Tag: education

Terrific Teachers Cairns – July 2020

Here is some advice, favourite memories, and more from a few of the terrific teachers we have throughout the Cairns region.  

 

Breck Nielson

St Mary’s Catholic College, Woree

“I enjoy having students stop and thank me years down the line, it’s so genuine.

Teaching has changed so much since I went to school, though teenagers are fundamentally still the same. They want to learn and as teachers we just want the opportunity to teach them well. We want exactly the same thing for a student that their parents do too.

My advice to parents would be to let their child build resilience and to instil a work ethic in them. Find out what gets them up in the morning and nurture it.”

office@smcc.qld.edu.au

www.smcc.qld.edu.au

 

Siouxie Fitzpatrick

St Gerard Majella School, Woree

“I especially love seeing my past students at high school or starting a career and seeing them be successful. It’s always nice when they stop and say a quick hello. You spend so much time with them over a year (sometimes longer) and it’s nice that they remember you.

The best thing about teaching at St Gerard Majella is the amazing community spirit. I have never been at a school that has such a strong sense of support and compassion.

Every child is different and possesses their own unique attributes. Progress can be small, but they will get there.”

secretary.woree@cns.catholic.edu.au

www.sgmcairns.qld.edu.au

 

Michael James

St Andrew’s Catholic College, Redlynch

“My proudest moment as a teacher was when a group of my senior students received highest marks in senior maths and then were all accepted to study Mathematics at Oxford University.

I love teaching the subject, it can make so much sense to students as soon as they can apply their knowledge. You get so many ‘light bulb’ moments from students, it’s great to witness.

My advice to parents is to teach students the importance of resilience. It is okay to fail if they tried their best. You cannot learn anything from a correct answer.”

sar.secretary@cns.catholic.edu.au

www.standrewscc.qld.edu.au

 

Verdi Reid

St Andrew’s Catholic College, Redlynch

“The absolute highlight of my long teaching career is being a Teacher Librarian. A common myth is that Teacher Librarians spend their time reading books all day; nothing could be further from the truth. We are first and foremost teachers, and are privileged to work with every student and teacher in the school.

I think most parents do not know that teachers feel they hold such a privileged position in their child’s life. I hope parents know that we love their children and always want the best for them.”

sar.secretary@cns.catholic.edu.au

www.standrewscc.qld.edu.au

 

Kelly D’Andrea

St Therese’s School, Bentley Park

“The highlight of my teaching career is seeing a child realise for the first time that they can read. Parents also play a huge role in reading, starting from birth. Reading a book a day is the best thing a parent can do for their child’s education.

The best thing about teaching at St Therese’s is the community. The students, the families and the staff make it a fantastic place to be every day. I count myself very lucky to be a part of something that is more than just a school, it is one big loving family.”

secretary.bentleypk@cns.catholic.edu.au

www.stthereses.qld.edu.au

 

Sarah Galletly

Our Lady Help of Christians School, Earlville

The best thing about being a teacher at OLHOC is teaching and having fun with the wonderful students. Interacting with families and being a part of a fantastic, friendly community.

A highlight of teaching for me is when students have a light bulb moment and understand their learning. It’s great to see their confidence in their learning grow to automaticity.

My advice to parents is to talk to your kids about everything, from current events to travel, animals, space. Discuss, debate and challenge your children in a safe environment to have an opinion and back it up.

secretary.earlville@cns.catholic.edu.au

www.olhoc.qld.edu.au

 

You can read about more terrific teachers here. 

 

 

Dispositions Necessary for Children to Learn

Recent events saw most children learning at home, under the guidance of their parents, and the direction of their teachers. Now, having returned to school, there are three conditions which are necessary for a child to LEARN. I am going to suggest that these conditions, or personal dispositions, are universally applicable to children everywhere.

The First of these Dispositions is Safety

First and foremost, for a child to be in a position to learn they must feel safe. Their safety would mean they have enough food, clothing and shelter, the basics for living a healthy life, so they can then concentrate on the task of learning.

