Learning for Excellence in the Primary School

Learning for Excellence in the Primary School

Thursday, 23 November 2017  | Di - Assistant Principal - Primary
“Teachers work faithfully to be the best they can be at their craft of teaching, within their gifts and abilities. Students work faithfully to be the best learners they can be, according to their gifting. Each works to the glory of God.” Transformational Education page 137

What does learning for excellence look like for MECS Primary?

Can every student reach his or her potential? Can a student achieve at MECS Primary or is it just a ‘nice’ place to be where the teachers love you?

At MECS we don’t often use the word excellence. So let’s consider the word excellence… What is excellence? Is it being better than all the rest?

The dictionary meaning as defined by says ‘excellence is the quality of being excellent’. ‘An excellent quality or valuable quality: virtue’.

According to this dictionary definition, excellence is something that holds the quality of excellence. It needs to be highly valued and have great virtue.

If we put this in a school setting a student who shows excellence is displaying a high degree of workmanship/competence, and excellent qualities/virtues in both their work and life at school. This is not in comparison to others. There are no league tables or rankings as part of this definition. Aristotle defined the art of excellence by the choices we make to produce it: our habits.

‘Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit'. Aristotle:
It is the habits we form which lead us toward excellence, not just what we produce but how we do it and how we train ourselves to the task or role.

I love the idea of quality workmanship, of students striving to demonstrate and display these qualities, their highest virtues in every way, with the faithfulness that they apply to their work. I believe this to be true in all areas of education, academic, social, sporting and artistic. It is in the process of creating, making, discussing, evaluating, negotiating, working hard at something to gain mastery and competency; not just in the end product that might be produced, that excellence is displayed. It is through this journey that beautiful work comes into being.

In every day life at MECS Primary, we are excited to see that our academically capable students are equal to and sometimes above the State and National standards in a number of areas on our 2017 NAPLAN. We are also excited that many of students have been making good solid progress in their NAPLAN scores. We want to encourage all our students to make gains toward the habits and virtues of excellence. We love that our students can display their abilities at such things as ‘Tournaments of the Mind’ and win their way through once again to the State finals. Each year a number of our Primary students participate in the National Maths competitions and do really well.  We were thrilled that we have had students go through to Athletics Regional finals, and that our students were able to put on a quality musical production displaying their performance skills. There are many opportunities to exceed and show excellence in Maths, English, Core Studies, Sports, the Arts, and in the playground. We want to encourage a culture and an expectation for all students to strive to do their ‘best’ through the habits they develop. Our teachers are adept at mapping student’s learning so that they can set high expectations, and make work challenging and interesting at the right level for all students but also to meet the needs of our most academically capable students.

Recently I met up with one of our students at Lillydale Lake ‘Parkrun’. As I staggered over the line pleased with finishing my run I saw Mia (Year 5) who had just done a ‘Personal Best’. We traded stories of how my best on Saturday was to finish but her best was to blitz the field coming in around 24 minutes. It reminded me of how my excellence that day was to continue my journey to be the best runner I could be and finish the 5 km. For Mia’s it was to excel in the field and gain a PB on the day. We are all different but giving our all is what counts, and persisting to do our best. For each student, excellence will look different. MECS Primary is working together to cultivate the ‘habit’ of excellence.

Let’s celebrate together ‘excellence’ in the virtues we see, the growth of our students and in the beautiful work that they produce.

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