My mother says that I learned to speak before I learned to crawl. Passers by would look into the pram and wonder where the words were coming from. I guess that I must have continued in the same vein because ‘chatters too much!’ was often the theme of my school report. Oh and I also had an opinion about everything apparently, and wasn’t afraid of sharing those with my teachers. (I expect those of you who know me well will be unsurprised!)
It was a natural extension of this verbosity that led to my first university studies in Drama and English. The English language, as spoken today, is a complicated mish-mash of words whose roots are found in languages drawn from across the globe. Language is fascinating because it continues to evolve. We have words in common use today that nobody could have imagined even thirty years ago- and words that have totally changed in meaning over time. Words are incredibly powerful!
Don’t even get me started on spelling. English is a ridiculous language to spell. How do you explain knife, knight, debris and quay? Then there are all the spelling “rules”, which exist only to be broken. Think of all the words that break the “i before e except after c” rule: weird, seize, leisure, neighbour, foreign. It is just as well that our children spend so much time learning spelling patterns in school today.
In a school where we are blessed with so many different mother tongues, communication becomes the most important thing to focus our efforts on. Small children learn a new language (English) very easily when they are immersed in a classroom of children who speak it well. How much more important therefore, that we carefully support the development of English in classrooms where so many children are learning the language or developing their sophistication within the language. We call these children advanced bilingual learners.
And what about parents? It is absolutely vital that we establish and maintain an open, positive dialogue with our families. Many of our parents may not have enough English or fluency in English to enable them to communicate their concerns or questions to school with confidence. What is school doing about this? We would not wish to exclude families from important conversations about the life of our school ! School has a number of bilingual teachers and other staff and of course we are also thankful for the integrity of other parents to act as translators from time to time too.
Giving parents an open opportunity to tell us what is concerning to them challenges school to listen carefully and to that end we have , just this morning, finalised a pattern of parent forum meetings which will allow many more people the chance to communicate more effectively with us. I am looking forward to this becoming a routine part of every school term.
I am sincere in the belief that to become an outstanding school we must be able to establish and maintain highly effective channels of communication between parents and teachers, children with one another and our community with school leadership. Great dialogue can effect change. Effective communication is two way however, with both parties listening and contributing honestly. I am entirely committed to this being a strong feature of our school. We must acknowledge that we may not always agree with one another- and just because something is said (by either party) makes a thing neither true or a fallacy. Instead, as adults working together towards a better future for all our children, we can agree to find a workable solution to most issues raised if we persevere with open hearts.
I want to thank everyone who contributes to our forum most sincerely, together we can transform our words into actions, for the benefit of every child at High Hazels. I look forward to seeing you at a forum soon.
‘Grant that we may not so much seek to be understood as to understand.’
Saint Francis of Assisi