In some circumstances, it is necessary for the school to take on that responsibility of providing food for a child. Breakfast clubs are quite common across schools in Australia, whereby children, who come from family environments that don’t have the capacity to provide breakfast for children, rely on the school to provide food, so the child has enough sustenance so they can concentrate in class. Clothing is occasionally also provided by the school. The school should provide children with second hand or even brand-new uniforms when their family cannot provide adequate uniforms. Uniforms help the child feel like they belong as they ‘look’ the same as their classmates.

The family home is the shelter in which most children live. Occasionally children may be living with other caring adults. Having a “roof over their heads” provides them with the third essential basic requirement. Other caring adults may include grandparents, other relatives, foster carers and family friends. Sleeping in a warm bed is important for children. The other element about being safe is that children know and understand their routines in life. They know who will be dropping them at school, and who will be picking them up. They have the confidence to walk out of the school gate at the end of the day knowing that someone who knows and loves them will be there waiting for them.

The Second Disposition is that of Connectedness

A child needs to have connections with their family and their social networks beyond their family. These networks can include their school or any cultural activities such as sport or artistic pursuits of the child. There needs to be connections between parents and grandparents who know and love the child. Then when a child moves to school, they will ideally find children with similar interests, potentially like-minded children with whom they make a connection and they form part of a group. The connections between a child and their parents and their school groups are critical so that they are part of a group which knows and cares about them. Being part of a group is key to a child’s well-being because human beings are social beings. We know, live, love, learn and work together.

The Third Disposition is that of Contentment

Originally, I thought the third disposition may have been happiness. But a wise colleague Jill Sweatman, the Brain Whisperer™, reminded me that happiness is an elevated state of joy that not everyone will reach. Everyone can reach contentment. My definition of contentment is that there is a degree of acceptance of someone’s current circumstances or lifestyle.

A child needs to accept their place in life; they need to accept the family in which they live; they need to accept the school which they attend; the social group of which they are a part; the limitations of their personal circumstances; and they need to accept (and embrace) the opportunities that life presents them. If a child is accepting, they have a degree of contentment, tolerance and understanding of their disposition in life. This then allows them to focus on the task at hand at school which is learning.

Children who are content and have an acceptance and an understanding of their circumstances may even find opportunities to embrace beyond their family and beyond school life. They already have a degree of solitude and comfort in themselves and their social network. Knowing that they are safe, knowing that they have connections, allows them to explore other opportunities beyond those to dispositions. (Please note acceptance of limitations of current circumstances does not mean that people should not strive to go beyond current situations for improvement. Striving to improve and excel should be a goal for all life-long learners).

The three dispositions described all have inks. It is not possible to have connections without being safe. Feeling connected without feeling safe is not possible. It’s not possible to feel content without having connections. And lastly, it is not possible to be safe without feeling connections These three dispositions are essential for a child to be able to attend to learning at school and beyond school.

Now that the majority of children across the country have returned to school, it only reinforces that those three dispositions are vital so a child has the framework and the capacity to attend to learning. If a child is safe, connected and content then they have the opportunity to switch on and to attend to the task at hand at school. Having returned to school recently it has been evident that the children who weren’t safe, who may not have had connections, and who were struggling with the changing circumstances over the last few months, may have struggled to attend to learning. Now that we have returned to our new circumstances, with the degree of some physical isolation still present, children are back in classrooms, back working with the teachers who know and love their job in providing high quality education for all children in front of them. We can reinforce these dispositions of safety, connection and contentment so that children will learn.

Once a child has these dispositions, they have the capacity to be receptive to learning. If any of these three dispositions are missing, threatened or jeopardised then the child’s capacity to learn is significantly impeded.

Let’s work together to ensure our children, our students, are safe, connected and content. Then they can learn and thrive.

 

About the Author 

Andrew Oberthur is the married father of two teenagers and a primary school principal, with over 30 years experience teaching and leading primary schools in Brisbane. Through his vast experience and own study, Andrew has developed three main areas of interest and expertise: School readiness for families / staff of children getting ready for school, building a culture of trust, collaboration and enquiry between parents and teachers, communication skills for teachers and parents working together for the benefit of their common interest – their children.

