F is for Family

Last night was the HTH Middle School and International High School Exhibition night. By tomorrow morning I’ll have posted all our thoughts on this really rather extraordinary event. There are so many pictures that I will create a picture gallery tab later today and upload as much as I can with captions rather than full commentary. Today, we are looking at our projects and developing the Project Overview/Planner for us to use, so more on that over the weekend too.

But for now… after the F is for Fail from yesterday,  F is also for a word that we have heard many many times over the past 2 days: Family. Claire sums it up in her observation that ‘we witnessed again the very genuine affection that the teachers and students feel for each other. There is a lot of hugging.’

That is true. There is a LOT of hugging (I haven’t got any pictures of those moments though). Teacher-Teacher, Student-Student, Student-Teacher. In a sense, it mirrors emotionally the learning relationship that exists between all members of this community. When the Director of the original High School, Brett, addressed the parents and students of the incoming Year 10s (there are 2 transition points: from Elementary School to Middle, from Middle to High), he spoke of the High School as a community and as a family. A group of students started the evening with a short skit and Brett acted essentially as an MC, introducing the members of his ‘family’ – other teachers, his support staff, his student body. There was a real sense that was being applauded and celebrated was the potential for each child to achieve – not once have we heard the word ‘progress’. Parents that we met yesterday spoke with real warmth and even gratitude of the close relationship that exists between their children and their children’s teachers. There is no sense that it is ‘weird’. As those parents said – ‘She came from a school where no-one knew her, where they didn’t care about her, where they didn’t even know she existed. Then she came here, and she wanted to come to school all the time.’

So how is this achieved at HTH? In Year 7, students arrive to find that they have daily conversations with their teachers, with the Director of the school, with their advisors. They are known to all of these. The Director of the Middle School told us that it was very rare to have conversations about behaviour and if they did occur, the context was that the family was being let down. Here, the student who is ‘acting up’ isn’t the cool kid – and that makes them more accountable to their peers rather than to their teachers. New students into Middle School are supported in building relationships by a team of teachers who challenge them, carefully explain what freedom to learn looks like, help them to build teams and to manage their learning and their time.

If we substitute the word ‘family’ for ‘community’, then it becomes clearer to understand the role that each of us can play in our students’ working lives at SBL. Our mission statement states from the outset that we are a community of learners.

Is it time to rediscover what community means to each of us?


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