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Masada Launches Online Home Learning Platform

This week was a remarkable moment in the history of Masada College with the launch of our online home learning platform on Wednesday 25th March. We have been preparing for the possibility for online home learning since early in the year, when the threat of Coronavirus potentially closing Australian schools, first came to light.

Our College has been dedicated to supporting our teaching staff to ensure they have the skills to work in the technology space and learn new software in a relatively short space of time. Ryan Gill, Head of Learning and Teaching (Yr 7-12) explains the College has been using existing platforms such as Google Classroom but expanded these to include video conferencing tools such as Google Hangout and Zoom. “Taking on the technology was a daunting task for some of our staff, so we gave them the time and resources to feel confident with this teaching style,” said Mr Gill.  “It has been amazing to watch our teachers who considered themselves to be the least technologically savvy, embrace the new learning platform and show such creativity in their teaching approach,” he said.  “By the launch date, our teaching team was well prepared to go on this journey of online learning,” said Mr Gill.

NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) announced on Tuesday that the Higher School Certificate will go ahead in NSW for 2020, despite the Coronavirus.  Here at Masada College we recognise there will be significant work for Year 12 teachers to recreate assessment tasks that can be submitted electronically and we are very focused on our Year 12 cohort to ensure they stay on top of their HSC curriculum.

“Motivating students to attend all online classes, having a well-balanced life style and driving students to strive for excellence without personal contact with peers to challenge each other, will be tougher than usual says Mr Gill. “Despite the challenge, we are continuing our wellbeing support programs with our dedicated team of Patrons and College Psychologist. Our Physical Education and Rock and Water programs will continue online, with our College Principal leading by example, running online fitness sessions. This week he energised our Year 7 and 8 boys, showing our students that in limited space, star jumps, burpees and running on the spot got heart rates racing and helped students to refocus on their afternoon lessons.

Fortunately, this generation are very comfortable with technology and our students have been grateful to the College for continuing to provide them with the highest calibre education, many have been very pleasantly surprised! We have received lots of very positive feedback from staff, parents and students in the methods for ensuring our students are engaged and learning online,” said Mr Gill. The smooth roll out of Masada’s online home learning platform has allowed for the uninterrupted education of our students and is a testament to the agility and flexibility of our Masada staff.

Masada Cottage Preschool Pencil Case Program

By Mrs Glynnis DeKlerk, Masada Cottage Educational Leader

Starting school involves a great deal of change and we aspire to ease this transition. Our daily routine and Pencil Case Program strengthen our students’ school readiness and enhances their confidence, ensuring that each child is as best prepared as they can be. This program involves giving all our students their own pencil cases filled with pencil crayons, pencils, rubbers, sharpeners and scissors. As part of our school- readiness program, students learn to take responsibility for their possessions and use the materials correctly. Using their pencil cases together with their scrapbooks gives students the opportunities to follow instructions, refine motor skills and enhance creativity. We introduce this program in the fourth term to consolidate all the school readiness we have integrated into our program throughout the year. As their skills improve, so too we see our students’ sense of independence, self confidence and self reliance improve as well.

Transitioning to school is a big milestone for all children. Our program enables the children to engage in a wide variety of experiences and activities which allows them to become active participants in their own learning. In turn, this helps to develop a passion for learning in each child – and the excitement they show as they carefully unzip their pencil cases, makes us as teachers feel confident that we have done so!

 

STEM in the Masada College Primary Classroom

By Mrs Nikki Grauman- Head of Academic Care, Junior School

 

As the needs of students change and as advances in the way we teach and engage our younger students develop, we are seeing the focus in education shift away from lessons focused on teaching the “content”. Instead, we now recognise the need to teach students to learn and apply scientific skills, design thinking and digital-technology-production skills. Helping both boys and girls feel comfortable in the science classroom and increasing engagement has been an emphasis over the past few years through the introduction of STEM, theme-based learning tasks, that enable teachers to provide more diverse and practical activities and learning opportunities to students. The idea is to make what the students are learning more relevant to them and their world. This is done through providing personal choice, autonomy and relevance to their unique and collective needs. 

 

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) has been a central focus at Masada College Primary School, with the aim of meeting the academic, social and emotional needs of all of our students. Our students are exposed to practical, inquiry-based learning opportunities directed at increasing their engagement and expanding their thinking, questioning and wondering about the world around them. This is done through units that are centered around real world themes or problems and hands-on experiments that develop students planning, implementation and reflection skills and strategies. We are also engaging Young Engineers, an educational program that teaches students these concepts through coding and programming using ICT and Lego.  

 

An essential component to our lessons is to begin with a rich task that will spark their curiosity through problem solving, thereby boosting engagement. Another skill that these activities encourage is collaboration between the teacher and their students and between students and their peers.  In Rabindranath Tagore’s words “Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.”