Andrew has presentations on each of these areas available for families and teachers, as he believes that parents and teachers MUST work together so children can thrive in our modern world. In 2018 he published his first book “Are You Ready for Primary School This Year?” which is about building a culture of trust, collaboration and enquiry between parents and teachers. His book is available from his website. He has done podcasts for PakMag, webinars with some leaders in their field, as well as various media appearances.

 

Read more PakMag Parenting blogs here

 

 

Talking to Children About Racism, Discrimination and Equality

The recent Black Lives Matter protests in the US, the public support in Australia and from around the globe, has brought the issues of racism and inequality to the fore. After the loss of another human life with the tragic death of George Floyd, an African American man – individuals have taken to the streets to protest police violence against black people. Here, in Australia, our First Peoples also experience discrimination and inequality. There are disproportionate statistics for Indigenous incarceration and deaths in custody. So, this isn’t an issue that’s far from home.  

Inevitably, our children will witness these events in the media. As parents, teachers and carers we can take the opportunity to teach our children about race, racism and equality. This helps our children be part of the movement for positive change in the world as they come to understand what’s behind the Black Lives Matter movement. Now as a parent you might be thinking “yes, I want my children to understand that Black Lives Matter. Additionally I also want them to understand that ALL lives matter, so I’ll have a conversation about that instead.” Here’s why it’s important to consider having a conversation about BOTH as fundamentally, they’re not the same issue. Plus YES, Black Lives Matter is relevant in Australia. 

Black Lives Matter

The Black Lives Matter movement is dedicated to raising awareness and stopping police brutality against African American people. It began back in 2013, following the death of African American teen Trayvon Martin. The movement highlights the differential treatment of People of Colour when compared with White people. This treatment is in terms of police discrimination, brutality and death.

I spoke with Aboriginal Elder, Aunty Munya Andrews about the topic. I wanted to gain a better understanding of the issue and how it relates to Indigenous Australians. Here is what Aunty Munya had to say:

Some people have taken the “Black Lives Matter” slogan to include the phrase ‘All lives matter’ and while that is true, we must not lose sight of the fact that we are talking about the systemic brutalisation and discrimination of black people. When this systemic brutalisation impacts all people in society equally, then we can talk about “All lives matter.”

There are some people who claim that the “Black Lives Matter” movement is not relevant to Australia but that’s not the case at all. Aboriginal people face the same sort of treatment that African Americans do and our social indicators such as the high disproportionate figures of Indigenous incarceration are virtually the same. So, the “Black Lives Matter” movement is totally relevant and applicable to the situation here in Australia.

We all need to stand together as Allies to end this appalling, intolerable treatment of people based purely on the colour of their skin.

“Black Lives Matter”.

As parents, carers and teachers, once we’ve opened up the conversation on Black Lives Matter with our children, we can then talk about the importance of respect and equality for all people.

Respect and equality for all of humanity

To create a world where all people are treated equally, we need to help our children develop:

  • knowledge and understanding about what privilege, discrimination and racism are;
  • beliefs that all people deserve to be treated equally;
  • skills that enable children to interact and communicate with others in a caring and respectful way; and
  • an understanding of the importance of standing up for equality and inclusivity. Understanding the importance of not supporting discrimination on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, disability, class, or sexual identity – with thoughts, words or actions.

Children learn how to be in the world by watching those around them. Therefore, how adults behave when it comes to equality and inclusivity, matters. Children also learn by what parents, teachers, family and friends teach them. We can start our children’s education on race, inclusivity and equality at a very early age. It’s the same way we teach our children numbers, reading and writing skills – we start very simply and add the complexity when it’s developmentally appropriate.

Making time to talk

I understand that talking about race and racism isn’t an easy topic. Parents and teachers we need to have conversations about many difficult topics like drugs, pornography, domestic violence and death. But, just because they are challenging topics doesn’t mean we can avoid having them.

