Friday, 29 September 2017

A "Sporty" School Year Kick-starts with a Visit to the Olympic Stadium Tom Daley diver Olympics British
The Olympian and champion diver Tom Daley 
training. Photo by my six-year-old, who brought 
her pink camera with her.
How lucky is this girl and her schoolmates?

M has been to field trips to nearby areas and to London during pre-school and since she started primary school in 2015. For two years in a row, the school treated them to "secret trips" at the start of the school year (Read about last year's trip here). It is entirely hush-hush that we don't have a clue till the day where they are headed to. On this occasion, we parents kind of had a clue that the trip would involve swimming as the school letters required the children to bring swimwear, but the children were kept in the dark till they reached the destination. Oh, all right. I might have heard the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London being mentioned but there was no confirmation. I didn't know what M would feel about swimming (she did have some practice during our summer holiday at the villa in Italy), but I thought she'd be all right as they'd do other sporting activities.

We're only on our third year at M's school and I could see how the curriculum works. Each year, they focus on a subject and work around that area, teaching the children and giving them projects related to the theme. The children get to experience new and exciting opportunities and develop skills in a range of curriculum areas. This year the focus is on how sport and P.E. can inspire students to rise to challenges and raise aspirations.

M's class at the Olympic Stadium in London 
(photo from the school website)
As I'm not a sporty person, I have a tendency (more like defence mechanism) to frown upon any portrayal of sports that tend to mislead many youths and make them believe that to be a [football player] is the easiest path to success. But to show sports for what it really is: the hard work and determination that go with learning and training for a particular field is a different matter altogether and leaves me in awe. It requires hours of practice (and in most cases, a lot of money) to train a child to excel in a particular sport, even if he/she already has talent for it.

Ten days before their secret trip to London, international athlete Luke Delahunty visited M's school, encouraging the children in their sponsored circuits activities in the morning, followed by sharing his story during assembly. As a 24-year-old serving in the RAF, Luke was paralysed from the chest down after his motorbike crashed with a tractor on his way to work. We now know Luke as a hand-cyclist and rower and he also represented the country in the 2016 Invictus Games, an international Paralympic-style multi-sport event founded by Prince Harry. When I write of Luke's achievements here it might sound very easy, but changing your course through life even for people who don't sustain life-changing injuries is a hurdle and that's what's truly inspiring about his story, that one's potential is endless. He had such a busy schedule that on the same day, he rushed to the One Show for an Invictus Games special on BBC 1 after visiting M's school, and this week he is at the Invictus Games in Toronto to represent the country once again. Tom Daley diver Olympics British
Tom Daley and his coach, Jane, were presented 
the Pride medals from M's school; on the right 
are Tom's Olympic training partners (photo 
from the school website).
Admittedly, I was more excited than I should have been when I heard M's school would go to the Olympic Park. This past week I kept reminding M to look after herself, she didn't want to catch any bug or she might miss the trip, a very rare opportunity, indeed. I guess this was not bad compared to other little things I worry about when I think of her out in the world without me. Should I let her bring the school water bottle or just a normal water bottle that she could dispose of after using? "Do you know how to open a [normal] water bottle?" I asked her. Of course I took it upon myself to unseal the bottle before packing it in her bag. I would have loved to come -- helpers, whether in the classroom or trips, are always needed at M's school. But it was such a long day. The parent-helpers and children had to be in school at 8.10am for an 8.30 departure, and they were back only by 7pm and even if Mike worked at home that day, he couldn't look after our younger child till sundown at the same time. The children explored the areas in the park - swimming in the wake of legends at the Olympic Pool in the Aquatic Centre and taking part in sports and games in the Copper Box Arena. Then they watched Olympian and champion diver Tom Daley train after which he talked to them about his sporting life, answered questions and paused for photographs.

I admire M's primary school (no wonder it was voted School of the Year in the whole area this year and in the June 2015 Ofsted inspection, its Reception class was the only one in the borough that got an Outstanding [highest] rating). As the oldest school in town, it is a proper Victorian school. I would say where we are is countryside enough for me; the school is not in the middle of nowhere but I'm amazed how this tiny primary school voluntary aided by the local church does mighty things.  It also does know how to make use of its close proximity to London. I continue to be amazed with the opportunities M gets at such a young age, to have educators who are not afraid [and are free] to think out of the box, and bring about these well-thought out themes. I could only comment from what I know but having gone to, and taught briefly in, a traditional school, we didn't have this. When she was in Reception, I remember that the theme they had for the final term was Mary Poppins. At first, one might go, why? But with most children's short attention span, this was one way to pique their interest. This teaching approach is non-conformal and creative, that learning was so fun-filled for the children they didn't even think of school as work. I know Mary Poppins but it was only that time that I realised how much you could do with her as central to children's learning. I admire the Reggio Emilia schools of Italy and I would say M's school has some of the Reggio schools' qualities. She's a really lucky girl to have this great start. As much as I'm worried this early that she might not get a place in the secondary school we'd like for her to go to as we're not in catchment,  I'm just glad she gets all this exposure very early in life. headteacher's award
Her first Headteacher's Award for this school 
year. It's funny how these pieces of paper become 
the parents' pride.
What a busy three-week-back-to-school it has been, at least for my six-year-old! I came to pick her up at judo last Tuesday and they were doing this exercise of quick-thinking where children got eliminated and she won (for the life of me, I never thought she would for she daydreams a lot, but I saw her win). She also got her first Headteacher's Award for the school year (and a unicorn stationery of her choice) and she responsibly moved her violin lessons to Wednesdays, acknowledging she is tired on Friday evenings as she also has Homework Club that day. I know she's only six but I'm proud of her and I'm also kind of nervous for her little brother who's got so much to live up to. I'd pulled her out from dance (ballet and tap) after nearly two years of lessons for various reasons - maybe I should blog about that, or maybe I shouldn't. She's doing Chess and Board Games again this term (run by the Headteacher, my only way for her to be a good sport as all board games at home end up in tears). Her class is also benefitting from rugby coaching this term, another example of what I'd hoped our PE was like when I was in school. Her social life calendar is fully packed compared to my Zero one but let's just enjoy every moment, shall we. I am confident she's not overworked, the girl is just so full of energy, any excess would just be spent teasing and making her brother cry (even after warnings of, wait till you're 13 and he's 8 and a half). It's also one of those old things -- you'd like for your child to have the opportunities you never had. Right now I'd like for her to try all things and it's up to her to decide what she'd like to focus on later on. I already signed her up for Brownies (girlguiding, or Scouts as we know it back in the Philippines), the next step from Rainbows which she currently attends. She will move to Brownies in January should they already have a place for her, the term after her seventh birthday. I would love for her to continue doing Guides and hopefully someday be a guide/leader herself as it helps her be more responsible and independent. I don't expect her to learn how to make fire from sticks and rocks, but that would also be cool.

"The Reggio Emilia Approach is an educational philosophy based on the image of the child, and of human beings, as possessing strong potentials for development and as a subject of rights who learns and grows in the relationships with others.
This global educational project, which is carried forth in the Municipal Infant-toddler Centers and Preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, and has inspired other schools all over the world, is based on a number of distinctive characteristics: the participation of families, the collegial work of all the personnel, the importance of the educational environment, the presence of the atelier and the figure of the atelierista, the in-school kitchen, and the pedagogical coordinating team.
Focusing on the centrality of the hundred languages belonging to every human being, in the atelier spaces young children are offered daily opportunities to encounter many types of materials, many expressive languages, many points of view, working actively with hands, minds, and emotions, in a context that values the expressiveness and creativity of each child in the group."

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