Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Round Square Inspiration

Abraham Lincoln wrote years and years ago that:

"The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next."

What philosophy is in our classrooms now? What are we really teaching this generation? 

I was forced to really think about this when earlier this month I was able to attend the International Round Square conference in Florida. It was an inspirational and seriously thought provoking conference with amazing speakers who have really made a difference in the world.

I can't write about everything in one post (- look for later posts because I will write about some of these amazing people soon -) but I thought that today would be a good time to start to put some of my thoughts about the conference into written form.

This is a long post but I hope that you will take the time to read it all...

Our school has been a Round Square school for quite a few years and I have been aware of the ideals and principles of the organization but I haven't really been involved. This conference changed my whole outlook. It decided my class assembly theme and has caused me to really look at what I think is  important in education.

Round Square is an association of international schools - more than 100 now - on 5 continents, that represent 60,000 students. The international conference had 500 student representatives from around the globe as well as 200 teachers and heads.

The organization was founded on the ideas of Kurt Hahn, a philosopher (who was also responsible for the formation of the United World College movement, the Duke of Edinburgh Award and Outward Bound.)

Kurt Hahn believed that it is "the foremost task of education to ensure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion."

I loosely translated these qualities for my children into: courage, curiosity, creativity, leadership, principles, generosity and compassion and we produced our assembly using these words - and the IDEALS of Round Square - as our focus.

The IDEALS are the pillars of a Round Square school - they are what we believe in and what our educational program is hinged on.
Internationalism, Democracy, Environment, Adventure, Leadership and Service.

The problem to date has been that most of the Round Square activities are for older children - for middle school and up - so my challenge was to see how we can fully integrate the ideals into Primary.

 My class and I brainstormed and we came up with the idea of a Round Square Ripple club.

We based our idea on the quote by Mother Teresa:

"I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples."

We held a Round Square table talk where we arranged our desks into a big square and we brainstormed ideas.

We talked about ways to integrate internationalism and service and leadership into our classrooms and my girls came up with great ideas.

We decided that we could work really hard to learn another language - we do Spanish but no-one is fluent so we decided that we could ask our 2 Spanish-speaking students to help us all learn it better; we can re-link with schools in other countries through our class blog. (Last year we linked with a school in Wales and in Morocco and this year there is a possibility of adding Romania, Columbia, South Africa and Wisconsin, USA to our international classroom!)

We talked about service and the little things we could do (like growing our hair for Locks of Love or donating our birthday money to the SPCA).

We decided that at recess we would pick up any trash that we could find and we discussed our school garden (Year 4 will take ownership of one garden bed this year so we will be planting vegetables)

We talked about the things that we think make a great leader.

These are, of course, things that we talk about at school all the time but this was the first time that I felt like my class was really taking ownership of it.

They painted pictures for their assembly, they got the video camera and interviewed other Primary students to find out what they knew about Round Square (sadly, very little!) and we put together a powerpoint to showcase the IDEALS with photos from Primary to show what we are doing already.

It was a huge success - and my class have been asked to repeat their assembly for the Secondary department on November 19th.

This is, of course, wonderful and my children are thrilled - but the biggest thing about this assembly, and the conference, for me was that it really made me think about the way I teach, why I teach and what our responsibility as educators really is.

School is much, much more than simply teaching children to read and write - we have a huge responsibility to the future generations of our world. If we don't teach them the principles of kindness, love, tolerance, generosity and compassion NOW then our world is going to be a miserable place in the future.

Today we read about atrocious acts occurring in schools all the time - the incident at Sandy Hook shocked the world - but smaller acts of bullying and unkindness take place all the time in our classrooms and schools.

It's our job as teachers to make a difference. And we do that though compassion and love for our students.

"Not all of us can do great things but we can all do small things with great love." 
Mother Teresa.

God grant me the ability to do this in my classroom - every day.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Nothing more I can say. Wow. I feel inspired just reading about this and wish I had the opportunity to be part of a learning environment like that. Can't wait to read more!