To give you some ideas on how to start a conversation, here’s a simple 15-minute activity you can complete with children on privilege, racial discrimination and equality. This short activity is from one of my Life Skills e-books to help children develop their Social and Environmental Understanding – just one of the many topics we explore in my series of seven life skills e-books. These resources were developed to give parents and teachers short activities they can complete with children to help them develop key life skills to navigate life successfully. You can find out more about the Life skills e-book series here.

Helping your child understand more about racial discrimination

Social awareness is about being conscious of the issues that different people, communities, or societies face on a day-to-day basis. Children with an awakened social consciousness are more likely to act in a positive way. These children will be more empathic towards others regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, disability, class, or sexual identity.

This activity looks at privilege, racism and equality and serves two purposes:

  1. Increases your children’s awareness of how they and others live in society.
  2. Helps your children become more empathetic towards others and consider how they can make a positive difference either now or in the future.

Step 1 – fact finding

Invite your children to share if they have friends from other countries or other cultures. Ask your children to explain if they know what the terms “race” and “racism” mean. Invite your children to think about whether they have noticed children being mean to others based on their country of origin or culture or if your children have experienced racism?

Ask your children if they have seen anything in the media about the recent protests in the US and Australia to stop police brutality against black people Black Lives Matter.

Invite your child to discuss what they have learned about Australia’s First Peoples and the gap between Indigenous Australians’ and non-Indigenous Australians in areas such as education, health and life expectancy.

Explore the concept of privilege from your child’s perspective.

Step 2 – doing the activity

Building on your children’s understanding as indicated by their responses in step one, discuss with your children what privilege, equality, race and racism are by sharing your knowledge, understanding and views. Here are some points that may help you. 

Racism can include verbal abuse or ridicule, social exclusion and even violence. Racism can be based on many things including: appearance of people from different races, differences in religious beliefs or practices, differences in cultural or religious dress.

Privilege is an advantage or entitlement that a person or group of people may have. Privilege can include things like food, money, education, possessions or status. Privileged groups can be advantaged based on social class, age, disability, ethnic or racial category, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or religion. People with privilege can use it to the benefit or detriment of others. Most importantly, privilege isn’t a bad thing and can be used to do good in the world.

Science proves that humanity – although diverse – is one family and one people. All people feel pain if they are hurt; bleed if they are cut; are born of a mother and father; are able to love and are capable of hateful actions.

Children may either respect, support and care for each other – regardless of ethnicity – or they can be cruel and hurtful. Ask your children how they wish to treat others. Ask your children to talk about how they wish to be treated. 

Explore what your child might do if they saw someone being racist or mean to others because of their social class, age, disability, ethnic or racial category, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or religion.

Ask questions like: how would you react? Would you join in? Would you stand up for the person – if it is safe to do so? If it isn’t safe – would you get an adult to help? Giving children options can help them know how to behave if they encounter racism or discrimination.

Finishing up the activity

Ask your children to share if this activity has it increased their awareness of discrimination, the Black Lives Matter movement, our First Peoples and the importance of treating people equally. Has it started them thinking about racism in their own lives or in society? Ask your children to talk about how they could be more inclusive of people from different races at school. Invite your children to think about how they could make a positive difference either now or in the future to children from different ethnic backgrounds. Discuss ways your children can manage racist remarks they may experience. Or, what to do if they see others being racist. Ensure your children know how to seek assistance from an adult if needed. 

Tip’s for young children

Even young children can be taught the value of equality and diversity in society. Furthermore all children can be encouraged to be socially inclusive with their friendships. Cultural diversity allows us to experience different foods and ways of being in the world. Just keep the language simple. Explain that people from different counties may dress differently, eat differently and speak different languages. These differences are what make society interesting and rich. Discuss why it is hurtful to tease or exclude other children based on their skin colour, cultural or religious beliefs.

