What we can learn from children

20 December 2017
St Agnes Catholic High, Rooty Hill reenacting the nativity scene. Image: Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.

Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

Most people think that the end of the school as a ‘wind-down’ period. The reality is that for most schools, it is the busiest time of year. There are final reports to be written, Christmas concerts to be organised and assemblies to be coordinated. We can be mistaken in thinking that the learning ends when the teaching of the curriculum does. Not so!

For the past year, I have written about how schools, teachers and parents can enrich learning for students. Young people can also be powerful teachers, and the season of Christmas is a time when we can learn valuable things from them. Children are full of the spirit of Christmas with their open minds and kind hearts. They find their joy in simplest things.

Whenever I visit schools, I am always humbled by the kindness and inclusiveness of young people whether it is in making a new student or visitor to the school feel welcome or their wish to do some worthwhile in the community. The generosity of young people to give whatever they have (even their hair!) to help others, particularly the disadvantaged and marginalised, is humbling and inspiring at the same time. They are the spirit of Christmas.

Children also have a strong sense of fairness.They are passionate about creating more just societies and a sustainable planet. Young people’s voices need to be heard when making decisions that impact on their lives and their futures.

While most children will be looking forward to spending Christmas with those they love who love them, there are many young people for whom Christmas is neither a time of joy or peace. For some of them, school is one of the few safe places they have where they feel welcome and supported. Holidays can be a scarier time for them. Perhaps the most valuable gift we can give all young people is equal access to a good education and creating environments for them that are free of violence and fear.

This is the final Top of the Class column for the year. Thank you for your support and for the valuable feedback and comments you post on social and email. It has provided insight as well as ideas for upcoming columns. I wish you and your family a safe and happy Christmas. See you back here in 2018.

Greg Whitby

Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta


Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
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