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

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. 

Student Leadership


As a Catholic school in Diocese of Sale we: “provide students with the opportunity to grow in the love of God and develop a respectful knowledge of their world in an atmosphere of peace, joy, hope, justice and love.” Maria Kirkwood, Director of Catholic Education. Our love of God is demonstrated by the way we live our daily lives through our thoughts and actions.  Serving others is a true example of our faith in action.

In primary school we lay the foundations for practical leadership opportunities for young people in the future.  We are committed to providing our students with the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in the 21st century while encouraging their creativity, curiosity and love of learning and equip them to so that they are able to make a positive contribution to society.

Involving students in leadership activities is one of the most effective ways for gaining the cooperation of students and increasing the value they place on their education. This also builds a sense of community and school spirit. We encourage all students to be leaders in our school, through their active participation in the classroom, their involvement and motivation in their learning, through their interaction with others and their involvement in school and community events.

Many adults I speak to have indicated they are reluctant to speak in public in front of a crowd.  They were not exposed to public speaking when they were at school and now as adults they lack the experience necessary to be confident standing up in front of people. I am passionate about giving students the opportunity to gain the confidence and skills needed so they are able to contribute effectively in the public arena.

Our student leaders are active participants in school events and are involved in activities that allow them to develop into strong and resilient young people. There are many opportunities for students to display leadership, they include but are not limited to the following:

  • Leading whole school assemblies
  • Leading prayer
  • Making announcements
  • Raising the Australian Flag at assemblies
  • PALS program
  • Sports captains
  • Meet and greet visitors
  • Being a tour guide around the school
  • Leading class discussions
  • Presenting their work

Qualities we aim to encourage in our student leaders are but again not limited to:

  • Confidence in talking and addressing other students and adults
  • Good use of presentation skills such as posture, voice control and body language
  • Showing respect for others, being trustworthy and honest
  • Listening to other people and sharing ideas
  • Appreciating each other strengths and diversity
  • Being motivated
  • Having the ability to make good decisions
  • Fostering good relationships with their peers and other students
  • Enhancing their sense of self and improving their capacity to overcome difficulties
  • Overcoming the challenges of effective team building
  • Being inspired to make a contribution to their school
  • Being welcoming to all
  • Modelling positive behaviours for younger students

Being involved in leadership helps build the necessary skills and confidence needed to transition into the next stage of their academic and social education, developing their sense of responsibility for themselves, each other and their school. We hope our young students will be inspired and excited to use their leadership opportunities to make a positive difference in their world.

 

 

Student Leadership in the area of Sustainability


  

Sustainability is defined as the simultaneous consideration of economic, environmental and social factors.  It is using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. At St. Brigid’s we are committed to using methods so as to have a minimal long-term effect on our environment.

In order to promote best practice we have appointed senior Leaders of Sustainability. These leaders have a particular focus on our environmental community and take on the role of increasing sustainability and conservation awareness at St. Brigid’s School.

We believe empowering students in the process of the stewardship and the schools sustainability process and improvement strategies provides an opportunity for students to explore the idea of personal and group leadership. 

I consulted with the Cardinia Shire, our local council office personnel, who outlined their recycling and composting initiatives. They were very happy to conduct a session with the senior classes and provided compost bins to support this part of our sustainability program. They met with the Leaders of Sustainability, Cohen and Noah and developed a practice for our school to follow.

Our Leaders of Sustainability have shown great initiative and have been involved in planning and developing ways to reduce waste, improve our recycling practices while encouraging others by promoting and modelling environmentally responsible practices themselves.  

It is pleasing to see their commitment and determination to do well in their role. The feedback they have received is positive and they provide feedback to others by presenting their own Awards to classes and individual students for their involvement at our whole school assemblies. The presentation of positive reinforcement was an idea that came from our Leaders and has been very well received by other students.

Hopefully all our students will gain the skills to inspire others and build the capacity to take action for sustainability, which will lead to a lasting interest in creating a culture of sustainability in their school, family and their community.

Our School Camps for 2013


Recently our Year 5/6 students attended Camp Rumbug in Foster North in the hills of South Gippsland and our Year 4 students attended Allambee Camp set in the picturesque West Gippsland region in the Strzelecki Ranges in Victoria.

Our school camp experience offers students an opportunity to engage in physical activity and express their creativity in a safe and nurturing environment away from the distractions of the usual school setting and they learn to interact with each other in a positive, inclusive and thoughtful way.

Students need to work together, make choices, trust each other and take responsibility for their actions. In doing so, build independence and self-reliance and gain confidence.  Camps are usually a great self-esteem booster too. When you see the timid, frighten child clinging to the rope of the giant flying fox before they start wondering if they can go through with it or standing at the foot of the climbing wall, and the joy and exhilaration they experience when they have reached the other side and overcome the challenge is inspiring.

The social and emotional benefits are an important part of school camps as they provide an environment where students and teachers can talk, listen and relax in a setting away from school.  Students experience the need to show respect, share and care for one another. Being able to reflect on the excitement and challenges of the camp experience is a great way to get to know each other better and understand each others uniqueness and contributions each one makes to their community.

The natural setting of the camps heightens our awareness of the relationship between people and nature and how we use our beautiful environment. It fosters our stewardship responsibilities and the need to care for our world not only for ourselves but also for generations to come.

Tired and exhausted the students and teachers return from camp having had a wonderful fun-filled time happy and content with the contribution they have made to each other’s camp experience.

Thank you to the parents who willingly allow us to take their children away on camp and are excited to hear all the news upon their child’s return.

 

 

      

   

The photographs above are from Camp Rumbug

The photographs below are from Allambee Camp