We started the year on Wednesday 11 January with 139 smiling faces and thankfully absolutely no tears at all. The Grade One class were enthusiastic and very ready to begin “BIG SCHOOL.” To tell you the truth, the Moms and Dads looked far more fearful than the children, but then this is often the case.
So it has been almost 1 month into the 2017 school year and we are already busy, busy, busy. Our teaching staff started off the year with a week of morning dedication from 6:30 to 7 am, where we read from the statements of His Holiness in response to questions posed by Mr MacLaren. We paid particular attention to “Those who spend their energy in uplifting others must put energy in as well through meditation on the way of knowledge.”
This led to deeper conversations on the importance of meditation with the Grade 6 and 7 children and their teachers, as well as our own personal twice daily meditation, for those of us who have been initiated into meditation.
The Importance of the Pause
The importance of the Pause was discussed at length, how vital it is for both children and staff to find stillness at intervals throughout every day. The value of the Pause was unanimously agreed upon and it was lovely to hear from Ms Coventry, who only joined St James last October, who explained to us how great an impact the Pause has had, not only on her teaching, but also her day to day life.
Our next area of study was the 3 stages of education, 0 – 5 years, 5 – 10 years and 10 – 16 years. Each teacher spoke about how they found the words of His Holiness so pertinent within each of their own classes. This struck such a chord with the St James Durban staff that I decided to read His Holiness’ statement on the stages of education to the parents at our first parent Meeting on 16th January.
Different Phases Throughout
His Holiness’ wise words had a profound effect on many of our parents, both old and new. I believe that this brought into focus why we have different phases throughout primary school and why each phase has different needs and are treated differently.
Having met with such a positive response, I am really looking forward to our Parenting Courses that the School Board and School of Philosophy will be offering any interested parents from Term 2. All our teachers will also be attending which is wonderful news.
So with this in mind the teachers started the year with the following taken from Taittireeya Upanishad foremost in our minds
“Teacher on one side;
Pupil on the other;
A Day in the Life of St James
With regards to the day to day life of St James, below I have given a brief outline of some of the different parts of the school curriculum and how we carry out these lessons at St James.
This year is the very first time that our Foundation Phase classes, Gr 1, 2 and 3 will be exposed to Sanskrit in a formal weekly lesson. We have set aside a 45 minute class every Friday, under the guidance of Ms Mego, to teach the younger children the correct sounding, in preparation for reading and writing Sanskrit in Grade 4.
As Sir William Jones, the founder of modern linguistics, said “The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure …” The introduction of a weekly Sanskrit assembly in the middle of last year has also been a success. Not only are the children reciting the beautiful Sanskrit prayers but they are also enthralled when Ms Mego tells them the stories about how language originated and the power of words.
The exposure to Sanskrit is growing all the time at St James Durban and we are all very pleased with our accomplishments. A very big thank you to Ms Mego for her guidance and patience.
First Swimming Lesson
Tuesday 31 January was our first swimming lesson for the year. The children were extremely excited and the weather was glorious. We have 2 new swim coaches Adrian and Julie, from our coaching academy, under the guidance of Coach Jaco.
The children worked well with the coaches and training has already started. The aim for the younger children is to ensure that they are water safe. For those children that can already swim, stroke correction and stamina training is what will be focused on during their lessons. We will be having our swimming watching morning on Tuesday 2 May where parent are invited to a swimming lesson and they will be able to see how much their children have all progressed this year.
Perceptual Motor Development Class
Every Wednesday Gr 1, 2 and 3 children have a perceptual motor development class. Here the teachers focus on developing and strengthening the children’s core muscle. This muscle is the one that holds you up straight, enabling you to have the correct posture, the energy to sit and concentrate as well as being the muscle from which all other movement flows.
With children spending more time in front of a TV or tablet instead of climbing trees and running, their core muscles are under developed. This will in turn negatively impact their gross (running, climbing, jumping) and fine (writing, cutting and painting) motor skills.
In order to avoid this we work these core muscles weekly. The children will also be introduced to a variety of sports and athletics in preparation for Sports Day in October. PMD and Swimming are practiced weekly at St James Durban as we are her to nourish the body physically, mentally and spiritually.
His Holiness says in Good Company “The need for rest for body, mind and spirit arises only when some activity has been undertaken. Without activity one would not need to rest because one would not have spent any energy.”
Ms Ebersohn has started off Music this year by introducing the children to Musicals. The older children watched “Singing in the Rain” and are now learning the theme song. They will also be taught a little “tap number” in the hopes that they can find their inner Gene Kelly!
The younger classes are learning rhythm, pitch, pace, note values, melody lines and harmony, through the use of various well known stories like “The Hare and the Tortoise.” The sounds coming from the music lessons are beautiful and lift all our spirits. Well done to Ms Ebersohn and all of the children.
Weekly Drama Classes
The weekly Drama classes are off with a bang this year. Gr 1, 2 and 3 and using traditional African folktales to explore creative movement. Gr 4 and 5 are practicing the art of story-telling and chain stories. Grade 6 and 7 are letting their imaginations run wild by creating their own original mythical creatures, using Greek, Roman and Norse Mythology, as their reference points.
We have not forgotten our annual choral verse and poetry competition in May. Individual poems and class choral verses have already been chosen by the children in anticipation of their performances.
Visual Art Classes
Mrs Coleman and the children have started visual art classes and are already producing beautiful work. Upon entering the class, I am met with lots of smiling, happy faces. The Gr 7 class are entering an art competition at the end of Term 1 on Human Rights as stated in The South African Constitution. The Gr 5 children have been sitting and studying their faces in a mirror, to help with their self-portraits.
I am sure that some beautiful art will come from this self-examination! The Gr 1 and 2 children are loving painting with big, bold strokes on large paper. There is often more paint on the desk, floor and themselves than on the actual piece of art! All in all an excellent way to start off the year with such a feeling of positivity.
The Grade 3 children making hearts for Valentines Day, below.
At St James Durban the teachers’ pay much attention to offering the children material of an excellent quality, this is why much of our Drama, Music and Visual Art classes are given over to the study of the Great and Wise like Shakesphere, Mozart and Da Vinci. Exposing the children to the finest materials there are is one of the first steps on their path.
Growing Plants in Various Conditions
Our Gr 6 and 7 children and Ms Ebersohn have been carrying out a number of experiments this year. Gr 7 are growing plants in varying conditions to ascertain which is the optimal condition. Some are placed with no light, others given too much water and others no air. The class needs to observe and record their findings regularly. Gr 6 carried out a mammoth investigation this week, trying to see which foods contained protein, fat, glucose and starch.
They used a variety of chemicals and their Bunsen burners for the very first time. Everyone was well prepared with their safety coats and goggles. The ability to do “hands on” natural science in our own lab is all due to the generous donation from the Victor Daitz Foundation. St James are blessed to be one of the few primary schools with a lab.
One of the special
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To all our loyal supports and friends of St James Durban we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your continued love, guidance and helping hands that are always there for us. Without each and every one of you we would not be able to do all the wonderful things that we do.
We hope that this has given you some insight into an average day at St James.
In the wise words of Mr David Boddy “The fundamental philosophical concept at the heart of all education is to bring the mind and emotions to some form of rest and to be present – to live in the present moment – NOW.”
Lisa Welthagen and all at St James