Whole School Focus
In Dialogue with our World – Whole School Focus 2018
by Nicole Hunter (Pedagogista)
Over the past two years through the lens of our Whole School Focus our teaching teams have delved more deeply into the place of ‘relationship’ and ‘connectedness’ in education. Shortened versions of these can be viewed in the compilations available to families via Newsflash 1.5.
Moving into 2018 we thought about how we could strengthen these values of connectedness and relationships with people and our world. This led us to consideration of the role of communication.
Communication is central to all learning and it is through communication that we are able to engage with the world more fully. So bringing our attention to this in our 2018 WSF made sense. This allows us to continue to elaborate on our previous two years research through a lens that is very much related to classroom practice and life-long learning. In considering ‘communication’ we take a broad view incorporating not only speaking, listening, reading and writing, but the multiple means of expression and ways of perceiving humanity has. This means considering how we communicate through representations of: gesture, emotion, the Arts, digital media, Mathematics; Science etc. In a school community, we also need to consider the multiple purposes of communication and its relationship to our sense of community.
The concept of community is central to our school’s identity. The meaning of this goes beyond inhabiting a shared space and speaks to holding a shared purpose. In our Strategic Plan this has been expressed as:
“To cultivate a community of learners who positively influence their worlds.”
This implies being able to consider our world from a critical standpoint. Not in a negative sense of critical, but in the sense of looking at ‘the way things are’ and considering ‘how could they be done differently’.
In order to take such a critically reflective stance we must be open to see and hear from multiple perspectives, and we must be able to generate shared thinking on what it means to positively influence. With this in mind, the word “Dialogue” has been used to frame the type of communication our 2018 Whole School Focus is referencing.
Dialogue as a form of communication is focused on considering different perspectives, being aware of our assumptions and being open to new possibilities and to generate shared meaning. Paulo Friere’s (influential educationalist) reflection on dialogue is particularly apt:
“To enter into dialogue presupposes equality amongst participants. Each must trust the others; there must be mutual respect and love (care and commitment). Each one must question what he or she knows and realise that through dialogue existing thoughts will change and new knowledge will be created.”
The Whole School Focus for 2018 is framed as follows:
In Dialogue with our Parent Group
Priority Three in our Strategic Plan is to be “A flourishing community”. A community must enable all voices to be heard and ensure each one has the opportunity and capacity to participate and express their voice. As such we want to increase the opportunity for our parent voices to more fully participate. This includes expanding our initiatives for parent participation.
Among these will be establishing a Parent Dialogue group. This will be a regular opportunity in which we can meet together as a group and build our shared thinking and understanding of our Bold Park Community School experience.
Parent Dialogue Group
Looking to developing a format that provides the opportunity for us to meet together as a group and build our shared thinking, understanding of our Bold Park Community School experience through open dialogue.
Reconciliation Action Group
Following on from the success of our 2016 – 2018 RAP we would like to develop our plan for ongoing reconciliation initiatives.
Sustainability Action Group
To develop an action plan around sustainability in which we can take steps to improve our sustainable practices and care for our local environment.
Playground Renovation Action Group
Our playgrounds are due for renovation and re-invigoration. We have conducted the phase one community survey and are now ready to move to phase two planning and design. If you have skills in landscape architecture, design or building or project managing that would be very helpful at this stage.
During our end of year reflection, the teaching teams very much expressed their value for the opportunity to learn from each other, understand different areas of the school and build connections across the school.
With this in mind and as we grow in size, we have restructured our Wednesday Professional learning to more formally provide for these and other learning opportunities.
Our schedule for the term is aligned with the three domains of teaching used in the Australian Professional Standards for Teaching.
- Professional Knowledge: This refers to building capacity of teachers in content knowledge; teaching strategies; meeting the needs of diverse learners.
- Professional Practice: Planning, reflecting, assessing, EDUCA documentation; portfolios and reporting on learning.
- Professional Engagement: Collegial discussion and learning; attending or presenting at conferences, presenting to colleagues, mentoring relationships.
Professional Dialogues and Collaborations: I am really excited to share with you examples of the professional dialogues across the school:
Shyam Drury: Mathematics
Our PK to Year 6 teaching teams will be involved in Mathematics subject-specific knowledge building. Shyam Drury (Mathematics guru from Scitech) will be guiding our teaching teams in Years 4-6 for some project-based mathematics as part of the Alcoa sponsored enrichment program (https://www.scitech.org.au/business-centre/news/1801-investing-in-maths-education). He will also be conducting professional learning in Mathematics for all our teams from PK to Year 6 on exciting approaches to developing mathematical thinking in our Bold Park context.
Reggio Study Tour: April 2018
Many of BPCS philosophical and organisational structures were derived from studying the environments and structures of the Reggio Emilia educational context. We are very excited to have a small delegation from across the school attending the Study Tour during the April school holidays. Gabbi Lovelady (Early Childhood Team Leader), Felicity Kinsella (Primary School Team Leader) and Rhys George (Arts Team Leader) along with teachers Kiah Hammersely Rule, Mira Dragecivic and Helen Dowey. This is a timely opportunity for the school to re-engage with the inspiration and provocation Reggio can offer to the Bold Park pedagogy and connect with educators from across the world.
