By Sarah Chin
The study trip covers 7 schools over 5 days with an emphasis to learn about Religious Education in Brisbane schools.
Catholic identity and values
In general, all schools have a visible Catholic identity in their environmental setting, the classrooms have sacred spaces where religious items are placed; outdoor settings have crosses or other Catholic images, to give a very visual reminder of the presence of God.
Prayers are daily rituals, both at school level and class level. Beside standard prayers, there are prayers in connection to what the students are learning to bring about awareness and connectedness that God is our loving Father and we turn to Him in thanksgiving, for guidance, for loving help, and in everything we do.
One of the school, All Saints Primary School, adopts a yearly theme based on Christian Teachings of Love, Faith, Compassion, etc. to inculcate a particular value in the students throughout the year.
And in Christ the King Primary School, where there is a high number of students from disadvantaged background and low population of Catholic students, the school leader adopts a motto of ‘consistent, persistent and insistent’ to reach out to the impoverished students. The religious life of the school is built upon respectful relationship with the families. The students from diverse background are encouraged to be Christ-like in their daily lives through the ‘Make Jesus Real’ programme, which focus on making Christian values come alive not just through teaching but through acting out the values.
Likewise at Assisi Catholic College, the school has an Assisi Habits and Values Framework in developing positive habits and values in students. The school makes efforts to align the framework right down to the preschool level with its age appropriate curriculum to teach the values through the use of ‘Bucket Filler’ strategy. The preschool students learn the values in an engaging way.
Takeaway – I can strengthen the Catholic Identity in my school in providing spaces for the placements of religious items to bring about greater awareness of God. Besides the standard prayers, lesson related prayers can be included before classes to aid in bring God closer to them. The bucket filler strategy can also be implemented in my school for the teaching of Christian values.
Learning Walks and Talks
Across the Catholic schools under Brisbane Catholic Education (BCE), there is a common teaching and learning strategy where learning intentions and success criteria are clearly spelt out for each lesson. Students are aware of what they are learning and have individual goals to meet. The focus is on improving students learning through goal setting at an individual level. Teachers monitor and track each child progress through a Data Wall where all students of the school are represented. Differentiated learning is very visible and students’ process in learning is valued more than how much they have learnt.
The success of the programme is witnessed through ‘learning walks and talks’ where every student is able to articulate what he/she is learning and how he/she is going when being asked.
Takeaway – This is a strategy which can be adopted at preschool. The learning intention for each lesson is clearly outlined. Students are clearly aware of what they are learning. The idea of the Data Wall can be adopted but modified to suit our local context to track students learning in language and literacy and numeracy.
Strong collaboration is evident. BCE plays a pivotal role in establishing a cohesive and strong Catholic education community where school leaders have a common goal in bringing effective teaching and learning strategies back to their schools.
Teachers are reflective and collaborative to bring about the effective monitoring and tracking of students’ learning on the Data Wall. There is strong collaboration at different levels of the school community, between students and students, teachers and students, teachers and teachers, teachers and school leaders, and school and the community.
At All Saints Primary School, parishioner volunteers form a vital pool of learning support aides to help students with learning needs.
Takeaway – I see a need for my teachers to work more cohesively, to work as a team rather than individually to bring about consistent teaching and learning growth. As a leader, it is my goal to bring about that change in my school.
It has been an enriching and inspiring journey with respect to what I saw and learnt while visiting the schools in Brisbane. The study trip has brought about an awareness that I can do so much more to bring out the Catholic Identity in my school. Religious Education need not be limited to teaching the stories of Jesus but more than that, it is a teaching of Christian values that is to be lived out in our daily lives through words and actions.