Caring for our students

Written by Daphne Gaddie, Head of Early Learning Centre (ELC)

“Connecting the brain to the rest of the body: early childhood development and lifelong health are deeply intertwined.”

This is a statement from the publication titled ‘Centre on The Developing Child – Harvard University’, which goes on to say that “adult-child relationships, other early experiences, and environmental exposures influence child well-being. An increasing number of policies and programs around the world now reflect that understanding by supporting children’s early learning and nutrition to improve their readiness to succeed in school. As scientific knowledge continues to grow, we also know more clearly than ever how the conditions and environments in which children develop affect lifelong health as well as educational achievement.”

This is a responsibility that is felt deeply by all those in early childhood education.

The Early Years Learning Framework recognises that children’s learning is dynamic, complex, and holistic. Physical, social, emotional, personal, spiritual, creative, cognitive and linguistic aspects of learning are all intricately interwoven and interrelated.

Malaguzzi (Reggio Emilia) knew that education is among the most precious rights of all children, a common good-but not just any education-it has to be an education based on relationships; an education that at its very essence gives value to every child’s right to be respected and valued as a unique individual.

Bialik is unique in that it has children from the ages of 3 months to 18 years on one campus. We have sustained focussed leadership and accountability. Together with its sports centre, it is a hub that supports a community.
The kitchen in the Early Learning Centre (ELC) provides nutritious food to creche and kinder children and the Shuk provides food to all the other children and staff and has offered prepared meals to the wider community during the Covid-19 lockdown; all catering to our health and wellbeing.

Our team of psychologists, counsellors and all other well trained ancillary professionals work with children and adults supporting all members of our community.

2020 has been a challenging year globally and in Melbourne we have experienced a very long period of lockdown. As our teams of teachers prepared for online digital teaching, they continued to collaborate and explore ways to connect with children and families and to provide rich learning for the children.

Each year the ELC produces a journal “Windows into Children’s Thinking” and it is supported by an exhibition; a display of documentation of children’s learning throughout the year. These are based always on an overarching big idea and in 2020 this was “Crossing Boundaries.” This year the exhibition will not go ahead, however the journal is in its final stages before printing. It will focus not just on children’s learning but also on the reflections of teachers during this very challenging time.


Prep and Year 1s enjoy Family Maths Games

On Thursday 8 October, we welcomed over forty students and families to our Prep and Year 1 Family Maths Games Evening on Microsoft Teams. Maths Games have formed the basis of many meaningful learning experiences throughout Digital Bialik. It was wonderful to celebrate this learning as a school community and listen to students as they shared their strategic thinking about each game. All games from the evening can be accessed here to continue the learning at home.


The Taste Has Been Removed

A Message from Dan Sztrajt, Assistant Principal and Head of Jewish Life

On Tisha B’Av we commemorate much more than the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, we mourn a seismic shift in Jewish identity, a period in time so fraught with rapid change that it altered what it meant to be a Jew for the next 2000 years. 

This period was foretold in Deuteronomy, “In the morning you will say, would that it were evening, and in the evening you will say, would that it were morning”. The Talmud, in Tractate Sotah 49A, explains this as a cursed time when each evening we yearn for the next morning to bring better news, but in fact each day brings progressively more troubling news, “because their situation is continuously worsening” (Sotah 49A). The Talmud recognises that the destruction of the Temples themselves were not the most troubling element, but rather the uncertainty of such rapid changes for the community.

This year we are confronted with a very real understanding of what it is like to live through a period of constantly evolving circumstances. We wonder each evening what the infection numbers will be the next morning and how these may impose a different regime of restrictions on us. We are anxious with this uncertainty because it seems that our ‘situation is continuously worsening’. Just like the destruction of the Temples, it is not the existence of Covid-19 that worries us, it is this perpetual flux of changing conditions.

The parallels are even more pronounced when we read Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar’s Talmudic commentary on the same verse which says “since the destruction of the Temple… the taste and aroma has been removed from fruit.” While this may have been meant as a metaphor, it is almost eerie to consider this as analogous to today’s Coronavirus symptoms. We too now long for the sweetness of being in the classroom together and enjoying each other’s company on the playground at lunchtimes.

