History repeating itself…….
Over the last few weeks, I have been busy preparing for School Affairs Committee and Annual Review. These two events present an opportunity whereby I present evidence on behalf of my team to demonstrate what we do here at Wellington College and the impact that it has on the pupils, the setting and the wider Wellington College family. Much of this is data-rich and for a creative spirit like myself can be a challenge when there is so much else going on that I wish to be a part of.
When I feel the need to have a break from this process, I have sufficient therapy in the form of the pupils, who are usually very happy to give me their time and attention. This may be to sing with them, read with them or just be with them. I am always greeted with a ‘Good Morning or Afternoon’, the pupils use the appropriate language during their activities and their manners are courteous. ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’ is standard and I can converse (a little or a lot, depending upon the child) with them on what they are doing. The pupils demonstrate our values; they are responsible, kind, respectful children who are learning to be courageous and take risks to support their learning. They help put snack out for their friends, they invent games for themselves and others to play. In EY1 and 2, the pupils register themselves by finding their names and putting them in to the class display where EY3 pupils register themselves by writing their name on the board. In EY3 phonics knowledge is increasing steadily and most pupils are starting to write well-formed letters and blend sounds to produce words. Reading is becoming a focus with some pupils and story-telling for all is evident.
What does this have to do with history? My husband and I have a love of Ancient Egypt, archaeology and the history of past civilisations. From being young, we have both been fascinated by the excavations of the Valley of the Kings and the discoveries made by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in the 1920’s. This is something that we have both studied in our spare time (before our children became our only hobby and vacations involved trips to Disney Land and Legoland!) Upon discovering the intact tomb of Tutankhamun, Lord Carnarvon asked the question, “Can you see anything?” to which Carter replied, “Yes, I see wonderful things.” That quote has stayed with me ever since the first time I heard it many years ago, and that is what I now see around me constantly; wonderful things.
Yesterday, I was visited by a pupil from Robin Class who brought me his written story of Little Red Riding Hood. His teacher brimmed with pride as she asked the pupil to show me his work and read me his story. He sat next to me and read his written words beautifully. His written words. In English. What could I say? I was speechless (which for Miss Vanessa, is quite an achievement!). I saw wonderful things, I heard wonderful things and it felt wonderful to be a part of it and to see the impact of language on a pupil’s development.
The Value of the Week is Integrity (written by William Green)
Integrity means being steadfast in one’s moral principles and daily actions. It’s not an easy concept for children to understand; however, some of our most brilliant minds have described this value impeccably. Michelle Obama said that when it comes to integrity “the truth matters…that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules… and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square.” Oprah Winfrey echoed Michelle’s sentiment by stating that “real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” It stands to reason that integrity is not one of those values that you demonstrate for the sake of passing a test or acceptance by peers, adults or significant others. It is not as simple or singular in nature as using kind hands or as noticeable as being responsible, but it certainly includes aspects of these signature behaviours.
Integrity is a value that is, at its very essence, a mindset and way of life that has to be taught from an early age. Integrity requires us to act when our self-interest, values and concern for others come into conflict. The icon for integrity at the setting is a compass set on a blue background to indicate moral steadfastness as a guide for children’s behaviour. The guide that defines children’s moral aptitude is ultimately shaped by parents, teachers, family members and the greater community that a child is an integral part of. In this Week Ahead, we’ll explore some key ways to promote integrity at home and how the learning environment can likewise be set up to help support the development of this value.
1. Help your child understand the importance of empathy
Empathy means putting oneself in others shoes and trying to think from another’s standpoint. Integrity is based on this principle because moral actions involve making decisions that often require us to consider how others are affected by our words or actions. This is difficult even for adults sometimes; nonetheless, we can nurture feelings of empathy with children by talking about feelings.
For example, when children see insects on the ground, their first instinct may be to pick up a stick and hit them. Times such as this make great opportunities for parents to discuss empathy by simply asking: “How do you think the bug feels if you hit it?” “Do you think he is happy?” Personifying insects and other animals allows children to develop greater care and concern. It follows then that if we are to respect the will of little insects as they crawl to and fro across the ground, then we must also care for people (no matter how big or small).
Young children may not want to share food or toys with their friends at their birthday party. Parents can suggest that children look at the faces of the children at the party. Ask them how do they feel and what can make them feel better. In developing a child’s sense of empathy, it’s important that we learn to read other’s behaviours, actions and feelings to get an understanding of how our actions affect them. We cannot truly know the effect of our actions without first understanding what feelings are and what causes us to feel the way we do. One activity that can help at home is that parents can create a wall chart with all of the key feelings on it (e.g. happy, excited, sad, hungry and angry). Parents can have children tape pictures of things that make them and others feel certain kinds of ways. This activity can serve as a great way for children to begin learning how to connect and empathise with others.
