read to a child’, I don’t mean it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate.”

Happy reading!

 

 

Foundation Year Enrolments for 2015


It is that time of the year when enrolments are open for Foundation students for the 2015 school year. The choice of school for their child is sometimes a difficult decision for parents. We believe students experience a unique faith-filled, nurturing environment in a Catholic School.

Staff at St. Brigid’s have a shared vision: ‘St. Brigid’s is a Catholic community where children know they are valued and experience the love of God in an engaging and contemporary learning environment.’ Our school motto of Knowledge|Strength|Faith|Hospitality is a reminder of the attributes of St. Brigid that guide our school community.

I take great pleasure in introducing visitors to St. Brigid’s and taking them on tours of our wonderful school. We are a school that recently opened in 2010 and we have modern flexible facilities that include an Administration block, three contemporary Learning Centres for the Junior, Middle and Senior students with up to date technology and resources, two double portable buildings used for the Creative Arts and Performing Arts programs, a library, a soon to be completed new multipurpose room, a Chapel, and Amphitheatre.

As I take parents on tours to showcase our wonderful school I hope they see we are a school that strives to create a caring and supportive community where children are encouraged to achieve to the fullness of their capacity.   A school that values the uniqueness of each individual and where learning and teaching engages students and teachers and encourages them to be curious and creative igniting their imaginations and generating enthusiasm to learn. We provide learning opportunities that are relevant, rich, personalized and explicit where there is a focus on the skills needed for the contemporary world today.

We acknowledge that family is the initial educator of the children academically and spiritually. We work together with parents in the learning process and always strive to have open communication. To assist us in this endeavor we have School Blogs, a St. Brigid’s App, our weekly newsletter and up to date information on our website. At the end of May this year we will have our new multipurpose room completed and once again we will have a dedicated space for parents to gather for social and school purposes. This area aims to enhance the welcoming culture of the school as parents and friends get to know each other and develop lasting friendships.

Our Senior students run a Radio program on 3SB each Thursday during lunch time. This is transmitted through the school and the presenters offer information on happenings at St. Brigid’s, sports wrap ups, interesting information on a range of topics, opinion and special guests as well as students showcasing their talents in singing. The students take turns in running the program so all Senior students have a chance to learn new skills.

St. Brigid’s has a strong community presence and we are always willing to work together to keep the warm, welcoming spirit alive. 

Happy Easter


blessed_Easter_WA

The joyful news that He is risen does not change the contemporary world. Still before us lie work, discipline, sacrifice. But the fact of Easter gives us the spiritual power to do the work, accept the discipline, and make the sacrifice.”

Henry Knox Sherrill

Wishing you all a joyous Easter. May your heart be filled with love, peace and happiness that will last throughout the year.

 

 

 

Sharing Good Practice


Prior to St. Brigid’s opening in 2010 I visited many schools that had a contemporary school environment to see how they were using their spaces. The information I gained was extremely valuable and gave me confidence to carry out my brief as a principal of a new contemporary school. 

I remember when I was contemplating applying for the principalship of St. Brigid’s I visited the location where the school was advertised. It was very difficult to find.  It was a green space in the middle of green fields. It was unidentified as St. Brigid’s.  It was then my thoughts turned to the challenge and excitement of starting a school from mere drawings the architect had produced. I was extremely motivated to apply and I was absolutely thrilled to be given the opportunity to lead St. Brigid’s School.

It was my vision to build upon my knowledge I had gained from the years of teaching and being a principal to establish a vibrant community. Through hard work and an openness with each other we have developed good teaching practices and a positive culture based on the attributes of St. Brigid’s: Knowledge, Strength, Faith and Hospitality.  We have now grown into an enthusiastic team orientated school that provides an education that is designed to meet the needs of the individual students in an ever-changing world.

Catholic Education has a long history of support for each other within our school communities.  Many schools throughout our diocese have visited St. Brigid’s to see our spaces and learn how we have implemented our contemporary teaching. It is an amazing feeling when you see our school, our teachers sharing information with other teachers so they in turn are able to gain valuable information, ideas, motivation and confidence to take on new approaches and programs that benefit their students.  St. Brigid’s has benefited from visiting schools in our diocese too and we should always have our schools open and welcoming for others to learn from.

The sharing of dialogue and good practice is essential in empowering teachers and keeping the passion for learning alive and active.  Nothing should stand in the way of this!

Passion for Learning


Today’s educators have to show their passion for learning and teaching. This passion needs to be contagious to engage the students and ignite their curiosity and thus motivate them to continue their learning journey. Educators need to have a high level of respect for each other in order for co-teaching to be successful. Our teachers have a shared responsibility for the success of each student. Healthy dialogue and feedback from their colleagues improves teacher performance and their ability to direct their teaching to achieve student success.

Today’s leaders need to support staff and create an environment that fosters innovative and contemporary learning practices and have in place the policies to support their teaching. I strive to provide the conditions for passion to thrive and to be infectious in our school.  I respect all our staff and trust each one to work collaboratively with one another to provide the best education for our students.  I believe it is my role to stay connected and one way of doing this is to visit our learning communities to see this passion and engagement in action.  I enjoy seeing our learning communities alive and active. I have a responsibility to the St. Brigid’s community to ensure that purposeful learning occurs and teaching practice adapts as the needs of the community change and moves forward. I must maintain my own passion for education to be an effective leader.  I strive for what I believe in and I am persistent in my endeavor to give our students the very best opportunities. Seeing our students achieve and their faces light up when they are successful gives me vigor and purpose. As mentioned in previous blog posts I connect with other educators through twitter, blogging, reading, attending conferences and various gatherings to keep abreast of what is current and applicable to our school’s needs. Like young students I am energized by the passion of other educators. Listening to and networking with like-minded people who are enthusiastic about their work provides motivation.  

