Grade 6 Leadership Day

Self-discipline, independence and resilience were some of the qualities of leadership I hadn’t really considered before. Fionn (Grade 6)

This week Andrew Wood invited me to attend the Grade 6 Leadership Day which has been running at KPS for almost ten years now. The day starts with a guest speaker who introduces some concepts of leadership, and the students then divide into groups and undertake five different workshops each focusing on an aspect of leadership. A team bonding BBQ lunch breaks up the day, and everyone has a chance to reflect on what they’ve learnt at the end. The workshops are facilitated by Senior and Grade 6 staff and a parent volunteer.

I talked to Jacki Hopkins who coordinates the day about its aims and objectives.

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We want to inspire the students to step up now that they’re in Grade 6. They’re becoming role models for the younger kids, and we’re asking them to stand up for themselves – and sometime to stand up to their peers – and that’s a big ask. Today is about helping them make the right choices and giving them the skills and confidence they need to do that.

It’s also about giving them some practical experience. For example, a group of students was involved in the planning and organising of the day. They wrote letters to local shopkeepers asking for support and then took those letters and delivered them personally. It’s about building confidence and independence. They go from being top of the pecking order at primary school to the bottom of the heap at high school and that’s a difficult transition.

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We’re also trying to instil some sense of responsibility and maturity; it’s not just about being in Grade 6 and being the oldest and telling everyone else what to do; that’s not leadership. We make this a big event and stress its importance to try to get the message across that we’re serious and this is important.

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The aim of the lunch time BBQ is a little like what we tried to do with Team 4 last year; it’s about respecting and supporting each other, having a sense of team culture, rather than the individual. It’s the first step to preventing bullying.

The guests speaker of the day was Chris Johnson, former AFL player who is now involved in the AFL’s Indigenous development program.  Chris talked to a very attentive group about values, and making sure you get yours right and then stick to them.

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He asked the kids to list some important qualities in a leader: honesty, kindness and caring, good sportsmanship, respect, being able to listen and accept new ideas, and being proud of your achievements.

You may be a good footy player, said Chris, but you need to be a good person first. Then you can be a good leader.

He asked the kids to call out the names of good leaders they knew: Ricky Ponting, Jim Stynes, Barack Obama, Jeff Kennett, Winston Churchill, Peter Garrett (any women, I wondered? Oh, yes, Julia Gillard. Excellent).

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Chris talked about the importance of role-models; of finding someone to look up to and learning from them. In his case it was his father who was his first and most important role model.

And finally he answered lots of questions from a very eager audience.

Chris was engaging, thoughtful and funny; I reckon the kids were inspired, because I certainly was.

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After Chris’s talk the students divided into their groups and went off for their workshops: Organisation with Mr Archibald, Responsibility with Ms Grace, Public Speaking with Shelley Ware, Contributing with Andrew Wood and Culture with parent volunteer Chris Power.

I checked in with Chris Power at the end of the day. I run these sessions for big corporates, she said, looking ever so slightly exhausted, but five lots of Grade 6s and I’ve had it!

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We talked about culture, Chris explained, which I defined as ‘the way we do things around here’ and that every group, whether it’s a sports team or a grade, has its own culture which can be negative or positive.

I asked the students to remember back to when they were in Prep and had Grade 6 Buddies. And if those Buddies had asked them to jump, what would they have done? They got it.

It’s funny, they said they remembered their Buddies as bigger, physically, than they are now, but I assured them they weren’t an especially small group of Grade 6s!  

Then we worked on identifying their ideal culture for KPS and talked about how they would make that happen. They handled these concepts really well and lots of them were able to think about these questions in quite a complex way.

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At the end of the day Jacki asked the kids for their highlights: I liked brainstorming things we could do for the school; I liked thinking about culture; about how people look at the school and how they see us; I never knew there was so much to do when you organised an event; I liked coming up with creative ideas – for new clubs or special days.

And the last word went to Fionn in response to Jacki’s question about the qualities that make a good leader. Self-discipline, independence and resilience, he said, were some of the qualities of leadership I hadn’t really considered before.

By the time the bell went for the end of the day everyone looked exhausted, but the kids were buzzing with everything they’d learnt.

