Last week saw three wonderful End of Year Celebration services for our Primary school. From the entertaining Christmas Celebration service for Prep – Yr 2 student, the Yrs 3-4 Service with class awards and performances, through to the formal Yrs 5-6 Service and Graduation, each service was exceptional!
Each year at the Yrs 5-6 Celebration Service, I share some thoughts and reflections of the year that has been. 2021 has been another monumental year for us – and so today I share the speech I gave at this service.
“So for some reflections of 2021 – or perhaps the last season of developments at Genesis Christian College and particularly the Primary school. For a long time, myself, and my colleagues here at Genesis – and indeed forward-thinking educators across the World, have been asking some critical questions of schooling. Questions like:
Is schooling really relevant to the real world anymore?
What are the most important things to learn, considering a 10 yr old can pretty much Google anything they want to know and find the answer?
What skills do employers really want in employees?
How do we develop young people of quality character, who are “others” centered, who can work in teams, who can collaborate, who have empathy?
How do we help young people navigate life in a world which is increasingly more digitised, with the treacherous landscape of the online world, and yet remain true to themselves, the truth and a healthy life in the real world?
You see, schools who are thinking about these matters, and concurrently attending to them through policy, practice, and teaching and learning, like Genesis are actually preparing our young people to be successful in their future world which potentially is quite uncertain. This is a scary statement, or is it?
I have this cycle of thinking which goes something like this. We believe in something (Bible, God, Jesus), this means we have a set of values, this means we choose a set of behaviours which support these values, which establishes a set of benchmarks which we strive towards in life – this is called the development of character. If we have a character of God-honouring, truth seeking integrity, and values – these matters will ultimately transcend the knowledges of a modern or bygone era, or anything Google might tell you. If we can educate and build young people of great character – anything the world or society might throw at them can be managed – because they live their lives by long-term principals, not facts or in the moment, or by likes on social media.
So in turn – let’s consider some of the initiatives we have intentionally instituted in the Genesis primary school to develop character, and these future skills. Things like…
PBL – Project Based learning, which brings learning to life in the real world. Providing students with an experience of creating real things for a real audience, often solving a complex problem, and often having to rely on others in a team to get the job done. PBL gives students a taste of the real world like – designing donuts for an actual shop, writing books for students in prep, or designing and making bath toys that float (like the preps did). Experiences like this are full to the brim of the curriculum – the knowledges and skills prescribed by ACARA. Things like reading writing and “rithmatic” are critical, they are fundamental to success. But as an employer I don’t just want to employ the guy who knows his times tables – that’s a given – I want to employ the person who can work with others – who has people skills – or who can solve complex problems which require creative thinking.
Secret Skills, a Cambridge University developed set of skills which prepare students for the real world. This includes how to get along with each other, how to develop resilience and self management skills, and how to empathise with others.
Longreach, bussing 130 odd people to a far flung country town in the middle of a pandemic to experience things that city kids just don’t really get to do. And a hint for the 5s – we are going again next year, and its going to be even more country! Experiences like this are challenging students to grow up an awful lot in just a few days!
Building Programs, building learning spaces like the STEM building or the new Learning Village in Primary – specifically designed for the modern learner – with a range of innovative elements to support our pedagogical advancements.
Digital Learning Platforms – COVID induced
Things like SeeSaw, Teams and Onenote allow our students to operate in real time in the Digital world – collaborating with teachers and peers on projects, and all types of learning. Our ethic as educators has to be “how can we navigate the digital world through a Christian Worldview – ensuring our children are protected, yet provided with the very best of excellent technologies” Might I suggest partnering effectively with parents on this matter is critical – but also remembering that the real world and the natural environment are equally important for a child’s development. Kids need to play in the mud, climb trees and dance in the rain!
So our Primary school has been evolving over the last season. We are proud of where we have come from and how we are developing – our desire is to prepare our students for the future; to be the future entrepreneurs, champion athletes, elegant dancers or passionate musicians, builders, sparkies, plumbers, financial experts, medical professionals, dreamers and thinkers, – whatever they have the potential to become – but ultimately positive contributors to a society of the future.
We want to be building young people of Godly Character – empathic people. People who know God, know themselves, and how they can contribute to society. Let me leave you with a verse from the bible about how to gain Godly character –
Proverbs 4:6-7 “Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, though it cost all you have, get understanding.”
Character is that deep understanding – that transcends knowledge – that comes from experience and seeking after a knowledge of God our creator. That is what I pray for all of our students at Genesis.”
Head of School – Primary