 

Refugee Challenge Sleepout

By Ms Liora Hayman, Jewish Life

A few weeks ago, our students in Years 8-11 were invited to participate in the Refugee Challenge Sleep Out organised by the Year 12 prefects. Students slept over at our school, in outdoor conditions and experienced a full simulation refugee camp, highlighting what it is like for refugees living in camps as well as urban refugees and asylum seekers. The Refugee Challenge was not only a great way for the students to engage with and gain the respect of their peers, but it also gave them a major sense of appreciation, as well as the chance to feel empathy towards the plight of refugees and the harsh reality they must face in order to escape persecution and other dangers. It enabled the students to gain a more profound understanding of the challenges, difficult decisions and experiences a refugee may encounter.

Students come away feeling informed and encouraged to look to the needs of others as well as empowered to consider alternatives, solutions, and practical changes that may inspire better outcomes for people seeking safety and ultimately generate a more welcoming and compassionate society.

Kol Hakavod to the leaders for putting together an outstanding and memorable event!

The 3 C’s of thinking skills versus the traditional 3 R’s of learning

By Mrs Nikki Grauman, Head of Academic Care, Junior School 

Many of us who are parents or educators will remember the 3 R’s relating to school thinking: Reading, (a)rithmetic and remembering. These skills required learners to store, recall and then use previously learned information. And while traditional testing that requires students to utilise this type of thinking are still being used, more and more teachers are setting exams and learning activities in the classroom that require students to use the 3 C’s of learning to guide their thinking and responses, namely: curiosity, creativity and challenging thinking.

Whilst the 3 R’s require us to use existing knowledge, the 3 C’s require learners to use this knowledge in order to inform new ideas, examples, evidence, reasoning and decisions. Often times this can mean that there is not simply a yes/no answer or right or wrong solution. Instead, there may be multiple ways that a learner can answer a question. As long as their answer uses knowledge to support and justify their response, their answer could be considered accurate.

In education circles we refer to this as “higher order thinking skills” or “deeper forms of thinking”. It requires the use of ideas and knowledge from multiple sources to inform and challenge our thinking and this is what makes us curious, challenging and creative thinkers and learners.

The world beyond the classroom (and indeed within the classroom) is rapidly changing and evolving. We are regularly bombarded with images, infographics, news articles, adverts, information and social media that requires us to use our judgment and to think for oneself rather than take what we read, hear and see at face value.

Masada College focuses on providing teaching and learning programs and opportunities that develop students’ thinking and equips them with the tools necessary to survive and thrive in today’s world. We aim at building skills that require students to participate as well-rounded, mentally healthy and academically capable young people who have a growth mindset and a positive mental and emotional attitude. We encourage them to be flexible, imaginative, analytical and daring thinkers and to think outside the box. 

So the next time your child asks you a question – before answering it for them – ask them to think about a possible answer or a connection that may help them come up with a plausible solution. Their responses may surprise both them and you!

 

Intercultural Volunteer Program for Masada College and Unity Grammar School

By Martin Tait –  College Principal

Recently I had the pleasure of attending an excursion with a number of our Year 10 students to the Exodus Foundation as part of an intercultural volunteer program at a Homeless Shelter in Ashfield.

Along with Unity Grammar School, our students worked in group shifts which were designed to give the volunteers a holistic experience of restaurant operations. Each shift started with a site induction, after which the volunteers were allocated to a range of roles according to the restaurant’s needs. This included food preparation, restaurant set-up, food and beverage service, the creation of emergency food parcels, and cleaning. I am pleased to say that our students were excellent ambassadors for the College and learnt about the importance of volunteering, as well as at the same time gaining some wonderful connections with students from Unity Grammar School.

Our students were also very fortunate to meet Rev Bill Crews, the founder of the Exodus Foundation. Rev Crews was the recipient of the 2015 NSW Human Rights Award which pays tribute to those who support the disadvantaged and marginalized and endeavor to make NSW a better community. We look forward to more opportunities with them in the future. For further information on the incredible work the Exodus Foundation does each and every day, please visit exodusfoundation.org.au/

I would like to thank Osman Karolia, Head of Community Engagement from Unity Grammar for helping provide this opportunity for our students.

 

Unity amongst a diverse people

By Morah Carolyn Steinman

 

In the lead up to Tisha B’Av, we need to reflect as a People and as a community what we are mourning with the loss of our Temple and the cause of that loss.

 

We teach our children that sinat chinam (baseless hatred) was the cause of the destruction of the Temple, symbolic of Jewish unity and connection to G-d,  during the time of the Romans in 70CE. What we often fail to teach is the admonition of the Gemara (Oral Law), that if we find ourselves living in a time when the Temple remains in ruins, we are equally responsible for the cause of its destruction. This is our reality; a fragmented world in which we have failed to repair the relationships that led to the loss of the Temple in the first place. 

