Do you know your ABC?

Welcome to Term 2 of our school year. During the term holidays I spent lots of time with my beautiful granddaughter Hailey who celebrated her second birthday last Tuesday. I am forever captured by watching her grow, her interactions with me, her communication and interests and of course, Hailey trying me out to get her will. Yes, she shows some early signs of wanting her own way and testing the boundaries. For my wife and I, it is about relearning our own parenting skills in these new times. I am astonished how Hailey will frown at me if I simply touch my mobile phone, for me to quickly let her know that I am using it to take her picture and not read my emails! I am excited when she wants to read book after book or do her dinosaur puzzles repeatedly. I am so proud of what she can do as a two-year-old such as tell me where she lives, count her numbers and recognise and know her alphabet. Research into the development of the brain of children from birth to Year 5 tells us the importance of developing those important social and cognitive skills which are gained through the beautiful, nurturing time and interest of parents and other adults. Hailey watches me like a hawk and I am forever conscious that I am a role model in what I say and do.

Recently, the media has reported on the reform of the Australian curriculum with an emphasis placed on what has changed. The media focus is on what has been taken out of the curriculum or on how the emphasis may have changed. There has again been significant criticism about these reforms – criticism about multiplication tables not taught until later in primary school or the change of emphasis in history. There is no question in my mind that what we have in the curriculum is so overcrowded that young people struggle to manage to be successful in all of it. Australia’s achievement data in literacy and numeracy compared to other OECD countries continues to fall and as a nation, we are struggling to address these fundamental key priorities in education. We know that research and our data tell us that students in Year 9 who are below the national benchmark in at least one NAPLAN test have a 50% chance of not obtaining their Year 12 high school certificate. At Cardijn College we have a literacy strategy that is intentional and deliberate with a focus on Explicit Direct Instruction (EDI). Our focus and commitment are that every child must be given every chance to be literate and numerate in accordance with the national benchmarks. Recently, our professional development focus at our Cardijn campus has been on developing a school-wide system of inclusive practice for all students.

This has included:

  • High impact teaching strategies
  • Productive classroom routines for differentiation
  • Universal strategies for positive behaviour support
  • Co-construction towards increased learning
  • Developing calm and supportive learning spaces
  • Digital inking to improve student thinking
  • Understanding task design to optimise learning intentions and success criteria
  • The best use of SEQTA and learning tools

For the time being however, my granddaughter Hailey, who will not start school for another three years will have to put up with her mum, dad and grandparents encouraging her to read, play, discover and learn the things which sometimes we consider are reserved for school. Well, the multiplication tables are already up in her room, I am sitting down with Hailey at the piano and teaching her the basic notes from C to B, doing the puzzles and reading the books she loves as well as recognition of shapes, numbers and words. And you know, it is an absolute privilege and delight to see her face light up with amazement and wonder. Hailey can recite and recognise her ABC!

Dr Paul Rijken is principal of Cardijn College, an R-12 co-educational Catholic school in the Marist tradition, deeply inspired by the method of College patron Joseph Cardijn with a foundation built on the three pillars of his teachings; to See, Judge and Act. Educating and inspiring students in the beautiful Southern Vales region of Adelaide since 1984, Cardijn has grown to encompass three schools, each with distinct offerings. Cardijn College Galilee at Aldinga offers Reception to Year 7, expanding to include Year 8 in 2022 and Year 9 in 2023. Cardijn College at Noarlunga Downs offers Years 7-12 and is renowned for academic excellence and a vibrant extra-curricular program. Cardijn College Marcellin at Christie Downs provides a wide variety of vocational education and training opportunities for students in Years 10 – 12 and beyond, with relationships that extend well into their careers. With a current enrolment of 1750 students and 240 staff, Cardijn College is an institution which strives to be a beacon of faith in the community, with students who have enormous influence and impact on both a local and global level. Paul has been the principal at Cardijn College since 2005. He has a Ph.D. from Curtin University in Science and Mathematics Education. He is a Fellow of the Australian College of Educational Leaders.

1 comment on “Do you know your ABC?

  1. Viano Jaksa

    What a beautiful gift you are to your granddaughter, and what a beautiful gift she is to you.
    Your school community is blessed by your educational vision and wisdom.
    Thank you so much for sharing your reflections with the wider community.


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