Posted on August 19, 2019 / From the Principal
Lunch with the Principal – giving our young people a voice!
Our student-driven Green Team and the impressive impact they have had on our School community in a short time has reinforced the importance of empowering our students’ voice. Their agency and activity have been very impressive, but it is not the only way students can significantly influence the School both during their time and long after they leave.
Each year for the last four, I have met for lunch with our Year 12 students in their House and gender groups. At these lunches, I ask each student three things. What are your plans for next year and beyond, what is one thing that has been particularly good for you at Tintern, and what should we change at Tintern? A number of their suggestions on the last of these have been enacted, either at the time or since, because they were good ideas that adults had either not thought of or were not aware of. We will continue to do this, and in doing so, not only improve the student experience but also encourage student agency.
Top of the list of broader things (as opposed to smaller operational observations) we should change over the four years has to do with the Parallel model. To assist with easing the transition into Senior College and ensuring there is better effectiveness for students in the first six months of Year 10, students feel we need to provide more opportunities for boys and girls to collaborate, in Year 9 particularly. While the Year 9 experience contains many more of these opportunities than it did in 2016, when our current Year 12s were in Year 9, the students feel there is still more to do here. On this, there has been a consistent Year 12 student voice over the last two or three years for co-educational Year 9 electives ahead of Year 10. They argue for bringing together boys and girls where they have a shared interest (the elective subject) in preparation for much more of it in Year 10.
They are also aware that this would mean a broader range of electives and they feel that would be a significant improvement for students too. While we will not be doing this in 2020, we will shortly commence a wholesale review of our electives program with this being just one aspect of the review. Year 12 students have also advocated for more shared spaces in Year 9, to get used to being around each other as a matter of course and the “why”, “what” and “how” of this are things the School Executive are currently looking at.
Their reflections of what has been good are also varied, but the strongest are also around the Parallel Model. The value of the parallel teaching, particularly in Middle School, has come up early on in just about every lunch for the last four years. Students feel it assists with not only academic development but also with confidence and openness to discussion, questioning with teachers and relationships inside the classroom. These have been consistently related by Year 12s since these lunches began. They also speak in glowing terms of the willingness of staff to give up time outside class, to help students beyond expectations, of the genuine care that staff have for the welfare and growth of students, and for the way their relationships with staff develop as they move through the school. As a Principal, a current parent, and as a member of our community, I am proud to hear them speak of their teachers like this.
So, there is a clear message for me in these lunches, ask and you will hear. Our Year 12 students consistently offer thoughtful and significant responses when asked their views, and are always confident, mature and considered in expressing them. They see they have a role in improving the world, which is wonderful to see.
Factis non verbis