Having said all of this, what can we learn from these similarities? Perhaps we are now more able to appreciate the tragedy of Tisha B’Av, not only as destruction, but as prolonged uncertainty. On the other hand, we know Judaism adapted to its new reality and would eventually thrive becoming the religion we are so familiar with today. Some would even say that this calamity ultimately lead to the establishment of Rabbinic Judaism, democratisation replaced centralised control by the social elite, and individual prayer substituted gruesome sacrifices. What better lesson could we take from Tisha B’Av than the knowledge that uncertainty eventually ends, and things do get better. When we are challenged, we grow. We find innovative solutions to what once seemed like unsolvable problems. We develop new appreciations for what is really important to us and in the process, make our lives even richer than before. If we are still here thriving 2000 years after the destruction of our Temple, we will surely be here thriving after Covid-19 too.


Welcome Back to Term 3

Term 3 may not be unfolding the way we imagined it would, but there are still so many things to look forward to. All the usual excitement, activities and learning will take place in a suitable format and all our students, whether on or off campus.

Welcome back to the Creche and Kinder students, as well as the Year 10-12 students, who will be enjoying ‘business as usual’ on campus. And welcome back to our Year 2-Year 9 students — once again there is an amazing Digital Bialik offering in store for you.

Here are some photos of our Kinder students enjoying the first day of Term 3.


Adon Balon!

Did you know that Principal Jeremy has a secret talent? At the end of Term 2, he visited the ELC to show them his impressive skills at making balloon animals! This was a great way for Principal Jeremy to bond with some of the youngest students in the school, as well as enjoy a bit of time clowning around.


Online Storytime

Year 4 student Amelie K wrote a lovely narrative and read it online to a very engaged group of Year 1 students. Well done Amelie! Read Amelie’s story here. Here are some pictures the younger students drew in response to the story.


Bialik Goes Digital

This week we undertook a three day trial of Digital Bialik, an online delivery of our entire Prep to Year 12 curriculum. The trial was a huge success. Every subject, from Maths to English, from PE to Music, and even our kitchen lessons took place online.

Science was supported by our Laboratory Manager videoing science experiments at home, and even the Informal Team had lunchtime ‘hangs’ with our students.

Kol Hakavod to our inspiring teaching and administration teams who have relished the challenge and supported our children to continue learning.


The Bialik ELC – Offering Quality Education – A Message from Daphne Gaddie, Head of ELC

The NQF (National Quality Framework) introduced a new quality standard in 2012 to improve education and care across long day care, family day care, preschool/kindergarten, and outside school hours care services.
The NQF includes:

• National Law and National Regulations
• National Quality Standard
• Assessment and quality rating process
• National learning frameworks.

Research shows quality education and care early in life leads to better health, education and employment outcomes later in life. The early years are critical for establishing self-esteem, resilience, healthy growth and capacity to learn. Quality education and care shapes every child’s future and lays the foundation for development and learning.

Since 1994, we have been strongly inspired by the Reggio Approach.We have never called ourselves a Reggio Emilia school because that is a school that belongs in Reggio Emilia but Reggio Emilia’s challenge to us came about in two forms. One is a gift and by that I am referring to our increased understanding of the rights and abilities of children, the richness of multiple points of view and the potential of taking action on behalf of our children. The second was a tremendous responsibility once we admitted to what we had seen and understood. We could no longer go back to the idea of the teacher as the transmitter of all knowledge, nor the idea of children working in isolation, but rather as collaborative members of a group. We understood that children express themselves in many ways not only through the language of speech and that the teachers are not the ones asking the questions to which they usually already know the answer.

We have also been strongly influenced in our thinking by the Cultures of Thinking research project, a collaboration between Bialik College and Harvard University. This meant that teachers, teaching children of all ages, were able to connect together based on children’s thinking not on the discipline nor on the age of the children. It came about as a direct response and a complete fit to the children leaving the ELC and entering the primary school at year 2.

The implementation of the Victorian Early Years Learning Framework came after many years of change for us. The building of respectful, reciprocal relationships with each other, with our families, with our children and other professionals is something that is lived every day. Our image of our children means that we have high expectations in their abilities but understand diversity and welcome difference. The Framework has enhanced and enriched our learning together as a staff as we discuss and debate issues. We have worked hard to be open to listening to others and this has resulted in a welcoming ‘open door’ policy towards families and educators from Bialik and beyond with many people coming to visit and to learn from us. We value this reciprocity as we learn much from others’ questions and wonderings, which helps to deepen our thinking and learning.

