Since my last post it seems that there has hardly been any time to sit long enough to collect myself and reflect on the weeks that have gone past. Government (at least ours) have been mercifully quiet about education (the insistence on teaching sex education notwithstanding), whilst there is a new confidence among us at school about the future. The narrative we have prepared for OFSTED is defensible and clear, with more work being done to raising the quality of children’s learning all the time. We have prepared and taught some good training on What if Learning and Dialogic Talk – two aspects of our Theory of Learning that require regular encouragement lest they fail to embed as deeply as we would like. We have enjoyed another week celebrating Shakespeare’s work, and have been more aware of the work we are doing to prepare for a SIAMS inspection in the summer.
And it is the start of Lent, of course. Lent this year coincided precisely with St David’s Day, and we made a valiant attempt to link the two together in Collective Worship. The key was to focus on St David’s famous dictum Gwnewch y pethau bychain – do the little things well. As a school, we have, along with thousands of others, signed up to do the 40Acts of kindness and generosity during Lent: doing little things well is pretty much what it is all about.
We began by singing Calon Lan in both Welsh and English – 60 or so of the children had learnt the song as part of this year’s Young Voices material – and the English translation above is poetic enough to be sung well by children. The verse in English actually links beautifully to a Lenten theme of looking at the heart and motivation of our actions, and we used it as part of a prayer:
I’d not ask a life that’s easy,
Gold and pearls so little mean,
Rather seek a heart that’s joyful,
Heart that’s honest, heart that’s clean.
Help us, Lord, do the little things well, so our friends but also our enemies, our families but also strangers, our school and our home, are blessed with Your love and generosity.
Doing the 40Acts has been a good thing for us, because it has rooted a theological understanding with a practical outworking, and thus contributed to the best kind of theology.
Alongside that. since the start of term, we have been trying to help children learn about Jesus through his “I am” statements in John’s gospel. Again, these require a lot of explanation to make them real to children and I have been really impressed by the role of imagination in the chaplaincy team’s thinking in being able to make these things real. It causes me to think that imagination is therefore a key component of the theological process, rather than simple exegesis and systematic interpretation. Bringing these statements alive for children has been both important work and hard work, and some of what has worked has been the following:
- A strong visual focus – both of display as we go through the statements, but also objects of interest at the front of the hall that raise children’s expectations and excitement about what is going to happen, and the use of film.
- A strong involvement by children, as actors, contributors and active listeners, so they become co-creators of the learning that emerges from the collective worship
- A good awareness of the scripture and its traditional interpretation so that “wacky” interpretations are less likely to be given airtime
- A focus on story to interpret the scripture, so that children have a narrative understanding of something rather than a static one.
- A sense of mystery and “set-apart-ness” that has helped children and adults refocus their mindset.
- A variety of adult voices.
All of these could apply to all our collective worship at Christ the Sower, but it has been somehow richer and deeper this term because of the level of challenge to the adults preparing it!