Letter Home: Week 9

Dear Parents, Staff and Friends, I am writing this Letter Home looking down from my room at the city streets of Adelaide. What a beautiful city! Andy and I, along with Principal, David Baker, Rod Davies and Kate Bird from Minimbah, and other Woodleigh Senior Campus staff, have been immersed in a truly inspiring conference: The IB Global Conference – Education for an Inclusive Future.

Presenters from across the globe have challenged our thinking, enabling us to engage in deep conversations about our schools’ visions, directions for the future and our continued commitment to educational improvement for every student and child. The time to reflect as a professional Woodleigh learning team has likewise been a wonderful opportunity to further get to know each other and to appreciate the diverse contexts of our campuses and offerings. We have an amazing school!

Special conference moments included the Opening Reception that involved a panel of young people including a Woodleigh student Char Palmer. We were all so proud to listen to Char present on issues of diversity and inclusion in schools. Personally, I loved the opportunity to reflect on the interdependence of our curriculum approaches to ensure the mission and vision of the IB (and specifically for us, the PYP) integrates and connects with the guiding statements, beliefs, and principles of our school. It was wonderful to meet educators from across Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, China, and Hong Kong to mention a few, and to hear from First Nations peoples who came together to share their insights and incredible knowledge.

We were able to contribute to a discussion about partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and for our campus, to share our excitement about our Wugularr friends’ arrival to celebrate the coming together of our schools that began in 2009 - Wugubank.

Cultural Diversity and Wugubank Week

As we head towards the last two weeks of the term, we excitedly look forward to Cultural Diversity Week - Everyone Belongs. Sharing special times across the week with our Wugularr friends is going to be so exciting as we live, learn, and play together. I especially thank the host families from Year 5 and 6 who will be host parents to the 25 children who will be joining us. A special feature of their time with us is the Harmony Day celebrations on Thursday that will move into our Harmony Day Picnic. I am so looking forward to us all coming together in celebration of community, where everyone belongs. School Meeting on Thursday morning will also be very special.

Extending Learning Through Experience

Enabling children to experience many facets of learning develops courageous young people equipped with the skills to manage challenging times. Camps and excursions provide these opportunities to participate in different ways and navigate experiences as part of a team or learning community.

The specialist areas of our curriculum provide these opportunities in addition to experiences that enhance the learning that takes place at school. This week we see our little ones in Britt and Charlotte’s Year 1 and 2 groups venture into the city. Heading into Melbourne by train and investigating the systems that enable us to function as a community promotes further understanding of the concepts relating to the Unit of Inquiry, How the World Works. Year 3 and 4 children in Katherine and Justin’s groups are preparing for their camp to Golden Valley’s Ranch during the last week of term. The students in Homestead, Year 5 and 6, along with their families, will learn so much from their Wugularr friends as they share culture and ways of life unique to each other’s experience. The opportunities to share and learn together in this intercultural environment are heartfelt and profound. We conclude the term celebrating these most meaningful times.

Living and learning at Penbank goes beyond the four walls of our classrooms. Grateful for our superb, spacious surrounds, children investigate and inquire as explorers and discoverers at bush kinder. Immersed in the natural bush setting of a corner of our property, children engage with nature along with their educators who expertly provide the physical, mental, social and spiritual space for children to concentrate, learn, create, solve problems, to relax and just be.

At the IB Conference, June Oscar, a proud Bunuba woman from Fitzroy Crossing, and the current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, stressed the importance of getting classrooms outside and looking beyond to see the gift in every child.

As we conclude the term, we acknowledge the wonderful learning and achievements of children and staff in so many ways – swimming, music, artistic pursuits and simply learning to listen, see, and reflect. As June said, it’s so important to create nourishing spaces, and indeed we do.

Staff News and Acknowledgements

I would like to thank all staff for the wonderful effort this term. From the outset, they have embraced the many commitments during and beyond the school day that are a part of beginning a school year at the school’s junior campuses. Our priority to engage with families and children, to enable children to successfully participate at Penbank with positivity and optimism, has been our priority. I thank all staff immensely for their commitment to teaching and learning including the many associated experiences and concern for our children at Penbank.

We welcome Tashina Wilfred (Koimala Brown) to our Early Learning Centre. Tashina has commenced a traineeship in Early Childhood at Penbank in collaboration with Chisholm Institute. Tashina is from Beswick, NT, and was last at Penbank when she visited as part of the Wugubank Partnership when she was 12! We are very proud of Tashina as she embraces this opportunity, and we are loving her contribution to our Early Learning team and children.

We congratulate Arcadia Shannon-Jones (Early Learning) on her marriage to James. A beautiful celebration a few weekends ago, we wish Arcadia and James the joys of a wonderful future together. We also congratulate Charlotte Wearne on her engagement to Paddy. We wish them the very best of luck as they plan for their wedding day too.

It’s also congratulations to Sarina Canning (Year 5). We have recently received the exciting news that Sarina is expecting a baby in September. We wish her well in the weeks and months ahead as she plans for the safe arrival of her little one. We will be planning for Sarina’s Maternity Leave during Term 2.

I congratulate Janine Everett (Visual Arts) for her personal success as an artist which was recently highlighted in the recent edition of the Country Style magazine. A wonderful portrayal of her creativity and talent, we are extremely lucky to have Janine pass on her passion for the Visual Arts to our children.

Esther Holt, Year 3 to 6 classroom music and piano teacher, is also to be congratulated for achieving a contract with the ABC. Along with her co-singer Maddy Kelly, The ABC are releasing these very catchy children’s songs over the next few weeks. Known as ‘Whistle and Trick’ we have thoroughly enjoyed learning the wonderfully energetic songs that have been released thus far. Do have a listen … the songs are lots of fun!

Finally, Jodie Kirchner (PYP Co-ordinator) has decided it is time to pursue other pathways with her career. Jodie leaves us to work at the University of Melbourne at the Asian Education Foundation. We thank Jodie for the enormous task of implementing the PYP at our junior campuses. With the challenge of COVID, Jodie successfully enabled our staff to implement the PYP, which led to our authorisation as a PYP school early 2022. We thank Jodie for her contribution introducing both Penbank and Minimbah to the PYP and acknowledge the enormous effort required when making significant change. Our thanks and best wishes, Jodie.

So, enabling is a word that has surfaced a few times in this Letter Home. So, what does it mean to be an enabler?

Enabling can be positive or negative. We can enable someone to succeed, or we can enable someone to avoid. In our context, we wish to see enabling in a positive way that promotes a ‘can do’ approach of rigour, sticking with the routine and responsibility. As parents, I encourage you to consider, ‘how am I an enabler?’ Is my enabling optimistically encouraging or empowering or am I encouraging dependence and uncertainty.

As we head into Term 2, I encourage you to be an agent of positivity and ‘you can do it!’ We will be there to support you all the way. As challenging as it can be at times, school is a wonderful place of learning, especially at Woodleigh, and we know that success at school comes from being there every day, on time and present to all that is going on.

I look forward to your continued involvement and support, and to the wonderful week ahead as we all come together in celebration of Cultural Diversity Week with our friends from Wugularr School and the Beswick community, NT. It’s also Wugubank Week where everyone belongs!

Time to get together!

Warm regards,

Head of Penbank campus