An opportunity to reflect and grow

Chris Ivey / Academic

It has been so good to welcome back our youngest

15 May 2020

An opportunity to reflect and grow

Dear St Andrew’s community,

It has been so good to welcome back our youngest and our oldest students this week. It’s been a week for some new beginnings as well, as we adjusted the pick-up arrangements and Year 1 parents were switched to ‘top pick-up’. I have watched many Year 1s and their parents observe our great big Year 11 and 12 students who exit through the top entrance and they seem entertained by these unusual beings who are adult sized but still in St Andrew’s uniform, not normally encountered in the side pick-up or in the Primary playground! I hope they realise that our older students are actually pretty decent human beings! Sure, they look big and somewhat different, but they are St Andrew’s students and we are one school, educating students from the very young right up to 18-years-old.

I share this with you, because as I wrote last week, we are relishing the opportunity to reflect on all the differences, opportunities and learnings that have taken place over the online learning journey. We have been overwhelmed by the number of emails that have not only thanked our staff but commented on the particular aspects of the past few months that have been so positive. 

Parents may be aware that we have made a conscious effort to keep in regular contact with our students. Each Secondary student was allocated a staff member to touch base and check in with a phone call every week or so. I have had ten students to call and as we chat about what they’ve been experiencing, there has been a great opportunity for individual and personal feedback. At the same time, we have begun surveying our Year 11s and 12s upon their return to gather some data on learning remotely. We have begun to see some interesting themes emerging:

  • Engagement. Many students have commented on the increased engagement without some of the distractions that can sometimes exist in a normal classroom. The use of Microsoft Teams has meant that students who normally might not feel like contributing in class have felt more confident in asking questions through the chat function.
  • Flexibility. Some students have enjoyed the later start to the day, the ability to work at their own pace, either quicker or slower, immerse themselves in a particular topic, or the capacity to come back to something and re-visit because the lesson and content have been recorded.

This sort of feedback raises some fundamental questions about the way we see education. In schools we are often constrained by an industrial view of education but some of us have gone big in our thinking and have begun asking some crazy questions. To be honest, these probably relate more to our senior students, but our aim as a P–12 College is to enable our students to leave us with the best possible experiences to walk confidently into their futures. In addition, it is important to be clear, online learning via a screen is not for everyone and many have missed the face-to-face. In all of our thinking this is about how we best improve the learning opportunities to benefit all students.

  • Could we offer the option of both online and face-to-face and students could ‘move between’ the two modes on a daily basis based on the needs of the students?
  • Could some subjects be taught with some regular lessons online and the rest face-to-face, allowing us to offer more variety of subjects? It could also help us review the number of electives we offer our lower secondary students and perhaps offer more specialisation early on for those students who are ready?
  • Could staff who are away from campus actually plan their lesson online and then be online for a portion of their lesson to ensure the students continue to engage with their teacher?
  • Could we offer more extension opportunities online?

One thing that won’t change is the need for schools to be places of community, socialising and relationships. The greatest learning will still take place when students engage in opportunities to be relational, grow and learn about themselves; students need their peers and other trusted adults around them to help them sort out challenges when they need it. Students need to experience opportunities to observe difference away from their family but in a safe environment, they also benefit from learning that routines, boundaries and expectations help them to function. However, if we can begin to unshackle ourselves in some positive way to provide more flexibility within the classroom that provides great learning for different learners, then let’s keep thinking and dreaming.

Best wishes,
Rev Chris Ivey

Author Profile

Chris Ivey

In his own words, Chris “enables things to happen” at St Andrew’s. As Principal of the College, he leads the development and progression of St Andrew’s by enabling staff and students to achieve their personal best. Chris is a Reverend and has been the Principal of St Andrew’s for more that 15 years. He also represents and advocates for Independent schools across Australia as the National Chair of AHISA (Association of Heads of Independent Schools, Australia).

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