Australia: Designing education around valuable life lessons

Australia/ 01 September, 2021/ Source/ https://indaily.com.au/

Westminster School is educating for humanity to provide students with a pathway to become empathetic adults, writes principal Simon Shepherd.

 

In 2021, children face many challenges that did not exist when I was at school.

As they witness a reshaping of the world’s social, political and economic landscape in the wake of COVID-19, today’s children are facing mountains that may seem impassable.

However, this generation is also more understood and informed than children have ever been. As a Westminster School principal, I have witnessed just how motivated, educated and ready today’s children are to drive change.

With this generational shift has also come the shift in responsibility for instilling good values in children. More and more, parents are turning to schools to help prepare students for life beyond school.

For our girls and boys at Westminster, we don’t take this responsibility lightly.

As well as instilling strong values in our students, we believe it is just as important to ensure we are engaging the greater school community in this alignment of values, across all touch points in a child’s learning and day-to-day life, so that every graduate leaves school prepared for whatever their future holds.

At Westminster, we consider ‘educating for humanity’ prepares students for life beyond the school grounds.

It is a given that our school has a strong focus on academic culture. The students who come into our school and engage with our teachers and each other, will achieve the best academic outcomes they can at that stage of their life.

In addition to this, we really want all our students to leave school with a sense of what it means to be grateful, kind and useful. We want them to have a sense of purpose, as these are important foundations towards developing happy and fulfilled children who grow to become happy and fulfilled adults.

As a nation, it has taken a global pandemic for people to perhaps rethink what it means to be kind to each other. Before COVID-19, there was a lot of kindness in thoughts or in words but not necessarily as much in action.

We want our students to be empathetic. There is a great deal of inattentional blindness in our society and we’ve probably all walked past someone less fortunate than ourselves and not thought about another person’s circumstances. Service is an important focus for us at Westminster and these invaluable experiences, supported by staff who care, help our students to be aware, be kind and therefore be more in tune with humanity.

Of course, these are the core values that apply to all students. But every day we see the added benefits of developing and sharing in a coeducational setting. It is another important way we can deliver a thriving learning environment, providing girls and boys with a strong foundation for building respectful, enduring, social and professional relationships.

Women and men work together and coexist in every environment outside of single-sex schools. At our school this year, the majority of our student leadership group are female, so boys and girls see one another everyday as leaders, role models, classmates, colleagues, and friends. That is naturally a part of life.

Being alongside one another throughout their formative years provides this natural insight into equality. Understanding strengths and weaknesses are respectfully based on individual effort and not that of gender.

The notion of going into an all-male or an all-female workplace has disappeared altogether, and that’s for the best. Learning alongside one another provides girls and boys with an opportunity to learn vicariously through their interactions with each other. Aside from broadening the curriculum and co-curricular programs, students learn what it means to work within a great team with a shared vision and a shared interest. They develop respect for one another by appreciating equality and identifying their differences, strengths and weaknesses to help build a team to be the best that it can be.

Every graduate should leave school prepared to live a good life, live well and achieve eudaemonia.

At Westminster, we recognise each student learns differently. A good school or teacher must be able to identify what differentiates every student and put in place the necessary support and guidance to help them grow, learn and flourish.

We give students the opportunity to learn, succeed and fail at school. We know they will get things right and wrong but in either scenario, constructively move forward. We all learn from our experiences and our students are no different. Should that be to fail, we then work together with a student or students to make it a valuable life lesson linked to instilling good values.

Students should have the courage to live with humanity, to act knowingly and exercise practical wisdom. They should be cognitively developed, given their stage in life, and prepared to live a full and rewarding life.

Schools are no longer just environments for learning core academic subjects. The lessons learned inside and outside of the classroom underpin the values we instil in today’s children that should be considered by every modern educator. Modern schools have a responsibility to shape future generations where the girls and boys who learn and work together now are able to work and learn together tomorrow as women and men.

On Friday 10 September, Westminster will be open to families interested in an established, active, inclusive and connected School and community full of heart.

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