Friday, 8 January 2016

Dealing with the death of a staff member

The passing of a staff member is something that affects all of the school, especially if it is someone who, on a daily basis interacted with staff and students from across the school. This week at Bradbury, we took time out to remember and acknowledge the death of our former librarian, who fought a long and courageous battle with cancer. Helping children to understand death is a very difficult topic for many of us, especially if the death is someone close to us and we are also dealing with our own grief.

By the time they reach high school, most children have experienced the death of a family member or friend; one in 20 face the death of a parent by age 16. As uncomfortable as it can be, our children need our support to work through what we, as adults know, is a part of a natural cycle.

As a school, we sat and decided how best to support our staff and students through this loss. We definitely knew that we wanted to acknowledge this passing in a positive and supportive way.
Firstly, we considered the family's wishes that books be donated to a library in her name. We had a list of our librarian's favourite books from her many blogs, so we decided that we would buy all of the ones that were not already in our library. We knew also that with her family,she  had enjoyed holidays in the Philippines, so a donation of books would also be made to a school library that is still feeling the effects of the devastating typhoon that destroyed so much a couple of years back. We will acknowledge this by inserting a book plate especially designed for this commemoration. A small and cozy corner of our library will be dedicated to these books for our students to enjoy.

Secondly, we wanted to acknowledge her passing as a whole school. We needed to do this sensitively and sensibly, so a Year 2-6  assembly was held. This was bright, fun, light and positive- just the way we think our librarian would have chosen it to be. I talked about all the things she loved- her family, books, blogging, travel and swing dancing. As many of the students had no idea of what swing dancing was, we watched a YouTube demonstration of 'In the Groove', which impressed everyone in regards to the talent it takes to master!

Finally our students were invited to write a letter to our librarian's son, who was also a student here, to her husband or to our librarian herself, which we will post to her family, along with pictures of our donated books in their special corner of the library.

Next week, staff will gather to share memories and toast in her honour and to her memory.

Image result for debbie Alvarez

                                                                 Rest in peace Debbie.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Admission interviews

A happy new year to all of our Bradbury families and to anyone else who may read my blog! I hope that this year is a wonderful one for you all.

Image result for principal interviewing parents
One thing that will make the new year a good one for many families, is to hear that their child has a place in our school. This is often a very stressful time for parents in Hong Kong as they know that traditionally, demand outweighs places available. With interviews for 2016/7 Year 1 admissions just around the corner, I thought it might be helpful to write a bit about this process to hopefully give some clarity and understanding about what we are looking for when we interview potential students.

Firstly, it is not an interview in the usual sense of the word and certainly not like a job interview! We need to see how your child interacts with other students, in order to gain an idea of their social development. Therefore,  Year 1 interviews are always done in small groups of around 8-10 students. This way we can observe behaviours like sharing, talking, playing 'with' rather than 'alongside', eye contact and so on.
Image result for children playing together in playgroupImage result for students in play groupsWe also ask your child to draw a picture and talk about it. In this way, we can listen to them speaking English and get an idea of their fluency. We may ask them to work through some other small assessments so that we can get a deeper understanding of their language ability.

When  we interview your child, we are looking for three things:

  • Will they be able to access the curriculum?
  • Do they have any special needs that may need support?
  • Are they ready for school?
This last one is really important, as, because our intake year is January to December, some of our children are very young and if they were born just a few days later, would be in the next year for admission. When you are just four years of age, this is really important because lots of physical, social and emotional development happens in that year. It also means that they may be in a class with children a year older. Because we want school to be a positive experience right from the get go, it is sometimes better to defer children who would benefit from another year in kindergarten. This is not the case every time of course, but it is a major consideration. So, if we recommend a deferral, it is always because we have your child's best interest at heart. They have not failed the interview or anything like that- they are just young!

We also interview parents- this is often my job and I really love it! It is a great opportunity to meet new parents, especially as so many of our children bus in. We have such a strong support base from our parents  and there are so many interesting people in our community, this is always  pleasurable .  Your child will not fail an interview because of you either! We will talk about things like your child's social and emotional development and ask you about if there are any family circumstances we need to be aware of,  or if your child has  any special needs that we need to know about? These all build a picture of your child for us. It is important that these questions are answered honestly, not in the way you think we want them answered!
                                                             Image result for principal talking to parents

It is all low key, friendly and informal which is in keeping with our ethos of school being a welcoming and friendly place for you and your child.