Thursday, 22 October 2015

A genuine culture of optimism, hope and self-belief underlies success for all

Response post
It has been a month since my last post. Clarity around this response to parent feedback after three terms of Engaging Learning Spaces (ELS) became apparent after attending a recent "Catholic Essentials" seminar. Receiving a very positive external Catholic review report reinforced this response. Let me explain. 

At St Joseph's, we provide a holistic education. We focus on developing the whole child - spiritually, physically, academically, socially and emotionally. As a staff, we recently reflected on the specific skills our children develop as a result of our ability to openly express our Catholic faith. We listed them alongside the skills that contribute to developing the emotional intelligence of our children and their ability to "learn to learn". It is our unique ability to provide authentic opportunities for developing the whole child that lay the foundation for their success at high school and beyond. 

As Katrina van de Water articulated during the Catholic Essentials seminar, our Catholic culture is one of optimism and hope. If you have been brought up in a Catholic faith filled environment, you are naturally a positive and optimistic person. You pro actively seek solutions and look for ways to make things work. It is part of our Catholic culture. We are positive people who thrive in an environment that supports us to grow our talents and skills and reach out to others. We thrive in an inclusive community where everyone is treated equally and has something of value to bring to that community.

The positive parent feedback connected to our learning environments expresses the very nature of our Catholic culture. Here are some of those positive comments:

We are reaping the benefits of blogging, communication and planning, which is so much easier with technology.  (I love the weekly blog!) I feel much more confident that she is going to be prepared for going further in an educational world that has seamless blended learning and also the self direction required.  We are thrilled she is learning the responsibilities that go along with technology, (such as balance, tech-free activities, safety etc).

This is the first time in seven years that I have a real insight into my son's learning. We check the Teaching and Learning site on a Sunday night and come prepared for the week. He knows what his learning goals are and we talk about them together. Our whole family and extended family can read his stories and projects online. Most importantly, he wants to learn and is engaged in his learning. He has made so much progress this year.

We have Sunday planning sessions which we use with the Teaching and Learning site and it works really well for us, we feel involved and we have better conversations throughout the week. The communication from the teacher is excellent and feels very natural.

I believe her days are full, robust learning is taking place and we have an engaged, happy learner.  As a parent, picking her up each day, she is getting in the car full of good stories. Any niggles, she knows how she is going to fix them, and that is all part of life, so we reinforce that.

I can't think of what doesn't work for us (and I normally can find something proactive to say, so I do apologise).We are strong advocates for the school and are extremely happy with our experience, thank you.

He has benefited enormously from the skiing programme. Is it the combination of treating the body in its entirety? Body, spirit, mind. He has never been more engaged with his learning, he talks about school work, across most of his subjects in a manner that he has never done before. 

My children have benefitted from the ELS style of learning. All three of them regularly come home and share their learning. This has been especially noticeable with my Year 5 child, who always enjoyed school but never wanted to discuss anything she had learned or encountered through the day.Technology is a big draw card for her.


The common concerns that came through from a small group of parents (8 out of potentially 144 families) were in relation to noise, furniture, screen time, the monitoring of devices and expectations around "learning to learn". It's important to address any concerns. We have met with some parents and are always willing to meet with others. We have already instigated positive change in Term 4: the move from three classes to two in Senior Hub 2, extra furniture and a commitment to a new cybersafety programme. Our staff have also begun to prepare explicit visual charts and diagrams about "learning to learn" expectations across the school. These are complimented by the natural learning and leadership opportunities that begin in the junior school and culminate in Year 7 and 8. The ability to outreach into the community with Early Childhood and Young Vinnie programmes further encapsulate our Catholic culture.

Our children are thriving as learners because parents are making every effort to support learning in a positive manner. It is this positive, optimistic attitude, inherent in our Catholic culture that enables our children to Reach for the Stars as Lifelong Learners in the Catholic faith and shine.
Here are a few snippets from our external Catholic review September 2015:
  • St Joseph’s is an inclusive and welcoming school. The students are happy and responsive. They understand the expectations and embrace them. 
  • The school culture is genuine. It nurtures and promotes self belief and a sense of worth for each individual.
  • There is a sense that the children have contributed to the development of the culture and embrace it willingly.
  • All around the school there are examples of the integration of the curriculum and the fusion of faith and life. 
  • Students understand why they are asked to live the school values. It is quite common to hear and see students leading others and reminding them of what the community values.
  • St Joseph’s Oamaru is a highly successful Catholic school. The Proprietor can be assured that Special Character is at the heart of the success of this school. 
We will continue to integrate our genuine culture of optimism, hope and self-belief into our Engaging Learning Spaces across our Catholic school as we move forward towards 2016 and beyond.














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