It’s a tricky time to be a parent of school aged children. You are quite literally hit with so much information, much of it conflicting and some of it emotive.
Social media doesn’t help! Unfortunately, all of these pieces of disparate information can lead to fear, anxiety and then stress for you, as you seek to make the most appropriate decisions for your children.
In the past several weeks, there has been media about direct instruction versus inquiry learning; about a phonics based approach to the teaching of early literacy versus the whole language methodology that many of you experienced as children; about whether students should have access to technology, or not; and a plethora of other seemingly news worthy stories that, regardless of their intent, result in heightened anxiety in parents about their children’s education and their lives in general.
Some parents have asked me what I think about these issues, and my answer is always the same, that they each represent dangerous and unnecessary false dichotomies. You know that at Knox Prep, our programs are firmly based in a strong and carefully considered evidence base. For us, best practice incorporates elements from each side of the scale, as we seek to offer your sons a balanced and rich set of experiences. We do not push any agendas, and we do not engage in debate about them. Instead, we make conscious and considered choices about our pedagogy, at every point of the process. That means that there are times when we use explicit instruction, and there are times when we lead the boys through a carefully constructed and guided inquiry process. In fact, the beginning phase of our investigative units always involves explicit instruction, a building of a knowledge base, as it is impossible to embark on an inquiry into something that one knows nothing about. The beauty of our process, though, is that we place no limits on the extent to which our boys take their learning in that independent phase of the unit. We are always amazed at just how far they go, and how deep their learning is.
The debate over phonics versus whole language is also a false dichotomy. There is no question that explicit phonics instruction is vital for early readers, but it is similarly important for our boys to engage in rich discussions about texts that are read to them, as they are developing their listening and comprehension skills and their understanding of quality literature. It is never as simple as one method over another. Our programs take the best of all of these approaches, with carefully planned and structured phonics based learning, as well as exposure to rich, high quality literature.
The use of technology in schools is another contentious issue that really doesn’t need to be. At Prep, we unashamedly use technology responsibly to create, to invent and solve authentic problems. There is no standalone technology use, no printing of 3D name badges, and no unsupervised use for gaming. We do, however, ask parents to monitor their sons’ use of technology at home, for we all know that nothing good comes from unsupervised accessed to content that is inappropriate for them, and we also recognise the dangers inherent in unlimited access to gaming platforms.
So, we do not subscribe to false dichotomies. In all that we do, we seek balance for your sons. Balance in terms of their learning, their social skills, their physical skills and the development of their faith; balance is at the forefront of our minds, in deciding on our programs and processes, with your sons and their own individual stories at the centre.
Along similar lines, I have begun reading a newly released book titled, “Generation Alpha’ by Mark McCrindle and Ashley Fell. Generation Alpha children are those born from 2010, so literally all of our Prep boys! They will inherit a world where the demographics are considerably different to that which currently exists, and they will literally be looking after us when we’re old! For that, if no other reason, we need to seek to understand them and to help them to navigate the world they live in, which is vastly different to that which I grew up in, and somewhat different to your own experiences. We cannot just foist our experiences onto them. I am planning to facilitate a Book Club using this book, during Book Week in Term 3, and would encourage you to have a read beforehand.
‘A name given to a new generation, like a name given to a new baby, is part of their identity but it is not who they are. What is more important than the name we are given is the name we make for ourselves.’
I see it as our responsibility, together, to assist our young people, Generation Alpha, to understand not only their rights but their responsibilities, as the leaders of our future; as such, it is also our job to seek to understand how to shape them, through rich and powerful learning experiences, so that this understanding of their responsibility comes naturally to them.
Mrs Sue Floro, Head of Knox Prep
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