You hear a lot in the media these days about the lack of values in our state schools. Well, I certainly saw many great values being modelled and taught today.

It was a great day; a huge effort by the staff (and volunteer parent) and a fantastic experience for our kids. Thank you.

Jacqui Tomlins

 

Trust your instincts – A parent’s story

Does your child have reading or learning difficulties? Has your child been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD?

‘Research shows over 75% of children not achieving their potential at school have an undiagnosed vision problem. In fact, six children in every class have a vision problem.’

‘Children can pass a school eye chart test and still have undetected vision problems which are affecting their school work. The eye chart just checks a child’s sharpness of vision, but reading requires many other visual skills.’ www.visiontherapy.com.au

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Recently I completed a Year 7 enrolment application form for my daughter, Lara. One of the questions made me stop and took me back two years to when Lara had just started Grade 3 and to a time when we hit a learning road block.

Lara started Prep brimming with eagerness and found learning to read pretty straightforward. In fact, she sailed along nicely.

In Grade 1, her teacher told me that Lara’s pen grip needed attention and we promptly had some occupational therapy which rectified the problem. Lara unfortunately missed a few weeks of school that year due to sickness and, as a result, started to find maths difficult.

As the year passed she did fine at school but was still struggling with numbers and mathematical concepts. We weren’t overly concerned; we just thought that maths wasn’t her ‘thing’ and perhaps she had missed out on some fundamentals because of her earlier absence when she’d been sick.

I also noticed she found it difficult to follow multiple instructions at once; at swimming lessons she couldn’t follow the coach’s instructions if there were multiple laps with different strokes. Something wasn’t adding up!

At the beginning of Grade 3, I noticed that when she read aloud she would often drop the first or last word on a line. I discussed my concerns with her class teacher and she suggested getting Lara’s hearing and sight tested as a starting point.

The audiologist did all the relevant tests, and although Lara had suffered from over a dozen ear infections as a youngster, all was fine and she didn’t have an auditory processing disorder – phew!

The next appointment was to check her vision.  Apart from astigmatism in her right eye, her vision and eye health was fine, but then she had a Visual Information Processing Assessment, which tests for developmental delays in visual perception.

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After an hour of testing I could tell that things weren’t too good. Lara had great difficulty with her visual analysis skills and with visual motor integration and visual spatial skills.

During the exam, she had trouble completing a basic shape jigsaw puzzle (as a little child she never wanted to do puzzles – once again, I thought it just wasn’t her ‘thing’). She had trouble reading down a column of numerals without using her finger as a guide, and had difficulty with rapid automatic naming of numbers.

It was explained to me that Lara had difficulty knowing where she was in space, so two dimensional work (especially maths problems on worksheets) would be extremely challenging for her.

The optometrist was surprised that Lara could read to the level she was and told me that Lara was partly relying on a good memory, and was putting in 100% effort and getting out 30% reward.

At this point, I felt dreadful; my child, without complaint, had been busting her gut trying to keep up with her classmates.

The good news is that after completing a ten week program of vision therapy, which included weekly visits to the vision therapist, (who was wonderful) and five sessions a week of ‘homework’ activities, things got much better! Most noticeable was the improvement in Lara’s hand eye coordination and her willingness to join in outdoor sports. She even had a go at card and board games at home, something she’d avoided previously.

Our story has a happy ending and we were lucky, but it makes me wonder if there are other children who are struggling, and are busting their guts or worse because they are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

I suppose the story I wanted to tell is that as a parent you know your child better than anyone. Be vigilant and trust your instincts.

You can do a ‘ten second test’ on www.visiontherapy.com.au or contact a behavioural optometrist if you have any concerns.

We saw Sally Doyle at Flying Fox Children’s Vision at the North Fitzroy Eye Centre.

Nikki McConnon

Luckily for me it’s also called work!

My son has never quite recovered from the sheer delight that was his Prep year. To be honest, it’s been an uphill battle since then. I suspect he will graduate from high school having had many great teachers, but none who will quite live up to his first. That was five grades ago now and for this weeks’ blog I caught up with our Very First Prep Teacher, Phoebe Taylor.