 

Sinat chinam, baseless hatred is actually not baseless at all. There were many reasons that dislike of other views, ideas, beliefs or human qualities were actually justified during the time of the Temple, and we can argue even today.  But what made the hate baseless was that people actively looked for something to hate about the “other”. We as a people turned on one another rather than turning our attention to the enemy without seeking our destruction. So many times in our history we have destroyed ourselves from within. 

 

We are the only religious tradition to record our faults and wrong doings. The Tanach is filled with all the poor decisions we made, the unethical actions and immoral acts we performed. Why does the Tanach do this? Because we are constantly reminded that we are human, even the greatest among us: Moshe, Aaron, the prophets and kings fall prey to human frailty. However, Jews believe that we can always seek forgiveness, repair damaged relationships and heal our world. This is the secret to our survival. 

 

We need to use this time of mourning to self-reflect and seek ways we can communicate better, accept others different from ourselves and strive to strengthen our community of diverse Jewish identity. Together we are stronger, together we can focus on our Jewish survival and that of our children and stand united against those forces growing in the world that seek to assimilate us and question our right to sovereignty in our own land.

Predictors of success in adulthood – that can’t be found in the classroom

By Mrs Nikki Grauman- Head of Academic Care, Junior School

Parents may be surprised to learn that social skills are far more predictive of outcomes in adulthood than early academics. A 2015 study showed that social skills observed in Kindergarten showed significant correlation with well-being at age 25. Furthermore, young students who demonstrated social competence were more likely to graduate from high school, go to university and get a job, than those who showed a lower level of social competence. So the next time you feel your child should miss out playing with his or her friend in favour of a more educational-based activity, you might want to think again.

The five key social competencies that we should be fostering in our school aged children include:

1. Playing well with others: We need to teach our children to develop their skills of negotiation, turn taking and sharing. Unstructured play with other children, where they are supervised but free to explore and experiment with the world around them in a safe manner, is vital for our children’s social and emotional well being.

2. Problem-solving: Children need practice problem solving. Instead of solving problems for our children, we should be brainstorming with our children to help them work out alternate solutions. For example, you could ask your child “What do you think should happen?” or “How do you think this might be solved?” This shows a child that you believe they have the ability to solve the problem. It also allows them how to succeed in their own right, or, to fail and then reflect on what they did and try a different path until they achieve success. When children see failures as part of the process to learning and moving forward, they are learning critical life lessons.

3. Labelling and recognising feelings: Fostering the skill of recognising or perceiving the emotions of those around us is essential for developing social skills. If we encourage empathy, we are helping our children see things from another’s perspective. We can use our words such as “Look at your sister’s face. Does she look like she is happy that you took her toy?” or even well-known books or movies to help our children name and notice emotions and conflict.

4. Being helpful: We know young children can be egocentric beings. It is important that we teach them to look beyond their own needs and to focus instead on recognising the needs of others. Each time your child shows that they are being considerate or are offering to help others, we should be praising them. We should also aim to model this behavior.

5. Controlling impulses: Impulse control is a part of the executive functions directed by the prefrontal cortex of the brain. We know that although this area takes until well into adulthood to develop completely, much of this development happens in early childhood. Allowing our children instant gratification and giving in to their demands as soon as they are made may keep them happy in the short term, but they are learning that our role in life is to satisfy their every need and to do so within a short amount of time.

Whilst learning academic-based skills is essential for our children, one might argue that equally important for our children – and perhaps even more important – are the social skills they gain in their earliest years of life. Providing our children with opportunities to play and interact with others of different ages and abilities is imperative for their current and future well-being.

The answer to a division question is 5. What might the question be?

By Ms Carla Gagliano
Head of Learning & Teaching, Junior School

In our daily lives, we intuitively ask many questions and in turn, we are asked what sometimes feels like 100s of questions in a day! As educators, we strive to pose good questions for our students to ponder, for them to feel challenged and experience those crunchy eyebrow movements – questions that cannot simply be answered with a one word response.

So, what makes a good question?

● A good question requires more than simply remembering a fact or reproducing something a learner may have heard or been told.

● Students can learn by answering these questions and the teacher also learns more about the student from their response, as the student’s thinking has been made visible

● There are often many acceptable answers

Sometimes educators also gain a deeper insight into a child’s understanding by observing the way the learner goes about answering the particular question. Their approach, reasoning and explanation not only help students to move closer to answers and solutions but also provide an opportunity for them to become more aware of what they do and do not understand.