You may also like to talk about what you’d like your children to do if someone teases or hurts them based on their ethnicity. For example, you may encourage your children to say to the offending child “I don’t like it when you talk to me like that. Please stop it now.” Or you may prefer to instruct them to simply walk away. You may recommend to your children that they talk to an adult (parent or teacher) if it happens repeatedly to them or to other children. Providing young children with possible courses of action helps them to navigate the world effectively. 

Tips for older children and teens

After an initial conversation, you could encourage your children to learn more about the topic so they can understand how to make a positive difference in their community. Reading the book, Young Dark Emu: A Truer History by Bruce Pascoe or for older teens. Dark Emu is a great way for our children to learn more about the historical treatment of Aboriginal people at the time of colonisation and  how our First Peoples’ knowledge of the environment and environmental practices has sustained the land across Australia. Families can continue the conversation by discussing Australia’s historical treatment of our Indigenous peoples. Discuss the negative impact it has had on their lives and what we can do to close the gap in outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The book ‘Young Dark Emu’ by Bruce Pascoe is a great resource for younger and older children (aged 7 – 12) that uses the accounts of early Europeans explorers, colonists and farmers to argue for a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer label for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians. 

Ongoing conversations

One conversation isn’t enough. In the same way that we continue to support our children to learn to read and write over many years of schooling – developing life skills that support children to be inclusive and promote respect and equality takes time and effort. As children mature, parents and teachers can have ongoing conversations about race and racism. Adults need to provide consistent positive messages about kindness, respect and equality for all people.

It’s important to continue to reinforce positive behaviour and consistently remind our children how to be respectful when we see negative behaviour. By the same token, parents need to model good behaviour consistently as well. How diverse is your friendship base? If you encounter racism – what do you do?

Being a proactive and vigilant parent will take a little more time in the short-term. However, there are many benefits for your family and for society that make it worthwhile in the long-term. Teaching your child to be respectful means they’ll be less likely to engage in aggressive or disrespectful behaviour that you’ll need to address with friends, or at school. No-one wants to get called up to the school or have a difficult conversation with another child’s parent! Right?

Are your children experiencing racism?

If your children are experiencing racial discrimination, you can seek assistance at school and from government organisations in your area. If your children are inflicting racial discrimination, you can provide them with the information and resources to understand a more respectful way to be with others from diverse backgrounds as explained above.

Learning social skills that help children to nurture relationships will support them to make friends. They will be loving members of their family and caring members of their community.

Changing the world starts at home

Every adult can play a key role in stopping violence, discrimination and inequality. This can be done by raising our children to expect respect and to be respectful to others. Yes, that’s regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, disability, class, or sexual identity. Parents and carers can teach their children these skills by being good role models. Additionally we need to guide them to change their behaviour whenever they behave in a way that harms others or themselves. This way, we not only improve and enrich our own family life, but also the lives of others in our community, our nation and over time – the world.

 

 

Celebrating Sister Therese Masterson RSM

Sister Therese Masterson celebrates a special birthday this year during the 130th Celebration of her beloved St. Monica’s College where she has always been recognised for her outstanding commitment to education.

Sister Therese may be the last Sister of Mercy working at the college but the strong tradition the Sisters established many years ago, and developed through the decades by committed and hard-working staff, remains strong in the college of 2020. Through such commitment the Sisters of Mercy, and those that followed in their footsteps, have made a difference in the lives of students and many others as they carried out their responsibilities in Catholic Education. This year, Sister Therese celebrates her 80th Birthday and she is still a vital member of St. Monica’s College community.

Retiring from the position of Deputy Principal – Pastoral Care at St Monica’s College at the end of the 2006 school year, Sister Therese then worked part-time as Year 9 Co-ordinator and Religious Education teacher. Not many people would see being Year 9 Co-ordinator as a step towards retirement but it was an indication of Therese’s generosity as a leader that she was willing to serve wherever she was needed. Therese has never fully retired as she is still the Curator of the College Archives and a very active member of both the College Board and Alumni.