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What are some of the particular challenges of teaching Prep? What did you most enjoy about it?

I spent the first three years of my teaching careers as a Prep teacher and I absolutely loved it! It is the most rewarding level I have taught so far. The students make a remarkable amount of progress in just a single year and you get to play a role in that.

Most students learn to read and write for the first time right before your very eyes! They are like a sponge and soak up everything around them. Plus it’s always helpful that they think you are the best singer, dancer, actor and comedian they have ever seen!

It wasn’t until I taught other grades that I realised how challenging the Prep year is. Not only are you trying to give the students the best possible start to their schooling life but you are also trying to make it a seamless transition for families as well; you’re trying keep parents informed about what we do at school and why we do it.

Probably the hardest thing about teaching Prep is trying to listen to all the great stories, experiences and things the students want to share…….all 20 at the same time!!!

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What was your school experience and how did you end up being a teacher?

I grew up in country Victoria beginning my schooling at a state school in Castlemaine. I later went to High School in Bendigo where I experienced schooling life in the private system.
I completed my four year bachelor degree of teaching at Melbourne University. I was then lucky enough to begin my teaching career at KPS in 2006 as a graduate teacher. I always thought I’d want to be a Grade 6 teacher as I had a very influential Grade 6 teacher in Primary School. There are things about my teaching style now that I still model from her!

You’ve just returned from overseas, from teaching in the UK, in London? That must have been interesting? Challenging?

I enjoyed my time teaching in the UK and am thankful for the opportunity to do so. I began by being a casual relief teacher which came with its own challenges. Firstly, where is the school and how on earth am I meant to get there before the bell rings? Navigating the tube, buses and various maps proved difficult at the best of times.

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The next challenge was trying to learn up to 30 different names very quickly. Every school does things differently and I hated not knowing when and where things would happen. It was a steep learning curve and it made me realise how much I like routine and being organised.

I was only a relief teacher for a brief period before teaching full time at an International School. I had a Year 3 class with 20 students and a full time teaching assistant. The students were from every continent of the world, most were Japanese.

The school had a huge emphasis on its English Additional Language program as for many students this was their first experience speaking English. I learnt some basic words in many different languages during the year.

I was amazed at the experiences these worldly students would bring to class. Many of them had lived in two or three countries already, usually travelling for their parents’ work. Every day was like celebrating Cultural Diversity Day and it helped make for a very rich learning environment! I absolutely loved it!!

What are the good things for you about teaching in a school like KPS? Are there any particular challenges or rewards?

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The students of course! The students at KPS are wonderful and are very willing to learn new things and face new challenge. I was excited about coming back to KPS after my UK experience to teach the students again. They really are a joy to teach and they teach me a lot along the way too!

Since my return the Year 4s have taught me all about the new iPads and what it means to be a member of ‘Team 4’. The grade 6s explained how the new leadership teams structure works. The Year 1s taught me how to dance like a real dancer! The Year 5s have shown me how to be curious and develop strategies for investigating ideas.

I love working at KPS because it is a very supportive working environment. The staff get to work collaboratively as a team and share a collective responsibility for the students. I’m lucky to have such knowledgeable, experienced and passionate colleagues to work with.

I love the community feel of KPS. There are always parents who put their hand up to help out in classrooms, working bees, fundraisers and on excursions. It’s great to feel supported by parents in programs that we implement at school.

Thanks to the students, staff and community this is a place I enjoying coming to. Luckily for me it’s also called work!

If the school got a big windfall, how would you spend it?

I would continue to upgrade ICT equipment in the school, and hold training sessions for students, teachers and families on how to best to use this ICT equipment to support learning.

I’d install an underground car park for all the staff and parents with a ‘drop off’ section for safe and easy arrival at school. I would include a space in the underground car park for our three new 56 seater buses! These will be used to transport the students to and from sporting events, excursions, camps and other curricular activities. This would enable us to keep costs down and use the saved money for numeracy & literacy resources. And I’d buy some seriously drought tolerant grass for our oval so that it is green all year round!

Thanks, Phoebe. It’s great to have you back at KPS and I hope you enjoy this year with your new Grade 2s.

Jacqui Tomlins

Top Ten Tips for Panicked Preppie Parents!