These good questions can be pondered individually or in groups, where students also have the opportunity to develop perspective when listening to others’ ideas. This time and space for students to communicate their thoughts is invaluable; however, this sharing time can also be challenging for our learners when their ideas or approaches are questioned by their peers.

While we strive to ask our students good questions every lesson, it is also our goal as teachers to inspire our students to pose good questions. Whenever I reflect on our students as question askers, rather than just question responders I am always reminded of a powerful article published in the New York Times in the late 80s. This short piece talks about Isidor Rabi, a Nobel laureate in physics, who was once asked, ‘Why did you become a scientist, rather than a doctor or lawyer or businessman, like other immigrant kids in your neighborhood?’
Dr. Rabi answered, “My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: “So, did you learn anything today?” But not my mother. She always asked me a different question. “Izzy,” she would say, “did you ask a good question today?” That difference – asking good questions – made me become a scientist!”

The heART of Reconciliation

By Mrs Nikki Grauman, Head of Academic Care, Junior School

Recently, both the Junior and Seniors School students at Masada College participated in a range of activities to promote National Reconciliation week. The key idea of this week is to bring together the relationship between the broader Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. As a school, Reconciliation Week resonates with us as we encourage our students to work together, to synergise and reconcile our differences when they arise and to do so with respect and sincerity.

In my role as Head of Academic Care, I often deal with students who need to work with one another to reconcile a difference of opinion or belief or to rectify a situation in order to move forward. This got me thinking about what it takes to make a sincere apology and about the process involved when we work together to try and repair a situation.

In my research I came upon this explanation of an apology: An apology is a statement that has two key elements – it shows your remorse over your actions and it acknowledges the hurt that your actions have caused to someone else. Whilst an apology appears like a simple way of making amends and we know that it is an effective way to restore trust and balance in a relationship, many of us nonetheless find it a difficult thing to do.
These are the four key steps in making an apology: 1. Express remorse, 2. Admit responsibility, 3. Make amends and 4. Take steps to ensure you do not find yourself in the same situation again.

What we need to realise is that an apology is a means of opening dialogue between the two parties. When we are willing to admit our mistake, the other person is given the opportunity to start to rebuild their trust and re-establish their relationship with you. It also gives you a chance to discuss what is and isn’t acceptable. Offering a sincere apology is a means to begin a healing process for those you hurt. However, we need to also remember that we too benefit when we make an apology as we assume responsibility for our actions. This allows us to build up our self-confidence, self-respect and reputation. When we fail to apologise we build animosity and tension and this can create a toxic environment. I found this quote I will leave you with: “You can grow flowers where dirt used to be.” Teach your children, as we try to teach our students, the art of making a sincere apology when we have hurt someone – You never know what can come out of this act of working together with courage, hand in hand.

 

 

Lag Ba’Omer: Fires of warmth

By Morah Carolyn Steinman

On Thursday 23rd May, the 33rd day of the period of the Omer, we celebrate Lag B’Omer. Our children learn that it is the yahrzeit (anniversary of the death) of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai a great sage who lived and taught approximately 500 years after the destruction of the Temple. Our children also learn that this period of the omer is a sad one involving the death of thousands of Rabbi Akiva’s students who were struck down by a plague. The plague was a punishment for the breakdown in the relationship between the students and was lifted on Lag B’Omer hence a day of celebration.

Initially this period of the counting between Pesach and Shavuot was a time filled with excitement and anticipation. The whole purpose for the coming out of slavery in Egypt was the receiving of the Torah by the entire Jewish people, 600,000 people standing as one. In fact the Torah itself uses the singular phrases – ish echad, b’lev echad – one man with one heart to describe the unity of the people standing at Sinai.

The Torah itself and the Oral Torah (Mishna and Gemara) which was to develop from the Written Torah and Tanach is a collection of diverse thoughts, rulings and arguments: between humans and G-d, between humans themselves. Our Oral tradition even preserves the arguments of the sages while knowing that the law will side with one sage over another. So difference, argument, clashes of style and substance, are signs not of unhealthy division but of health and passion and connection to our tradition and culture.

Rabbi Akiva’s students lost sight of this diversity of thought and custom. Their lack of respect, tolerance and acceptance of difference impacts us to this day. We have lost the wisdom and diversity of thinking that could have come from them and been part of our tradition.

The bonfires of Lag B’Omer remind us that fire can destroy (a lesson that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai had to learn too) or bring people closer in seeking its warmth. Ahavat Yisrael – love of a fellow Jew is only possible when we embrace diversity as a strength, when we build up our community and seek ways to bring us together. Judaism is not Judaism when it pulls us apart.

This is the message of Lag B’Omer. This is the message your children, all our Jewish students together, will learn around the bonfire as they roast their marshmallows and enjoy their sausage sizzle.

 

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