Therese’s contribution to St Monica’s College and Catholic Education has been her life’s work. As a staff member at St Monica’s for an impressive 54 years, Therese has made very significant contributions to the leadership of the College. Therese is an inspirational educator, leader and person of faith. Past students from each of the nearly six decades of her career in Catholic Education attest to this – as do the many past-students who return to the college every year for Alumni Celebrations.

Therese is first and foremost a woman of faith and mercy. Her down to earth, common sense, but nononsense approach has endeared her to generations of St Monica’s students who do not take long to discover her compassion, care and innate fairness for them all. There are many stories told by students who recognise that Sister Therese has been one of the key people who has been transformative and redemptive in their lives. She is always willing to see the good in others – to offer practical advice and support at the same time. This is what has made the difference for students who have found Sister Therese a stalwart at times in their lives when they have been very vulnerable.

A Sister of Mercy in all aspects of her leadership role, Therese has a deep compassion for the poor and a strong sense of the dignity of every human. She has been of enormous support to the students and staff at St Monica’s, particularly, the College Captains who regard her with deep respect and affection. Each year, she gives the speech to Year 11 students about the importance of those they select to lead them in their senior year. Sister is also in charge of the Tree Planting Ceremony held annually, welcoming the new Year 7 students. She is also a vital part of celebrating our 130th Year in 2020. At our first function of the year, Leap for 130, Sister Therese accepted an Art Collage, from the original Mercy House in Dublin, to be displayed in the
College Foyer. 

Sister Therese’s leadership is by example – a lifetime commitment characterised by faith, love, generosity, service and hard work. St Monica’s College has been greatly blessed to have such leadership as provided by Sister Therese Masterson. 

 

 

Give Your Child the Best Start to Their Learning Journey

The Catholic Diocese of Townsville initiated its kindergarten, Mary MacKillop, in 2004. This was under the management of Townsville Catholic Education. They wanted to provide high-quality, accessible and affordable education for Kindergarten children in an environment of lived Catholic values, where children can get the best possible start to their learning journey. 

Sites were established on eight Catholic school sites in Townsville, Charters Towers, Mount Isa and Proserpine. Additionally a ninth site was established in the newly built St Benedict’s Catholic School site at Shaw. One of the greatest benefits of the kindy-school colocation is the continuity of learning. Our kindergartens provide children with opportunities to participate in the life of the Catholic school community. We do this by visiting the library, the local Catholic church, art/science programs, school sporting events, assemblies and special celebrations.

Mary MacKillop Childcare North Queensland’s newly appointed Executive Director, Carolyn Cousins, said the programs and curriculum have grown exponentially. This is due to the addition of the Outside School Hours Care and Holiday Programs on some sites. “The service has grown and changed over the years to meet the needs of the local community and the families across North Queensland,” she said. “Our partnerships with local Catholic schools enable the Mary MacKillop Childcare North Queensland centres to deliver quality education to families. They also allow us provide a clear pathway for their child’s educational journey.”

Throughout the Townsville Diocese, Mary MacKillop Childcare North Queensland are proud to offer a range of learning environments. These environments specifically enrich children’s engagement in the kindergarten.

Our experienced teachers implement high quality educational programs in a stimulating, safe and supportive learning environment. This environment provides the best start to your child’s learning journey and transition to school. “We believe children learn through the process of exploration within an educational, inquiry-based curriculum” Carolyn said. 

Enrolments for 2021 are currently being taken for all services. Centres are located at St Anthony’s Kindergarten Deeragun, St Clare’s Kindergarten Burdell, St Benedict’s Kindergarten Shaw, Ryan Kindergarten Kirwan, St Joseph’s Kindergarten North Ward, Columba Kindergarten Charters Towers, St Catherine’s Kindergarten Proserpine, St Joseph’s Kindergarten Mount Isa and St Michael’s Kindergarten Palm Island.

Read more here

 

 

Classrooms of the Future

Long gone are the ‘chalk and talk’ days that framed old ideas of teaching and learning. The focus in today’s schools is on designing and providing the best possible environments for successful learning.

When parents think ‘classroom,’ our minds often think back to the old days of sitting in rows at individual desks, facing the front and letting the teacher fill us with knowledge. Then we sat an exam to test our recall skills. However, modern research and observations of the way students learn show us that this is no longer considered best practice.

