I had the privilege of accompanying our Year 6 students on their three-day Canberra field trip.
Visiting key places in our Capital Territory led me to reflect on the significant investment Australians have made in the structures, infrastructure, and people associated with the Australian Capital Territory. We live in a privileged society and whilst our politicians need some redirection intermittently, our investment is sound and we are most certainly reaping great dividends.
During this time, I looked closely at the outcome from our investment in the people travelling alongside me, our Year 6 students. I was enormously proud of the returns being paid out in front of my eyes in the various aspects of student performance I witnessed.
Of course, the investment in our students starts long before Year 6, in our Early Learning Centres. And, as Head of Primary School, I delight in the opportunity to meet our “start-up” people in the ELC and have deep, meaningful discussions with them and their parents during our connection and enrolment meetings which precede these students joining the Primary School.
Without fail, when parents are asked what they want their children to acquire through their Primary School journey the following four ideas always emerge. Parents want their children to have:
- A sense of belonging to their peer group with a feeling of security amongst friends they can relate to
- A Jewish identity and the skills to enact this identity
- Personal happiness and resilience
- Confidence and knowledge to learn and do what they need to do
As I travelled in the coach during our Canberra trip and interacted with the students and educators, certain insights became highly evident relating to the professionals, practices, places and approaches that have been invested in these students, shaping them over the past seven-plus years, if we include their time in our ELCs. Together, we completed a whirlwind tour of Parliament House, the National War Memorial, the National Museum of Australia, the Institute of Sport, outdoor team challenge rotation, Questacon, and the Botanic Gardens. In between events, students grouped and regrouped into dormitories, meal groups, discussion groups and prayer groups. The educators moved in and out of the various configurations and facilitated deep learning and connection with finely tuned skill and expertise that left me in awe, but in many instances, they were redundant. The power rested with the students.
What was observed was quite extraordinary and read as a glowingly positive dividend report, which included personal growth, sound Jewish and general education, and global awareness.
Every student had a friendship group and was able to group and regroup fluidly and confidently. They slept in dorms that were configured by their House placement, they sat on the bus at their personal choice, they investigated concepts in groups configured by the event organisers, and they connected at meals and around the campsite dependent upon their needs and the event at hand. Respect, care, compassion and mature consideration for the needs of one another was evident because these tweens possessed a well-developed interpersonal skillset and carefully honed level of emotional intelligence.
Their jubilation and celebration as they encountered things Jewish, such as the Israeli Embassy, Jewish notations in the National Museum and Jewish personalities in the War Memorial was overwhelming. Not only did they celebrate who they were, but they knew how to enact their Jewishness naturally and instinctively because their sense of belonging and identity was so well entrenched. The way they benched, participated in tefillah and represented themselves as Jewish students left all the adults around them feeling proud and a little emotional.
Despite a jam-packed schedule our students were quick to assimilate the learning required of them. Their capacity to inquire and link ideas was nothing short of impressive. They drew on past knowledge, personal experience and current learning with ease and confidence and were articulate and powerful in their communication. Without fail, as we departed from each destination, the guides expressed their appreciation for the pertinent questions the students asked which evidenced their deep learning.
It is so important to express gratitude and see the blessings in our world and without fail, deep gratitude was expressed by the students for the meals they received, the experiences they underwent and conversations they had that enabled them to feel okay or regroup as they moved away from the security of their homes and their families. Their careful purchasing from the Questacon Store using their limit of $15 was a joy to behold as a small amount of money was stretched to its maximum benefit.
Vibrant energy, excitement and dynamic participation in absolutely everything was the order of the day as the spirit of youth kicked in through every moment of this trip. Our politicians could have learnt from our students as they listened and took redirection quickly and easily. They also supported one another and overcame the human tendency to attend to personal needs and win for personal gain, participating in outdoor team building challenges, supporting one another to climb as high as possible and guiding partners through obstacle-filled terrain.
The students returned to school and completed a day of leadership, which revealed their insight into their personal strengths and willingness to overcome areas of challenge. They used all their skills, understandings and values acquired to date, and crafted activities and approaches for the students in younger years to make Moriah a better place for all. They showed that they are the leaders of tomorrow!
This experience says to incoming parents, that what you prioritise for your children is a core deliverable at Moriah College. It also says to our stakeholders that their dividends are high in value and it reassures them that their investment is sound. My gratitude goes out to the educators and students who make this happen every moment, of every day, on purpose. Our capital is best placed and our Capital Territory is flourishing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lynda Fisher is the Head of Primary School at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.