Raising Expectations : Raising Belief

Image-1This year at Cobram Primary School we have focused on lifting the aspirations of our students, and engage them in their learning, especially in the upper end of our school. Through the recent school student survey results we saw students highlight the low engagement level they had with our school and their motivation levels lower than we would have liked, our schools leadership group, along with the Year 5 and Year 6 teaching team agreed to try something different.

Through the subsequent discussions amongst staff, there was a real desire to look at ways in which we could inspire these students to be more engaged with their learning, and to challenge them to explore the real opportunities they had for their future life.

We contacted the Country Education Partnerships Rural Youth Ambassadors, who had developed a program specifically for this purpose, to see if they would be interested to facilitate their “Youth Leadership” program with the students from Cobram Primary School – a program aimed to inspire rural and remote young people to chase, and realise their dreams.

With the involvement of two of these Rural Youth Ambassadors, a one-day program was facilitated with the 60+ students in Year 5 and Year 6 to inspire and encourage our kids to be great leaders in their own lives and school community.

A key element of this program was the involvement of local inspirational people who have achieved something great in their lives, to share their journeys – all past students of our school. A local health worker, a young local footballer who was hoping to play AFL football, and a young lady who had gone to school at Cobram Primary School beamed in from overseas – all sharing their inspiring stories, and how they developed and were beginning to realise their dreams.

Our students started to believe that they too could do great things and realise their dreams. The two Rural Youth Ambassadors also shared their stories about their journey in growing up in a rural community and attending a rural school and what they are now achieving within their life.

Cobram 1By the end of this day our kids wanted more. The Rural Youth Ambassadors asked them what they believed they could do at school to challenge them to realise their dreams, and increase their engagement with their learning.

Amazing ideas started coming from our kids.

This led us to have many discussions with the students and with the teaching group.

As a teaching team we moved out of our comfort zone through these discussions and we began to listen to our student’s voice.

Working with our students, we developed an elective program that was focused on engaging our students in learning, while also providing them all with the challenge of taking on leadership roles within the electives provided.

Our students were given the opportunity to suggest a number of electives that they would like to do, and as a result five elective programs were developed.

Our teachers and support staff facilitated these electives twice per week for a 4 week rotation which culminated in 5/6 electives showcase night for the students to display what they had been doing to the wider school community, and most importantly to their families.

Pride in what they could achieve, and belief in them has grown significantly, and as staff, we are noticing a much high engagement in their learning.

From this program, many students have indicated that it has challenged them, but more importantly they are now seeing school as a place where they can be engaged and really pursue their dreams.

Many parents have reflected that their children now want to come to school, and be involved in engaging programs such as the electives, and they would not miss them for the world – something that has not always been the case in the past for some of our students.
In addition, the staff team have indicated that students now have a different approach to learning – one where they are more interested and engaged within their learning. They also shared that through the program they have been challenged to think about their teaching and learning approach and have shared that they have adapted it to embrace a greater student voice.

Cobram 2Based on the experiences and learning’s from the first program, along with the desire to gain a greater impact on student learning outcomes, the teaching team are about to enter a second phase of electives using a more integrated learning approach. Again with Country Education Partnerships help we are now developing a program that focuses on engaging students in their learning through the offering of a new batch of electives with a strengthened focus on the development of students leadership and problem solving skills, as well as their literacy, numeracy and other curriculum area skills.

The electives will have a stronger learning purpose where students will have to work as a team in developing solutions to a problem and then initiate activities and approaches to address the problem, For example, developing a promotional video for the primary school to promote the positive learning that takes place within our school; sewing Christmas gifts for the local Opportunity Shop; cooking healthy Christmas treats for all the students of the school; or developing a range of tabloid sports activities that build on our PMP program that operates in the early years of our school.

As part of their involvement in the program, the students will be required to write a persuasive letter explaining why they would like to be involved in the elective of their choice, what learning they expect to achieve and what they hope to gain from the experience.

Through this exciting and engaging program, our students and teachers at Cobram Primary School are now working as a collective, listening to each other about what engaging learning is, and working as a team to ensure that all students are engaged. In a reflection discussion we held recently the staff highlighted that challenging behaviours in the classroom have reduced, and there is a greater involvement of students in their learning. We have heard from a number of our parents who have said that their children come home and talk about the great learning they are now involved in at school.

We at Cobram Primary School have just started our long journey but we are excited with the early results and want to continue this “Inspiring Student Learning” approach we have developed, with the valuable support of the CEP’s Rural Youth Ambassadors.