So today I thought I would put our ‘character building’ to the test. I teach year 1 on a Monday afternoon and I decided that I would evaluate how well we teach our values and how well children understand the key principles that we have been pushing since September 2013. I thought Year 1 would be the ultimate way to analyse this…..I know year 6 can talk about it….but how well would the Year 1’s be able to verbalise what we do as a school. How well would they remember and understand the themes, stories and discussions we have in our whole school collective worships?
So, taking an evaluation exercise and slightly adapting it from ‘Listening to the Voice of the Learner’ found here: http://www.going4growth.org.uk/downloads/Worcester_Listening_to_the_Voice_of_the_Learner.pdf
I told the children that we needed to explain to an alien what makes our school different to any other school. What is it that we do that develops character? I asked them to imagine themselves leaving our school in year 6 – what type of children would they be? I explained that we needed to tell this alien how we became the children we were because of what we did in school…..(It was much clearer than this when I was setting the children off in their discussion!)
I had the children discuss their ideas in groups. I knew the children would be able to give me the key principles I was looking for……but I didn’t expect the responses that came. There were two other adults in the classroom……I am so glad they were there because I would have doubted myself in what I then began to hear.
The children talked about our core values; Faith, Service, Truth, Integrity, Responsibility and Excellence. When I asked them what each value meant, they could tell me. They repeated almost word for word some of the sayings that I had told them in our collective worship sessions. For instance, one child said…”you always tell us that service can be as simple as a smile!” When I asked them about ‘Integrity’ (which often is the one most difficult to comprehend) another child explained the story of the emperor which I had read in collective worship to highlight the meaning of this value……he had remembered a story I had read last year! A year one child! He could tell me exactly what had happened in the story and how it was relevant to integrity.
Another child then talked about the difference between Batman and Superman. A discussion then took place where some other children explained how Batman has to work hard to be who he is and that we ask the children to do the same thing in school.
Children then talked about what is meant to ‘be a purple leaner’ and ‘to be the very best they could be.’ They could tell me what we expected from them and how they should always challenge themselves….push themselves to do more difficult work. They could also explain that failure was only when you gave up……that mistakes were the best part of learning…..that they could make 200 mistakes before they got things right but that they should never give up.
Then another hand shot up. He said, “You teach us how to have grit!” And I replied, “What does grit mean?” He retorted,”It means you have resilience and perseverance….you don’t give up. It means you know how to learn!” “You teach us how to learn…….”
I left that class on air today……
If we aren’t teaching about character…..I don’t know what else you could call it……
All I know is that what we are doing is working……they are listening to what we are telling them in class and in collective worship. I often wonder if they grasp all the concepts we keep throwing their way…..
Today they proved they do……
This is what it is all about…….