Understanding how children learn has inspired many administrators to rethink and redesign classrooms. Learning in the 21st century is underpinned by teaching methods and spaces that are engaging and challenge our traditional view on classroom teaching and learning. Referred to as flexible learning, it uses spaces and evolving pedagogies to provide environments for creative and energised students and teachers.

Karl Fisch, who was behind the video Shift Happens, states that, “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”

If this is true then it is reasonable to say that the way children are being educated now should be very different to how it was done in the past. Schools for tomorrow need to be focusing on core skills for life: collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication.

Flexible classroom environments are outfitted with appropriate furniture that allows teachers and students to adopt Professor David Thornburg’s archetypal learning spaces, such as:

The “Campfire”

A space where students can gather to learn from an expert or guru.

The “Cave”

A quiet and reflective space where students can activate their diffuse thinking and shift their learning from external knowledge to internal belief.

The “Watering Hole”

An informal space where students can collaborate, as well as share both information and discoveries. They can bounce off each other, thereby it serves as an incubator for ideas.

These are all different ‘zones’ that have specific displays or purposes within flexible classroom models.

In a typical flexible classroom, you could expect to find:

• Students who are active participants in their learning rather than passive vessels, who are challenged to think and do more.

• A design that promotes a sense of enquiry, wonder and excitement.

• Teachers delivering flexible lesson content in either lecture-style, group-style, presentation-style or activity-style.

• Moveable desks and furniture that accommodates different needs and different activities.

• Areas that promote student and teacher communication and collaboration.

These classrooms provide students with a choice of where they undertake their learning tasks. Stadium seating, community booths and standing desks enhance connectedness. Movable furniture such as wobble stools, ottomans and carpet mats provide students with the sensory input they need without distracting themselves or others from learning.

In a research study by Castellucci, Arezes, Molenbroek, de Bruin and Viviani (2016), it was found that characteristics such as high furniture, sit-stand furniture, tilt tables and seats had up to a 64 per cent positive effect on students’ physical responses and/or their performance. 

The benefit of a flexible classroom is its ability to provide an environment where students are motivated to do their best work and allows them to express their knowledge in diverse ways; an environment that has been strategically built and designed to promote curiosity and one that offers students the freedom to engage with content in the way that suits them best. Each child has their own strengths and limitations, so a flexible model seeks to allow a ‘way in’ for every student – one that they may not have had in a more traditionally designed classroom.

In his study, Herman Miller (2008) revealed that “Giving people some control over their surroundings adds to their sense of well-being.” (www.Psychologytoday. com). Barrett Et Al. (2015) also supports that 28 per cent of classroom design factors that drive student engagement also relate to ownership and flexibility.

Technology plays an integral part in the success of these modern learning spaces, with interactive whiteboards, iPads and laptops all being common place. With new advances in technology, new opportunities for engagement and learning are created. Augmented and virtual reality tools are already available to students, enabling them to experience looking at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre from their classroom in Cairns, fly through the Amazon Rainforest or engage in a submarine expedition.

Schools that wish to provide classrooms of the future will need to be constantly evolving to embrace these changes.

It is suggested that today’s learners will have between 10 to 14 jobs before they reach the age of 40. Take a step back in time… the first text message was sent in 1992, today the number of text messages sent and received each day exceeds the world’s population. There are 600 tweets sent per second. If Facebook was a country it would be the third largest in relation to population size. So with this in mind, just what are the future possibilities? Who knows how much schools will have to change as we head into the unknown possibilities the world will present to us.

The introduction of flexible classrooms in relation to space is just the first step, closely followed by flexibility in pedagogy, understanding and assessment, presentation of knowledge and the development of core skills.

Schools will need to continue adopting best practice by analysing research from around the world and constantly adapting their learning environments. This will ensure that every student has the opportunity to do their absolute best.

STORY BY Sarah Rowan, Head of Junior School – Peace Lutheran College.