Since arriving at Galen Catholic College I have had the amazing opportunity to see how our community approaches learning across Year 7 to 12. Each educator in our community uses their skills to support our students on their pathway to success. Unfortunately, for most school communities, the past two years have made it impossible to allow anyone, other than staff and students to see what happens inside our classrooms and our school yard, due to the restrictions placed on our communities. As a new member of Galen Catholic College, I have constantly moved around the school to see learning in action.
Term one saw us start our three-step approach to opening up our community and providing real opportunities for our families and the wider North East community to see who we are, how we approach learning and how they can engage in learning to support students. Our Family Discovery Night in term one started the process of welcoming in current, new and prospective families, as well as members of the wider North East community. The evening was intentionally designed to allow all ages to see who we are and what opportunities we can present to students and families. As principal, one of the great joys in my role is hearing the stories that come from parents who are ex-students walking into the school for the first time since they left the college as young adults or as was the case on the evening, a number of people who live close to school who came for a look. Each conversation brings with it a window to the past that helps me understand more about the learning community, which is Galen Catholic College.
Over term two we move from opening up and sharing who we are, to showing what we do as educators to help our students reach their full potential as learners. A key component to showing what we do i engaging our community in learning. Just before the pandemic commenced, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Karen Mapp, a senior researcher in partnerships among families, community members and schools, from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She highlighted the importance of engaging families in the education of their child and the increased outcomes for students that comes with deeper relationships between families at school, based around learning. In showing what we do, we are moving to a deeper engagement in learning. This is currently being done through our Learning Walks, which myself and other educators at Galen Catholic College are currently running. Learning Walks are not school tours, they provide opportunities to see learning in action, to ask questions and to understand the learning intentions of a specific lesson. I have run Learning Walks in both secondary and primary schools as an educator and for many of the adults who participate in them it is the first time that have had a “real” look inside a classroom since they left secondary education as a young adult. The next stage, which I believe is the most important in engaging families in learning, is developing a strong relationship between the student, the family and school, based around learning goals.
A key point of Karen Mapp’s approach to family engagement was providing opportunities for students, families and educators to come together and design learning goals. Towards the end of term two we move into the learning goal space with our new Year 7 families. During the sessions we will come together and design learning goals which we can all work together to help support, grow and achieve. The move out of the restricted, closed community which has been education since March in 2020, is proving to be an exciting opportunity for all members of the Galen Catholic College community to engage in a relationship where learning is at the core.