Term two has been a strange term for students, teachers, and of course parents, as they work as isolated teams to ensure education around the state continues for primary and secondary students during lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the teams of East Gippsland appear to be fairing well.
“To say this term is different is clearly an understatement but it is clearly evident that the whole community should be justifiably proud of our efforts in supporting health initiatives and working together to ensure that students continue to learn,” St Joseph’s Primary School principal, Marie Dodson, said.
She said staff members had been carefully planning to provide materials that students would need to undertake learning from home.
“Students complete tasks using a mixture of technology and old-fashioned pen and paper activities,” Ms Dodson said.
“Education staff members are meeting different groups of students in video conferences regularly for a variety of reasons. They may catch up and share learning, engage in an explicit teaching task, follow instructions to do something creative or chat with parents.”
Ms Dodson said parents are juggling many roles and supporting student learning very well.
“Many of them, like staff members, are becoming adept at managing technology and the rigours of engaging with others through media,” she said.
Students from St Joseph’s Primary School are enjoying flexibility in their days as they set their goals and negotiate with their families to participate in groups according to rosters, complete learning tasks and enjoy some exercise and fun.
“They should be rightfully proud of their efforts and achievements,” Ms Dodson said.
“These are indeed challenging times. They are also exciting times where we can all embrace new challenges, learn or hone skills in communication and technology that we can utilise into the future, demonstrate our capacity as independent learners and most importantly, work together so that our children can continue to learn.
“Everyone is on a steep learning curve. Communication is the key. We are all in this together and we are all learning.”
Orbost North Primary School principal, Jo Dacy-Broome, concurred.
“It is certainly different from anything we’ve ever seen before at Orbost North, not only for us but the world, which is unique in our lifetime,” she said.
“The students at Orbost North are working at home with work packs that their family pick up and drop off on Fridays at school each week. The Friday change over time is a great opportunity to talk about how things are going, what children are enjoying or struggling with and sharing anecdotes and tips on making this new system of learning work for everyone.”
Ms Dacy-Broome said teachers talk to or email students regularly through the week and are sent back photos of students working and doing things like decorating their driveways for Anzac Day and making Anzac biscuits.
“The year six students are enjoying working with their very own Think Pads from home, which were purchased for them by Orbost North with a bushfire grant. They now have the chance to work from home and school before taking the Think Pads with them to secondary school next year,” Ms Dacy-Broome said.
“So even though life has thrown up a new challenge, it’s great to witness the resilience in our students and families and the great relationships forming within families and the school community.
“I believe we will all benefit from some of the positives that have arisen from this pandemic.”
Newmerella Primary School principal, Stephen Mathers, said while the first three weeks of remote online learning has meant more work and has been a challenge for everyone, he believes “we can be most pleased with how this is going and our achievements so far”.
“We have approximately 12 students, who are not able to be supervised with their learning at home, attending school with three or four staff onsite each day. All students at school and at home receive the same learning that is delivered online through the Seesaw app,” Mr Mathers said.
He said using Seesaw as a platform to deliver, support, receive, respond to, monitor, access and record student learning is proving to be a most effective and efficient tool.
“It provides the opportunity for flexibility with not all learning activities required to be completed on the screen. Often students are provided with the choice to present their learning by responding through photographs of their written or art work and through speech and video presentations,” he said.
Students are provided with engaging and deep learning activities at their interest and appropriate level.
In the senior years, East Gippsland secondary college communities are also fairing well.
Orbost Secondary College principal, Peter Seal, said students, parents and staff of the school community have been working incredibly hard over the last few weeks to adapt to remote and flexible learning.
“We have learnt a lot about the benefits of technology in helping us learn, but we’ve also learnt a lot about the drawbacks, and we are looking forward to having students back at school,” he said.
“As with anything new, we have made some mistakes and have appreciated the feedback from parents and students about how we can improve. We’ve done our best to implement strategies to improve based on this feedback.”
At the smaller Cann River P-12 College, principal, Bruce Spink, said, “We are doing very well”.
Covering students from prep to year 12, he said staff are ensuring strong connection to students and families, “as all our area schools are.”
“It’s very different for everybody, but it is leading to many new possibilities. Primary students have daily, one on one, classes, by phone, or Webex, etc.,” Mr Spink said.
“There is a busy web of emails, phone calls, online responses every day, and we do a pick up return day each week, for paper and other physical resources.”
Mr Spink said there is a very strong connection within the school community, including through the college’s newsletter, Jinga.
“We will make mistakes but we will work together to fix them,” St Joseph Primary School’s Ms Dodson said.
“Let’s, everyone in our rural community of Orbost and surrounding areas, approach these times of uncertainty and change with understanding and gratitude and grasp the opportunities to celebrate our achievements, even little ones, and be proud to work together to overcome difficulty.”
Ms Dodson’s final word came from a classic quote by the famous Dr Seuss: Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!
IMAGE: St Joseph’s Primary School’s Taylah Curry completes a drawing task in her visual diary as part of her studies from home. (PS)