The School as a Living Community
They say it takes a village to raise a child.
The School of Total Education invites parents, teachers and children to be part of a living and evolving community in which they all play a vital role.
Building such a community starts with the recognition that the school is not just an arbitrary collection of people — of students, teachers and parents. A community requires a level of cohesion, a sense of shared values, open communication and a level of positive interdependence. The School aims to build this kind of community for the benefit of not only the children but the teachers and parents as well.
Parents and the School
Parents are welcome in the school and have the opportunity to interact with the teachers each day when dropping their children off at school and walking them into the classroom.
Parents are involved in regular discussion groups on parenting where they can raise any issues of concern and share their parenting experiences with others so that the school community can benefit. Parents are also encouraged to reflect on their own personal development and how this influences their children. These small group discussions are supplemented by guest speakers and seminars on topics related to parenting and child development.
Parents assist in caring for the grounds and buildings through working bees. They also participate in preparing cooked meals which are served to the children twice each week.
Support for Families
Inevitably, with any living community, there are issues and problems that arise and it is important that there be processes and structures where these can be aired and resolved. The School welcomes parents’ concerns and provides a number of mechanisms where disputes and issues can be worked through to a satisfactory conclusion.
There is also support for families experiencing difficulties through referral to psychology services affiliated with the School.
Community in the Playground
New parents are sometimes surprised to see Prep and Year 12 students interacting and safely sharing the same playground. Older students are encouraged to take an interest in the welfare of younger students. Each week the older students conduct a whole school game where everybody has a wonderful time. In this way the model of a community is being reinforced by the senior students. Teachers also play an active role in the playground facilitating positive interaction between the children rather than just being on point duty.
Sharing Meals in a Family Atmosphere
Teachers sit down with the children each day in the school dining room for morning tea and lunch, guiding them in table manners and encouraging them to try a variety of foods (cooked lunches are served twice each week). Children help to lay the tables and clear away after the meal. In this way there is a lot of social learning and the children enjoy the family atmosphere which is created.
The whole school community comes together several times a year to share an event or celebration of some kind.
“Special Days” often feature cultural themes and include collectively preparing and sharing a meal. Other events include musical performances, science expos, and the biennial Warwick Peace Festival.
The annual Year 12 Graduation is a highlight of the school year enjoyed by the whole school community and also by past graduates.
Small is Beautiful
The size of the School also makes this sense of community possible. There are around 150 students from Prep to Year 12, with one class at each level and a maximum class size of 13 students. There are 15 full-time teachers and 80–100 families involved in the school.
So both class size and school size are small enough that nobody is overlooked, everybody is included and each individual is needed for the school to fulfil its purpose.
I value the sense of community that exists among the parents, students, teachers and all others involved with the school. Small class sizes, regular parent meetings, a common philosophy and an open attitude all contribute to a unique level of communication amongst all involved with the school. This has resulted in the development of a supportive and cohesive community, a community that the children undoubtedly enjoy.