2. Put integrity on the line with example scenarios
Obviously, we can’t wait for children to pick up the stick, steal or refuse to share before we act on integrity. We’ve got to prepare children to display integrity through giving clear examples:
- Ask your child what they would do if friends came over for a party and wanted to play with their toys
- What would they do if they saw someone hit another child or saw someone steal something? Why is stealing wrong? You see a biscuit on the table and you are really hungry and want something sweet, what do you do? You can make this more interesting by putting candy bars on the table and pretending that you are at the supermarket
- Your best friend is playing with a toy that you really like, is it okay to take it from him or her?
Good scenarios revolve around topics such as honesty, sharing, friendliness, kindness, empathy, courage and responsibility. You might notice that integrity requires a person to utilise multiple values and respond situationally, particularly when our self-interest and doing what is right come into conflict. Hence, talking about these times with your child is necessary to provide a moral framework and template for your child to refer to when necessary. Communicating openly with your child and modelling scenarios that require your child to think about right and wrong allows you to positively develop and promote your child’s morality.
3. Make sure to practice what you preach
In your daily communication with your child, ask yourself the following:
- What words am I using when I am talking to my child? Are my words kind, friendly, and supportive?
- When my child is around, how am I talking? Is my tone positive and upbeat or angry?
- Are my actions and words in accord? What can my child learn from what I do or what I say?
- Do I encourage my child to be morally upright or do I berate him or her for failing to do so?
- Am I encouraging positive behaviour with positive words and behaviour?
Children learn just as much from our actions as they do from our words so it’s important that we reflect on our actions around children to ensure that they understand that we are serious when it comes to integrity.
4. Talk with your child about times when he or she has shown integrity
Have you seen your child showing integrity? Perhaps, your child picked up money that fell on the ground and returned it to you. Maybe she picked up another child’s bag and gave it back. Talk with your child about her actions, what motivated her to do the things that she did, and what she can learn from this situation. Praise and recognition for doing the right thing will encourage your child to continue behaving positively out of concern for others. We would like to reiterate however that we should avoid giving gifts or presents for behaviour that we naturally expect from our children. Oftentimes, simply saying “well done” will suffice.
Classroom News for week beginning 13th March 2017
Early Years 1
EY1 will be learning pull and push. We are going to have activities with cars, wagons and bowling pins. The pupils will learn the results of giving a ball a big push and a small push. We are going to create ramps using our wooden blocks, so children can use cars to push them down the ramps and see the effects during the activity. We are going to review colours and shapes and we will be introducing the shape semi-circle and we are going to learn how to make a rectangle using triangles. We are also going to play an easy version of Tug of War and we are also going to row our boats in class! Finally, we will sing ‘Row, row, row your boat’, ‘zhao pengyou’ and we will read Home for a Bunny, hong se zui bang and xiao ren bang shou.
Early Years 2
Next week at Wellington will be “Art Week”, during which each class will focus on different artists and different artist styles:
- Puppy: Pablo Picasso
- Lambs: Blue and White Chinese art
- Kittens: Yayoi Kusama
- Ducklings: Andy Warhol
- Bunnies: Joan Miro
Each class will look at different aspects of the artists or style, from colour to shape to using different mediums; Some classes will also look at the artists’ background such as where in the world they come from. Throughout the week, the children will engage in different art projects inspired by their class style artists / style. The children will engage in self-portraits using both mirrors and pictures of themselves, and will look to transfer their ideas onto t-shirts and cloth bags. Next week expect your child to come home covered in art materials, and expect lots of wonderful work to be created. Next Friday we will be having a crazy art project day where all the EY2 classes will work together to create a large piece of art. We will use different unorthodox painting equipment, such as hands, feet, blooms, brooms, mops. Please ensure that on this date especially that your child comes to the setting with a spare set of clothing, just in case we need to change them
Early Years 3
In EY3 next week, all our Arts Week activities will be focused on the traditional Chinese story小蝌蚪找妈妈. First, we will listen to the story and talk about what happens at the beginning, the middle and the end. After reading, we will use our knowledge of the story to get creative to design and make our own versions of the story setting (a lily pond) using a number of different resources. After looking at and talking about the different ways in which we could replicate the main characters, we will all have the chance to use salt dough to make a character of our choice. Finally, we will put everything together – the characters, the setting and our knowledge of the story – to create our own mini film which we will record so that we can watch and listen to ourselves later.