If you were to ask, most parents of St Peters students would identify ‘the community feel’ as being one of the biggest selling points of our school. But what makes this ‘community’ and how is it developed and fostered?
The dictionary defines ‘community’ as: a group of people leading a common life according to a rule; the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common.
The students at St Peters are actively involved in the ‘governing’ process of their community. Each week, they bring forward topics, concerns and ideas; speaking openly and receiving honest and considered responses first from their classmates – in class meetings — then, if the class agrees, they are submitted to the Year Sevens as an agenda item at the weekly whole-school meeting. Meetings are a vital tool for developing a student’s feeling of control over their environment. This leads to a sense of responsibility, and in turn to action and empowerment.
Whole school meetings — planned, managed and minuted entirely by the Year Sevens — begin with a Welcome to Country and acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land on which the school is built. The items from the classes are brought forward by class delegates; they are discussed and shared with an emphasis on mutual respect, fairness, tolerance and the democratic process. Next, news items are shared featuring events and current affairs happening both within the school and in the wider community – nationally and internationally. Then celebrations recognised and presentations are made for sporting, academic and extra-curricular achievements.
Class and whole school meetings bring about a sense of ownership over the students’ environment and learning as they are actively involved in planning, collaborating on projects, identifying issues, deciding on consequences, seeking solutions and developing action for the issues raised. Teachers are invited to contribute and are consulted should the students need guidance, clarification or to keep the meeting flowing.
The benefits and results of a whole-school approach include:
- Opportunities to develop and practise communication and social skills;
- The building of positive relationships with trust and respect;
- Providing a setting where students can recognise abilities, describe activities and even admit mistakes;
- Improved self-confidence and greater self-esteem – when an individual’s particular contribution has been seen to lead to a worthwhile solution;
- Empathy, fairness, tolerance and helpfulness are developed;
- The learning of peaceful and civil ways to deal with different points of view; and
- The recognition that there is often more than one way to deal with a challenge.
Our Year Sevens thrive on the responsibility of managing and leading this important function of our school, developing into strong, empathetic and confident young people. Community minded youth will become community minded adults — a positive sign for the future.
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