Students need to be challenged, just as adults do, to nurture passion in learning.  They need to make the most of their learning experiences and connect their learning with the real world. They need skills to work through tough situations so positive outcomes are achieved.  The self esteem of students is of paramount importance and the wellbeing of staff and students is vital in order to nurture positive relationships with each other.

St. Brigid’s school has undergone a transformation in its short history. Over the last fours years we have been building up to providing a very contemporary environment to enhance the innovative teaching practices we have adopted. Much learning has taken place with all staff, myself included to ensure we get it right. Our spaces are designed for the needs of the students rather than a school where students fit into the spaces provided. St. Brigid’s have adopted a team-oriented culture with high expectations.

Our students are the benefactors of our passion for learning and all our hard work and we will continue to open our doors, break down barriers and foster a culture that is based on faith, respect and trust.  We will continue to work in partnership with one another in an enthusiastic and collaborative alliance to achieve our common vision. 

Collaboration in the School Setting


Collaboration is the new buzzword used in education today, but what does it mean in the school setting?

Collaboration is defined in the dictionary as working with each other to do a task and to achieve a shared goal. At St. Brigid’s, we are determined to reach an identical vision, that is the school’s vision as outlined in our Renewal document:  ‘St. Brigid’s is a Catholic community where children know they are valued and experience the love of God in an engaging and contemporary learning environment.’

We meet this challenge by sharing our knowledge, learning together and building a consensus rather than just working cooperatively with each other or contributing ideas or small amounts of information and then splitting the tasks to be done in their our way. Teachers have very varied learning and teaching experiences and they share this experience when they plan.  Working in a collaborative way their teaching is balanced and consistent across the levels enhancing the quality of education for our students.

Each teacher must make a connection on a personal level and then bring this to the table when working collaboratively with each other. Many teachers are connected to their own network of professional learning where they are constantly sharing information. Connecting through blogs, twitter and online communities of educationalists gives us the opportunity to learn from a larger group that is expanding all the time from all over the world. When we take our learning from these larger networks back to our smaller group in the school setting we build on our own strengths and continue to grow as educators.

As I acknowledge the great work we are doing at St. Brigid’s I am mindful that this collaborative approach needs leadership and ‘scaffolding’ to help us become empowered and embrace change. We want to create leaders not just followers!

Starting the 2014 School Year


The 2014 School Year has now begun for staff.  I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and New Year and enjoyed the holiday period with their family and friends and are now ready for an exciting and energetic year full of great learning and enthusiasm.

We had a very successful start beginning with a Mass with all three schools of our Parish.  St. Catherine’s Primary School hosted this year’s Mass and morning tea. Our staff then gathered for a meeting back at St. Brigid’s where we welcomed our new staff members and had an opportunity to get to know each other a little better. Following on from this we engaged in a more formal meeting to discuss our overview for the year and familiarize all staff with our staff handbook and emergency plans. We discussed the role we all play in the learning that takes place at St. Brigid’s. We are committed to looking after each and being a team who works together to improve teaching effectiveness and ultimately make a difference in the learning capacities and potential of each of our students.

We are in the process of undertaking assessment of all students and learning will begin for Years 1 to 6 on Friday.  Our Foundation Year students will have their first days at school in small groups on Monday and Tuesday next week.  This allows them to become comfortable in their surroundings and gives them an opportunity to make connections with a smaller group of their peers.

I wish everyone a wonderful year where friendships will be formed and positive learning and growth will occur.

 

St. Brigid’s School Choir


St. Brigid’s School Choir performed for the elderly residents at the Casey Aged Care Centre recently. Since St. Brigid’s opened in 2010, the Choir has attended this facility to entertain the residents.

It is not an easy thing to be part of a Choir. Effort and persistence is needed to be part of a singing group that is comprised of students from all different age groups, talents and singing voices. To harmonize all these voices takes patience and talent from the teacher to ensure all participants know how they fit into the overall structure of the Choir. In order for the Choir to be successful each member must work as members of a team and listen to one another, learn from each other and respect each other.

We have received very positive feedback from the residents and the students enjoy being part of this community service.  It is a privilege to be invited back to perform each year. It is our way of doing something to show our love and care for the older generations, who have forged a path for the younger generation.

I congratulate the students from Years 1 to 6 who volunteered to give up their own time during lunchtime to rehearse and Mrs. Petra Taylor-Smith, our Performing Arts Specialist, who also gave up her own time to work with the Choir. It is a joy to see our young students singing together and enjoying the experience. Thank you all for your dedication, effort and hard work.

Keep singing!

 

        

Contemporary Learning Spaces


The foundations for our new Learning Centre have been poured and we are seeing signs of progress on Stage 2 of our Master Plan.

The challenge when building a contemporary school is not the design of the buildings as such, the Architect has innovative ideas and expertise in this regard, it is the planning around what goes into the Learning Centres that makes the difference.

We as teachers have to have flexible spaces that are designed to engage our students. Much thought must go into the use of these spaces and how they accommodate the different learning needs of our students. Our spaces need areas for students to collaborate and work in teams while offering quiet spaces for individual work and spaces for whole group presentations. Above all they need to be spaces that ignite imagination and creativity and generate enthusiasm to learn.

It is important that we provide the scaffolding for teachers to move out of their comfort zone and away from the traditional methods of teaching and know the pedagogy behind co-teaching and the use of these contemporary tools and spaces for learning.  Learning at St. Brigid’s is personalized and meaningful and our teachers strive to provide authentic learning opportunities for all students.  Their own learning mirrors that of the students in that it is personalized, collaborative, innovative and reflective giving great consideration to feedback and deliberation on their own learning and teaching.