Dual roles as the mother of two teenage boys and the year 5 and 6 co-ordinator at Mentone Grammar have given Jacqueline Cartwright a unique perspective on the middle years of education.
Jacqueline joined Mentone Grammar four years ago, after more than 20 years of working in special education and government schools.
Since then, she has introduced unique programs in the middle years to help prepare young students for the transition to secondary school, and keep them engaged in their learning.
“I think our understanding of middle years, which essentially starts in year 5, is that it can be a time of plateau and disengagement in a student’s education,” Jacqueline says.
“We try to implement an engaging curriculum; we’re trying to implement new subjects and ways of learning that engage our pupils of today.”
Part of the approach at Mentone Grammar is treating middle years students as individual learners with individual needs.
“I actually say to parents, ‘you can look at your family and see completely different kids’ … no two children are the same and this is certainly the case within a classroom,” she says.
“We try to work with them on an individual basis, rather than as one entire cohort.”
The school has implemented more purposeful feedback for year 5 and 6 students to encourage them to challenge themselves and further extend their knowledge. “It’s about us, as teachers, providing students with clear feedback that will assist them to acquire further knowledge, rather than just stopping their development at a simple comment such as ‘well done’,” Jacqueline says.
As part of her role, Jacqueline has helped to introduce programs to help students better understand their emotional well-being and develop their organisational skills.
“We promote RULER anchors of emotional intelligence, which are tools that help staff and students alike to recognise emotions,” she says.
“Mood meters” in each classroom help students understand how they are feeling. “Sometimes we might stop in the middle of a class and refer to the mood meter and say ‘we’re all in the red at the moment; how are we going to bring ourselves down from here into the blue or green, because for this class we need to have a little less energy?’,” she says. “It’s not always a bad thing to be in the high-energy red quadrant either, because sometimes, depending on the activity, nervous energy can be good.”
Jacqueline says Mentone Grammar has an excellent focus on science, technology and the performing arts in the middle years, which helps to provide new learning opportunities to the students.
Of course, there is also a focus on preparing students for the transition to secondary school.
“A lot of what we do assists students to be organised because it can be very stressful not knowing what you need for which class when you begin year 7,” she says.
“Once you take some organisational stress away from the students, that gives them a more relaxed start to secondary school.”
I have learned …
Promote being the best
When you promote being the best you can be to students, and the higher you raise expectations, the more they will strive for greatness.
Open and clear communication
Effective listening, and respectful, inclusive classrooms where everybody matters, are the key to student well-being.
I have the best job in the world
Every day I get to experience things through the eyes of children, through laughter, and varied perspectives.
63 Venice Street, Mentone
03 9584 4211.