While it has only been a few short weeks, a huge amount has happened between the start of the year and now. Students have started a brand new set of school routines and have settled into life with new classmates and teachers… we’ve covered roughly 23% of the planned programme for this academic year… and a number of key events like the Parent Information Fair, the Scholarship Morning Tea and the Year 4-6 Swim Carnival and mid-term break are now under our belts!
However, it strikes me that the real impact of this time period on our young people will not have centred on formal programmes, routines or structures. My guess is that some of the most important lessons will have come from much more abstract, less tangible aspects of life in our College community. Consider for a moment your own childhood, and what you learned while you were at school. How much of the learning that you have carried with you into later life came from the planned curriculum, versus from your friends, the school’s social and cultural environment, and your relationships with key adults? How much of your learning happened outside the four walls of the classroom? How much of it happened in ways that no-one really intended, and that could not easily be measured?
Schools use the term ‘hidden curriculum’ to describe those aspects of schooling that cannot easily be observed, planned, or quantified, but that often go on to provide a basis for the values, perspectives, characteristics and attributes of the learners who experience them. It is ironic (and as an educator, frustrating!) that some of the most important educational outcomes we seek for students – those that go to the question of what type of person they become – are a result of aspects of school life that it is extremely difficult to grapple with.
However, that is exactly the challenge that faces any school interested in Character Education. As we pursue our Visible Wellbeing journey with Professor Lea Waters, we are learning more and more how important it is that the complex network of relationships, values and practices that exists outside of our formal programmes acts positively to develop students’ character. In a way, it could be said that the core of our work as a College at the moment is about taking the hidden curriculum and making it more visible and more intentional.
The reason for this is clear: if we want to be able to stand by our promise as a community that our young people will learn to Grow. Discover. And Dream., we have to be able to take an intentional approach to those aspects of their learning environment that contribute most powerfully to this. If our DC students can be raised as people of character who can recognise strengths in themselves and others, and use their strengths to make a difference, they will be leaders in a world that is calling out for leadership.
So over the coming months you can expect to see us continuing to work on this important question: how do we foster intentional approaches to the development of character? I look forward to updating you further as this important endeavour unfolds.