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Learning by imitation

by Diana Patchett, Junior School Principal

I love to spend time in the Kindergarten; it never fails to brighten my day. Sliding in alongside the free play of children offers a beautiful insight into their wonderings, their imagination and their growing understanding of the world around them. It can also be a direct line of sight into the family home. Many parents might be surprised (perhaps shocked) to know the behaviour of their children in these natural moments is also often a clear reflection of parent behaviour.

Children do what they see adults do. From a very early age, they begin to learn by imitation – ‘monkey see, monkey do’ describes the typical training ground for children when acquiring the early skills of life. It is during these impressionable years that parents take advantage of their power as a role model to teach their child to brush their teeth, use a knife and fork, and establish any number of other positive habits.

As children get older, they identify with parents and other significant adults and begin to model their behaviour on those who they form relationships with, people who they love and admire. By this time, our young people have established most of the essential life skills, but their attitudes and dispositions are still very much ‘under construction’. Will they be someone who judges someone based on race? Will they offer assistance to anyone in need? Will they think it is okay to drop their litter on the ground? Will they be kind?

With young people exposed to such a plethora of potential infuencers – real and virtual-- you can see how important it is for the school environment to be one that surrounds children with adults who are role models for positive behaviour. At Kristin, we don’t leave these unintended lessons to chance. We are a community that actively looks for opportunities to demonstrate.

At the core, from the Kindergarten through to Year 13, the International Baccalaureate programmes provide a common language and focus for the development of internationally minded people who, recognising their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world. Key attributes such as being caring, open-minded and principled, are woven into the curriculum and lived each day by teachers, staff and students.

We are proud of the academic, cultural and sporting achievements of our students, but it is the fact that they are genuinely nice people that matters most. We take our responsibilities for enabling young people to be the best people they can be very seriously, and we invest time and resources to optimise staff welfare and then reap the many benefit of a happy school.

Dorothy Law Nolte’s poem ‘Children Learn What They Live’ offers a provocative collection of phrases for all of us to consider, for we all have a part to play in realising a North Shore community that encourages the positive development of our young people. She writes, ‘If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect. If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place to live.’

A child is a mirror, an echo field that returns what is sent in its direction. We don’t always see the connection between our behaviour and a child’s behaviour, but it is there.