Identifying your child’s learning superpower

Published July 5, 2021

Parent at St Cuthbert’s and Co-Founder and Director of ZURU, Anna Mowbray

Parent at St Cuthbert’s and Co-Founder and Director of ZURU, Anna Mowbray, has a daughter at St Cuthbert’s in Year 2 who has been flourishing from the support of the Pōhutukawa Learning Centre (PLC). The PLC caters for the needs of diverse learners at St Cuthbert’s. We spoke to Anna about enabling girls to find their learning superpower and the importance of celebrating the unique ways children learn.

Do you know your child’s learning ‘superpower’? For Anna Mowbray, discovering this is key to having a confident and happy child.

“So many in my family are dyslexic and that’s why alternate learning needs are so close to me; these learning difficulties can actually be your superpower if you allow them to be as they speak to a different way of processing; you’ve got to be able to unlock this knowledge and acceptance and then you’ll build confidence in your learning, I truly believe the key to learning is being happy and confident.”

After 15 years in Asia, Anna returned from Hong Kong in February 2020 to celebrate Chinese New Year. During her time in Auckland the global situation with COVID-19 worsened and Anna knew it wasn’t the time to be travelling so decided to stay. As a parent of five, with two children who have diverse learning needs, finding a school that not only understood these needs, but celebrated them, was key.

“I was very intent in putting Maile into the right place; she is an amazingly beautiful child and has additional learning needs with which she needed support. I felt that there was something special at St Cuthbert’s, that warmth, that holistic feel, that entrenched culture and values subset that’s come through generations, and I wanted her to have that platform to support her in achieving greatness.”

Anna believes so deeply in the benefit enriched learning support can bring children, she was keen to make sure this could be offered to as many St Cuthbert’s girls as possible, giving a gift to the school to sustain a new senior specialist Learning Support Teacher.

Anna says children with learning difficulties have so much to give and have an incredibly unique and inspiring way of looking at life.  

“My daughter’s pearls of wisdom and how she looks at life is just so enriching. She’s got this completely alternate way of looking at the world, and she’ll come up with the most magnificent statements that you would never assume would come from this little seven-year-old girl.”

It’s because of the confidence with which Maile has been instilled at the Pōhutukawa Learning Centre and in the wider classroom, and of course at home, that is helping her embrace her way of learning. Anna says, “The biggest thing for me is that children have so much to give, if they feel confident. So, it’s important to become a confidence catalyst for the kids by empowering them in their alternate way of thinking. My passion lies in figuring out how the individual learns, playing into those strengths and allowing them to be their best selves by nurturing their confidence.”

Anna says it is incredibly important to make learning support a positive experience, and to celebrate diversity, as that’s when society succeeds.

“There is no standardised way of learning or a standard individual; we are all so unique. For me, having children that have learning difficulties but seeing their greatness, and knowing that if that can be unlocked then the gift of their greatness can be shared onto others, I know that’s when they can enrich others’ lives.”

Anna sees the Pōhutukawa Learning Centre positively impacting the lives of every girl at St Cuthbert’s.

“The happiness of every child ultimately has a ripple on effect to those around them, and if you are feeling stressed, if you are feeling undervalued, if you feel you are not unlocking your potential because of a barrier you have in how you learn, you ultimately are not being your best self and that affects others around you. So, it’s about helping every girl understand that unlocking your best self and celebrating people’s uniqueness, is actually the biggest form of kindness you can give to anybody.”

Anna’s advice to parents is to celebrate every win on their child’s learning journey.

“Celebrate the unique differences in your individual child, and, more than anything, celebrate their hard work and those incremental gains that they get on every single one of those challenges. Don’t look at their learning difficulty as a weakness but rather figure out how to unravel and understand where their strengths lie because every single individual in this world has so much to give.”

For Anna, the support she is providing St Cuthbert’s is just a first step and she is looking at a way of replicating this into more learning environments to help children across the country. Before you know it, our skies will be filled with many super girls!

The Pōhutukawa Learning Centre (PLC)

The overarching goal of the PLC is to cater for the needs of diverse learners at St Cuthbert’s. Diversity encompasses many characteristics including giftedness; our Learning Enrichment programme and learning differences; our Specialised Learning Interventions programme.  

The Learning Enrichment Programme includes the Gifted and Talented Programme (GATE) for children who already perform or have the ability to perform at a level significantly beyond their chronically aged peers. Giftedness can apply to either one or a variety of learning areas. While some students find themselves falling behind the expected achievement levels of their peers, and our Specialised Learning Intervention Programme focusses on helping these students recognise their learning differences so that they become more effective learners. This can include English as a second language learners (ESOL). 

The PLC uses enriched learning techniques to help students recognise their learning differences to become more effective learners. This is underpinned by a belief that every student should be given the opportunity to develop their understanding of themselves as a learner so they can watch their improvement. Students spend most of their time within mainstream classes to ensure they always feel socially connected to their peers, whilst also having this one-on-one support to raise their confidence.  

We are very lucky to have Felecia Tomich as our Head of the PLC for Years 0 – 9, and Linda Ward for Years 9 – 13. Our two Heads cross over in Year 9 to ensure a seamless centre for the girls between the Junior and Senior Schools.