Whole School Focus
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)