Main Lessons: Meaningful Learning in World Citizenship

17 March 2022

Last Thursday I ran a Parent Education session on the “big picture” of the Main Lesson curriculum that our teachers deliver at Glenaeon, and if you wish to see a recording, here is the link:
Access Passcode: dhrty12! 

This unique curriculum probably deserves a more expansive name than Main Lessons, which simply describes their place as the main lesson of the day. One very supportive family whose three children had been right through the school suggested Explorations as a better name, more suggestive they felt of the breadth and expansive quality of mind that the Main Lessons foster. 

My own preference for a new name is World Citizenship. This unique curriculum comprises no less than 140 experiences that build understandings in specific subjects and most importantly, tells the story of humanity, the golden thread of human development from the fairy tale world at the dawn of human consciousness to the sophisticated 21st century world that has us facing the challenge of how to maintain a human future. By telling the human story from beginnings to now, the Main lessons build a sense of each student’s place as a future world citizen.

In preparing the talk, I was reminded of a retrospective that one of our long term students wrote just days before she finished Year 12. Mia Westcott’s Year 12 retrospective is a long and considered piece, reflecting the deep intelligence that since leaving Glenaeon has seen her graduate in Medicine and become medical practitioner working with disadvantaged aboriginal women in the Newcastle area. Written as she finished school and was looking back on her journey, one of her final paragraphs describes how powerful she found our Main lesson program.

I have always found Main Lesson such a huge part of my life at Glenaeon, a fascinating and enjoyable experience. The things I have learnt in Main Lessons seem to recur throughout life, and make daily life a richer experience. I have found evidence of this when travelling, such as when I knew as much about Norse Mythology as the tour guide when in Norway, felt like I was with old friends when looking at the wonderful paintings and architecture of the Renaissance in Italy, and actually knew what the guide was talking about in India, as I had studied both the Ramayana and Bhagavad Gita. My parents have made me realise just how lucky I am to have learnt about all these things, and I would have thought it perfectly normal, but for the fact that they often didn't have a clue what I was talking about. Main Lessons were also an excuse to draw and be creative, and when I look back at my main lesson books, I remember the great pleasure I received from this. I have to admit, I still have every single Main Lesson book from primary school and most from high school, and (don't tell anyone), I actually enjoy getting them out and looking through them, remembering the fantastic stories.

Another Glenaeon graduate, also a doctor and also in the Newcastle area, donated his entire Main Lesson book collection to our archives. Dr Andrew Keyworth who runs a family practice in Charlestown, mentioned to me after one of our GlenX evenings that he was cleaning out his garage and couldn’t bear to throw out the product of his primary schooling at Glenaeon. All his main lesson books from his class teacher years has journeyed with him through various family moves, his university training and his own family homes. He was reluctant to throw out the books he had created as a record of his own learning at Glenaeon. We gladly accepted them, acknowledging once again how powerful meaningful learning can be. Meaningful learning builds Meaningful Lives!