Welcome to the Kew Primary School Blog and to our first post of 2013. This one is for all the new parents whose children are starting Prep this year.  KPS has a great school community – you’ll find that out pretty soon – and this year we’re very happy to welcome some sixty or so new families to our community. We’re really glad you chose Kew Primary and we hope you have a great first term.

It’s been a while since my son stood to attention on our front porch in his crisp new uniform and oversized backpack as I snapped photos for posterity. (And somewhat longer since I did the same for my parents; I still have my first-day-of-school pictures – a cold September day in England in the late 1960s in a uniform that was entirely knitted!)IMG_2599

The first day of Prep is A Big Day, not just for the kids, but the parents as well; I remember wondering and worrying about all sorts of things.  So last week I got together with a few mums who have been around the traps for a while and we recollected those early days.  By the time we’d exhausted the coffee machine, and the kids were starting to melt down, we’d come up with our very own Top Ten Tips for Panicked Preppie Parents. Here goes:

  1. Don’t panic. They’re going to be fine. Some kids walk into class on that first day without a backward glance, some cry every day for the first week and for the second, but it rarely lasts much longer than that. Prep teachers are accustomed to it and will do their utmost to help your son or daughter settle quickly and manage any nervousness they might have. It really doesn’t take them long to find their place, make a few friends and start enjoying themselves.
  2. Prep teachers are more than happy to talk to you about any concerns you have in relation to your child, but it might be best to give them a bit of breathing space right at the start of term. Drop-off and pick-up in the first couple of weeks are always pretty hectic. Once the initial rush is over, teachers will have more time to talk to you.
  3. Lunch is probably a bit later in the day than most kids are used to, so it’s really important that your Preppie has a decent breakfast and a reasonable snack for mid-morning. I know my kids tended to eat more at snack time, than they did at lunch which worked fine for them.
  4. Your Preppie will be completely exhausted by the time you get them home. Pretty much every parent I’ve spoken to has said their kids were tired, grumpy, or over-sensitive – or all three – for most of Term 1. It’s a huge deal and just keeping it together for the day really takes it out of them. It’s also a good idea to keep extra-curricular activities – swimming, sport, gym – to a minimum, especially in the first term.IMG_2628
  5. Communication is really important, but don’t expect to get too much information out of your Preppie. How was your day, Sweetheart? What did you do? generally elicits only a very brief response. If you can, try to make a coffee morning, the drinks night or the Peppercorn BBQ which are all great ways of meeting other parents and finding out more about what’s going on with your kids’ class.
  6. A few practical hints: it’s useful to keep some spare some clothes – undies, shorts, skirt, socks – in your son or daughter’s bag;  if they can’t tie laces, send them in shoes with Velcro;  make sure they can easily open their lunch box and everything in it.
  7. Recess and lunch time can be difficult for some kids – there’s a bigger physical area than they’re probably used to, more kids running around and less structured activity – and it’s a good idea to talk to them about how they manage all that. Some pointers for them might help, too: Can I play in your game? Do you want to play tag?
  8. It can sometimes be helpful for your child to take a small toy or ball for use in the playground at lunch and recess. Just make sure it’s nothing very expensive, or anything you care too much about! It probably won’t come home.
  9. Your Prep child will be doing a lot of work on basic literacy and numeracy in the early days and the temptation to compare them to other kids in their class – and to what they can and can’t do is huge. Try to resist!  (Drives the teachers nuts!) The range of what kids can do when they start Prep is huge; if you’re really concerned, talk to your kids’ teacher.
  10. The school publishes a regular Newsletter and a Bulletin which provide all the information you need to keep you informed and up-to-date with what’s happening at school. It may seem like obvious advice, but if you want to feel connected to the school, and know what’s going on with your child, read it!IMG_2640

Like I said, don’t panic; it’s all good.

When I’d finished chatting with the mums about all this, I asked my Grade 5 son what advice he would give to any new Preppie starting at Kew Primary.  These were his wise words: Be careful with scissors, kids! And the toilets smell!

Enjoy Term 1 and see you all at the Peppercorn BBQ.

Jacqui Tomlinsjac's first day