Learning and Growing Together
November 13, 2020
Schools are places of learning – a pretty obvious statement! However, this is often simplified and narrowed to mean academic learning only and for students only. Both of these assumptions are incorrect.
The purpose of our School has always been to prepare young people for a flourishing life. Positive psychology explains the term as:
“The ability to flourish is defined as the ability for a person to grow as a human being through good times and through life struggles. … It is a very individual journey of living as experienced and valued by the individual.”
This explanation sits well with our values and our strategic intentions at TIGS. Our broad programme which celebrates and develops the whole person, socially, creatively, physically, spiritually as well as academically- enhances flourishing. The support is provided by networks of pastoral care by Mentor Teachers, Deans, House Patrons, School Counsellors, Chaplains, and the broader TIGS staff team. Wellbeing programmes that address resilience, relationships, self-management and safety also play an important role in caring for and growing the whole person. The annual parent and student surveys consistently affirm that this aspect of a TIGS education is highly effective and highly valued.
Our commitment to academic excellence for each individual also supports flourishing. We continue to know every student well and seek to assist and challenge each one to work for the best possible learning outcomes. It’s not OK to coast at TIGS. To do so is a lost opportunity. Our students are encouraged to give high effort and their teachers provide high care and high expectations; this results in growth toward personal excellence. The annual parent and student surveys indicate that there is a desire in our community to continue to increase our focus in this area. This is exciting as this focus is very closely aligned with the current Strategic Goals of School Council and myself for our School.
A great school is always improving and for this to occur staff must also be learning, receiving feedback, using data to inform decisions and practice and be open to reflection and inquiry. This is why learning at TIGS is not only the domain of our students but of every member of our community. This week, we engaged the services of the Association of Independent Schools (AIS) to commence the first phase of an Independent Academic Review of our School. This is an opportunity for us to receive independent feedback about what we are doing well as well as where we can direct our attention for improvement and growth in the next 12 months and beyond. This will directly influence the professional development and learning of our teachers – everyone learning at TIGS – as well as some possible adjustments to processes or programmes. I am excited about the possibilities and opportunities that will be identified and for the benefits to our students. Student learning is always at the centre of every decision we make and it is right that we seek to continually seek to improve this CORE aspect of a TIGS education.
I am very thankful for the input of parents each year in our annual surveys; the evolving picture that these survey results provide is extremely valuable as we grow as a School and seek to continue to provide the very best learning opportunities and outcomes for our students.
I am noticing some uniform issues around our School and seek the support of every parent in ensuring our young people are prepared and looking great each day. Upon enrolment, every family agrees to uphold the uniform expectations of our School. They are clearly articulated in the School Diary and reinforced each day. If parents are unsure of the uniform requirements please click here for a refresher.
Some of the issues we are currently needing to address include haircuts, jewellery, nail polish and the incorrect wearing of sports uniforms. Ensuring that your child arrives at school each day correctly dressed is best done by the student themselves with the support and oversight of parents. When a student arrives at school with the incorrect uniform, the School staff are in the position of having to “police” uniform expectations. We have the mechanisms in place to do so and infringements are issued. These accumulate, resulting in detentions. We do not want to be in this position, just as police do not want to fine drivers for traffic infringements. However, when students intentionally decide not to adhere to the expectations of our School, just as with traffic infringements, the School has very few options available.
Sometimes I am asked why the School gives infringements rather than rewards in this area. The answer is that we do reward students for presenting themselves well particularly when they are learning to be more independent and responsible. However, it is not good practice to reward age-appropriate and expected behaviour. Just as when a child has learnt to tie their laces and knows how to do this task, it is not effective to keep providing rewards for this age-appropriate and reasonably expected behaviour. The goal is for the desired behaviour to become habitual and owned by the person. This is a basic teaching or training principle.
All communities operate on a combination of shared rights and shared responsibilities. Our uniform is one of these domains. We have a shared right to belong to a school that has high standards and of which we can each be proud. The associated responsibility is to follow the expectations and wear the uniform according to the School rules (which are easily accessible and well known).
I want to suggest a practical way parents can support the School. If your child receives a uniform infringement, as the first course of action ask them why they are not upholding the School’s values by fulfilling their simple responsibility of wearing their uniform correctly. In doing this we are teaching our young people their role in being a part of a community where there are reasonable expectations and norms; this will stand them in good stead not only at school but in the world outside our sheltered school community.
I am very appreciative of the support of parents in ensuring that their children are doing the right thing and request that as we finish up the year you take a moment each morning to ensure that your son or daughter is upholding their responsibility in this area so we do not have to “police” the issue. This will allow us to focus on our core business of teaching and learning.