Welcome

To the Big Picture!

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The Big Picture is a monthly publication from the Principal and senior leadership of Emmanuel Christian School. The Big Picture aims to provide an overview of the school and the direction we see it going in line with our mission and vision. It’s a place where you can also learn more about how the school runs on a day to day basis. 

You’ll hear from our thought leaders about what they think is important and why. It’s a place for careful engagement with the world and our wider community. It’s a place to sit down and read long-form not just in short sound bytes. We hope that you enjoy learning more about your school as we seek to open your child’s mind to life’s possibilities.

This month we hear from;

  1. Daily Bread… by Scott Winkler

  2. Learning Spaces… by Annie Joy

  3. Growth Mindset… by Drew Roberts

Daily Bread

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
— John 6:35
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When I was at University, I was introduced to the work of an American psychologist, Abraham Maslow. He did a lot of work around human needs and growth and the development of individuals. He had a five-point hierarchy of needs, which has been developed by others over time to become seven or eight. The current eight-point scale is biological and physiological needs, safety needs, love and belongingness needs; esteem needs; cognitive needs, aesthetic needs, self-actualization needs, and Transcendence needs.

To a certain extent, they make sense. From where I stand, as principal of a growing Christian school, Maslow and his contemporaries have deliberately missed a critical part to the hierarchy of needs. Maslow, along with many psychologists, did not think religion had any role in human development. Work has been done by people who can show clear links to the needs hierarchy and biblical teaching.

While reading further into this area I came across this story.

“Immediately after World War II the allied armies gathered up many hungry, homeless children and placed them in large camps. There the children were abundantly fed and cared for. However, at night they did not sleep well. They seemed restless and afraid.

Finally, a psychologist hit on a solution. After the children were put to bed, they each received a slice of bread to hold. If they wanted more to eat, more was provided, but this particular slice was not to be eaten—it was just to hold.

The slice of bread produced marvellous results. The child would go to sleep, subconsciously feeling it would have something to eat tomorrow. That assurance gave the child a calm and peaceful rest.”

Jesus Christ describes himself as the bread of life. He knows, as do all of us who know Jesus personally, that life is more than facts and figures. Education is critically important. The provision of needs is important. When we miss the most important need, which is the security of eternal life and an ongoing relationship with God in the ‘here and now’, we miss the foundations upon which to build a life. This sets the lens for education. Jesus is not just the lens but the heart of education at Emmanuel Christian School.

Scott Winkler - Principal

Learning Spaces

Fighting with the Furniture

I believe myself to be open to change and growth both as a professional and as a person, but I recognise to be so I have to be challenged in my thinking and the habits of my mind and practice. This can be uncomfortable. 

This has been demonstrated beautifully this year by the arrival of our new desks in Grade 5/6B. Their arrival coincided with me also moving house and so it intensified the process. Change was everywhere!

Our new desks are a beautiful bright green, with matching purple chairs! I do love colour! They are a not rectangular but more ‘petal’ shaped and can be joined together into a variety of configurations. They are also quite a lot larger than more traditional desks. 

So, we immediately, and quite excitedly, unpacked them and set them up in our previous desk groupings. And found that we were a bit squishy in our classroom. We had to ditch our Art table. We also had to work out how we would store our ‘stuff’, as these desks do not come with trays. More change. The ergonomically designed chairs were an issue in the first week. Apparently they were scratchy on bare legs. Change was not comfortable.

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We persevered with our old desk groupings until the end of Term 1, but realised that if we used the desks in the same way as the previous desks, then we were just being uncomfortable and getting annoyed.

So, this term we have decided as a class to embrace the challenge of the new desks. How can we reconfigure our class to optimise both space and learning? Can we let go of needing a desk to be ‘ours’? Can we move our desks dependent on our lessons? Can we be flexible in space and mind?  

At the moment we have a caterpillar formation and move ourselves from internal seating to external seating depending on the lesson. A good process. I have also noticed students moving around and interacting more at food times. At first they kept asking for permission, but now they are starting to understand that they can make good choices without checking with me.   

Perhaps that is the aim of modern educators: to encourage students to become independent thinkers and to take charge of their learning and education. To not preside over our classrooms as the queen bees, but to be facilitators of rich, thought-provoking and interactive learning environments. In her blog, veteran elementary school teacher Kelly Almer, offers a detailed description of her move to flexible seating (and its benefits for student learning).

I will never go back. The room has become ours instead of mine, and this has given my students a sense of ownership and enabled them to become invested in their own education.
— Kelly Almer

I can feel more change coming. My teacher desk feels enormous and cumbersome… What colour do you think would go with green and purple?

Annie Joy - Primary Coordinator

Growth Mindset

Motivating Learners

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As a school, one of our key learning objectives is to develop intrinsic motivation in all our learners. Developing a growth mindset in our students is a key ingredient to enable teachers to do this. Teaching students how to have a growth mindset can create motivation and productivity and can also be applied to different facets of life, business, education and sports, to name a few.

I think we have all wondered why some people appear to learn easily while others just seem to struggle through. We are not the first and we won't be the last to have these thoughts either. Experts down the ages have lined up to lay claim on discovering why some individuals display smarter traits than others. Methods, such as phrenology (bumps on the skull) and craniology (size and shape of the skull) have been used to try and measure intelligence.

One of the most influential people to devise a scheme to measure intelligence was Alfred Binet, who invented the IQ test. Interestingly, this test of intelligence was not designed to measure how smart an individual was, rather, it was designed to identify children who were not performing in the French public education system. His rationale behind the testing was so that other educational programs could be developed to get them back on track.

So, what is the correct way to determine why some individuals get it and some struggle? In all honesty, most research shows us that there is not one single determinant that shapes an individual’s intelligence. There are, of course, many different factors that will contribute to a person's intelligence. Nature, nurture, environment, genes, the list goes on.

Current research shows that scientists are still discovering that humans have a greater capacity for life-long learning and brain development than was previously thought. This is a positive for us all, it’s not just about being intelligent.  

But how does this really relate to our school and our students? 

Over the last 30 years, Carol Dweck, a researcher from Stanford University has been trying to determine what enhances the motivation in students and has coined the term, Growth Mindset.

According to Carol Dweck, individuals who possess a fixed mindset, believe that their intelligence and talents are fixed traits that are set in stone and cannot be developed. They believe that their success will come from talent alone. Individuals who have a fixed mindset, will avoid challenges because to fail would suggest that they did not possess the intelligence to complete the particular task.

On the flip side, individuals who have a growth mindset, understand that through hard work and effort, trying different strategies and helping others that they can improve in their endeavours. Possessing a growth mindset is key to enabling student motivation and achievement. This notion, is also underpinned by John Hattie's research on Visible Learning. Self Efficacy, which Hattie ranks 11th of the 256 factors relating to student achievement, has an effect size of 0.92. Well above the 0.40 hinge point. A score above 0.40 has a positive impact on learning. 

We all have bad days, and although we can shift between both of these two mindsets, we need to equip all our students with the ability to believe they can improve in what they are doing at any given point in time. That hard work and effort will bring them achievement and success.

Next time, we will look at ways of implementing a growth mindset and how other key determinants can enhance they way we think to achieve success in our lives.

Drew Roberts - Deputy Principal