Our responsibility concerns the quality of education we offer to our children and our families, the quality of our resources and in particular the richness of our approach. We continue to ask hard and deep questions while trying to build answers, challenge our assumptions and evolve in our thinking and actions. Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Approach and one of the great pedagogical figures of the 20th century, spoke often of the role of the teacher. He encouraged teachers to embrace their responsibility and often concluded by saying, “the teacher’s task is to preserve, as far as possible, the naturalness of the children’s creative and practical processes, in the conviction that children have the necessary resources for going much further than we might think.” Malaguzzi, 1995.

Education and care services are assessed and rated by their state and territory regulatory authority. In Victoria services are rated by a regulatory body, Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA).
Services are assessed against the 7 quality areas of the National Quality Standard.

These are: Educational program and practice; Children’s health and safety; Physical environment; Staffing arrangements; Relationships with children; Collaborative partnerships with families and communities and Leadership and Governance.

We are in the middle of our assessment and rating process. This is a very important process for us as it recognises what we do well and what we need to do to improve our practice further.

The Bialik School values of Responsibility, Integrity, Perseverance, Empathy and Respect are the values that we always strive to embody. Success for us means, that each one of our educators has a deep understanding of children and how they learn and that they are able to articulate our beliefs, our understandings of our children’s thinking and the approaches to pedagogy that we have developed.


Science in Motion – Another Fantastic Science Week!

In its sixth year, Science Week at Bialik saw students engaging in a range of activities around the theme of ‘Science in Motion’.

The ELC students investigated how neurons work to help them think and make connections by looking at and touching real brains.

Students in the Primary School got friendly with a variety of Australian animals like Serendipity the baby wallaby, crocodiles and snakes, and learned all about the human body by seeing and touching bones and body parts from different animals. The Year 3 and 5 scientists were amazed by the ‘Big Science Show’, where some brave students helped create a ball of fire!

In the Middle School, students learned the neuroscience behind magic, played with drones and robots, exploded a ball pit with liquid nitrogen, had a scavenger hunt around the school, and connected their Maths and Science skills whilst playing bubble soccer and using the crash carts.

Students from the Senior School honed their Physics skills when they took part in our axe-throwing activity, learned how to protect their brains and battled it out during a domino tower competition.

Throughout the week, students participated in forensics and sport activities, explored virtual reality and hugged some friendly animals during their lunchtimes.

Bialik gratefully acknowledges the generous support of Science Week at Bialik, in memory of Bettie Kornhauser.


While you were sleeping – a message from Gary Velleman, Vice Principal

As we approach the end of the third week of the 2020 school calendar, it struck me as to how much happens behind the scenes – over the summer break – to have the school ready and operational for a new school year.  Overall, by the time students arrive, few give a moment of thought to what has transpired to ensure a smooth transition for all.

Like great umpires or referees, who control a game but remain unnoticed and quietly go about their business in the background, with minimum fuss or profile, Frank and his maintenance team are the unsung heroes of the College, overseeing and orchestrating an army of tradespeople and contractors, who, by Day 1, are a distant memory.  Samples of the work arranged and completed over the break include the:

  • refurbishment of the toilets in the VCE Building,
  • fitting of new awnings in the Kindergarten playground,
  • polishing and waxing of indoor courts,
  • health checks on and pruning of trees and garden upkeep,
  • upgrade of electrical and plumbing works,
  • overseeing of a graffiti artist bringing a tired wall to life and,
  • coordination of the purchase, delivery and installation of new lockers in the Middle School

Added to that, consider the work by Finance, HR, Communication, Registrar and others to integrate effectively over 70 new students (not including those starting at Kinder 3) and 20 new staff.  Each addition adds to the fabric of the College, bringing new ideas, new challenges and new opportunities.  By considering all of these elements, one can gain some insight into the scale of human capital invested in getting things “just right” for a new school year.

With the unwavering optimism and energy befitting the young, we enter 2020 knowing that taking time to notice and not to take for granted that which is under our nose, are critical in keeping us grounded and connected.  Whether it be our amazing Graduating class of 2019, where 36% volunteered as “buddies” on a Flying Fox camp (for young people with disabilities) the week after their VCE results came in, or our current cohort who helped make calls for JNF last Sunday, there are plenty of reasons to have Bialik up and running.