Parkour with Middle School and College
During our playground surveys, it became very apparent that the Middle School and College students were very keen to continue with their Parkour skills and introduce some opportunity to do this within our grounds.
As a result of this, we have invited Isaac McLellan from Perth Parkour, where the students attended Ninja Academy last year, to collaborate with the students in designing these opportunities. This video link provides a great overview of the principles of Parkour.
2017 – “Connectedness” by Nicole Hunter (Pedagogista)
At Bold Park CS we cater for a wide variety of classroom contexts, from playgroup through to College. Each of these learner contexts must not only be adapted and responsive to the learners, but it must also remain coherent to the philosophical principles, that are at the heart of Bold Park Community School. Over the years we have developed a number of strategies that enable the teaching staff to build a shared understanding of what it means to translate these principles into their daily teaching practice.
A central structure that supports this is the Whole School Focus (WSF) Whole School Focus. The WSF provides a lens through which we inquire, review, reflect and renew our teaching and learning programs. In 2016 we researched the concept of ‘education based on relationships’. Gillian McAuliffe, our founder, had left us with this stated goal:
The school community will understand at a deep level, themselves, those around them and the world they live in through seeking connections and relationships.
Last year we focused on trying to understand, at a deeper level, the concept of ‘relationships’ and the impact of these on learning. The collective inquiries were played out in many forms, relevant to each class. At the end of 2016, the teaching team reflected together, on what we had learned and where we should ‘go next’.
Through this reflective process, there was a strong sense that we needed to continue this ‘relationship’ thinking, and in particular, we wanted to identify the intentional day-to-day practices that ensure that ‘relationships’ are at the heart of what we do.
Further to this we also wanted more time to explore the idea of ‘seeking connection’. In particular, we asked ourselves, can we deepen our connection to ‘place’ by connecting with Indigenous knowledge and culture?
- What actions can we take towards this?
- Will seeking this connection, help us to understand ourselves, those around us, and the world we live in?
- Will the process of ‘seeking connections’ provide a greater sensitivity to the complexities, and “patterns that connect” us to the world in which we live?
- Will this sensitivity lead us towards a deeper culture of sustainability? (Kagan, 2009).
This conversation is just beginning and I look forward to the opportunities we will have to continue it as we consider ‘connectedness’ through the multiple frames our teaching teams will bring to us in the year ahead.
Kagan, G. (2010). Cultures of sustainability and the aesthetics of patterns that connect. Futures, 42,10, 1094–1101 http://blogs.uoregon.edu/visualculturesymposium/files/2010/12/Kagan_cultures_sustainability_5.2.09.pdf
2016 – “Rich Relationships” by Nicole Hunter (Pedagogista)
Our school community is comprised of children from eighteen months to eighteen years, teaching staff, administration, leadership and management teams and families. It is vital that we have a means to build shared knowledge and mutually understand, amongst all these groups, the values that underpin the BPCS philosophy and approach. BPCS is also committed to developing a culture of inquiry amongst our school community. Questioning, researching, engaging in conversation, taking on new perspectives, reflecting, creating and innovating are at the heart of culture of inquiry (Pelo, 2006). Over the years we have developed a strategy that brings this attitude of inquiry to the examination of our philosophy and teaching practice.
Each year we determine a whole school focus that acts as the vehicle for supporting a collective inquiry by the school community into an area of our philosophy or practice. Through the ‘lens’ of the whole school focus we are able to consider and review this element at a deeper level. This provides a chance for us to reflect, improve and celebrate how we, as a community, are living our values.
This thread of inquiry running through the whole school also serves as a unifying force. The process of the whole school focus has been vital in the development of a cohesive school philosophy, supporting the journey of the students and families throughout the school. The traces of past school focal points include: Nature Based Education, Technology, Integrating Arts, Wondering, Listening, The Ethic of Excellence, Bold Park Curriculum, Story Telling and Gratitude. These inquiries build understandings that form the glue connecting staff, students and families with research, philosophy and each other as we all strive to learn and live life in the best way we can.
Each ‘Whole School Focus’ is approached and considered from diverse perspectives across the school, but each shares a common goal or ‘big idea’. In 2016 our whole of school focus is ‘Relationships’. Our stated goal is for:
The school community to understand at a deep level themselves, those around them and the world they live in through seeking connections and relationships.
The teaching teams in each area have already begun to reflect, question and research how they will pursue this goal. Some examples of early research proposals being considered are:
“How can we better provide for opportunities for new families to build connections with the school?”
“What role can animals play in supporting children’s understanding of self and other?”
“Will a deeper understanding of Noongar cultural heritage be reflected in our connection to place?”
Of course, this process is not only valuable at a philosophical level it also has tangible results in the quality improvement of our processes and practices. For example, it has already led to the re-examination of the orientation process we provide for our youngest students. This resulted in the provision this year, of individual orientation meetings for families new to the school, with their teaching teams in PK, K and EC 5.
As each class proceeds with their research the process will be made visible through documentation, parent evenings, EDUCA stories or other means. Thus inviting families and the wider school community to engage with them in their inquiry into ‘relationships’. Strengthening our community through shared understandings.
Nicole Hunter (Pedagogista)