Be proud, be very proud

There has been a lot of media attention lately regarding the behaviour of our Victorian school students, with many schools citing aggressive and rude behaviour towards staff. In a recent study of our disciplinary climate, Australian schools ranked 70th out of 77 participating nations for discipline. This damning statistic has mainly been attributed to the disruptions our students have experienced over the last two years. In response to these figures, the Australian Education Research Organisation will access $3.5 million to assist schools in training teachers and by providing targeted training materials to address classroom management, with the support of the Federal Government.

In pondering these concerning statistics, I wondered how it could be related to Carey. I needed to find out for myself, so I decided to do my own learning walk around our busy classrooms to see what all the fuss was about.

What I saw needs to be shared.

I witnessed in excess of 30 classrooms in action, each with at least 25 students. Classrooms were set up in eclectic and varied patterns, with most teachers standing up at the front, back or side to teach. Many classrooms were completely open, with a large glass sliding door being absorbed by the concrete wall. All classrooms were visible, thanks to floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Teachers and students alike would happily wave, with many beckoning me to enter to see what they were studying. Teachers weren’t worried about being judged, as they appeared to have mastery of the content and most students seemed engaged and involved.

My role as Deputy Head of Middle School – Wellbeing, allows me to spend time visiting classrooms and roaming the hallways. What I predominantly see are students collaborating with each other, teachers showing genuine interest in their students and an engaged and respectful environment – without sounding too much like the fictional Disney character Pollyanna! We know there are challenges. Students still need our support in reacclimatising to life in the fast lane at Carey, and some need our guidance on how to embrace the notion of respect: for ourselves, each other and the environment. Games in class continue to be a bug bare, with good old Tetris being a current trigger point. There are challenges; however, we (teachers) actively accept these, and through our commitment to relational practices and to delivering consistent and appropriate consequences, we know we can assist students in making positive change. An example of this process in action is the 30-plus lunchtime ‘catch-up’ sessions that students have partaken in to ensure that their class work and behaviour is up to standard in our classrooms.

Our Middle School students have been thrust back into the school environment with little prep time – but they have embraced our culture, been flexible to change and many of our cohort are seizing opportunities for development and growth. The SRC now actively pick up rubbish at lunchtimes, as do many staff, not as a punishment, but because they want to. Our students have endured many learning disruptions, with most teachers and students directly impacted by COVID-19 at some stage this term. They have worn masks and sat two seats apart, and are now back together. These adjustments have been quite seamless, which can’t be said for the rest of society. Earlier this term, we asked students to vacate the Middle School building at recess and lunchtimes and they obliged with few complaints. This has led to a physical learning environment that would be the envy of most schools.

Overall, students have shown enormous resilience and a pleasing level of grit to complete the first term. In our opinion, you should be proud of your children – we certainly are.

Harry Dendle
Deputy Head of Middle School – Student Wellbeing

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