Spotlight On: A New Way of Learning

6 April 2020

This article first appeared in Queenwood News Weekly 3 April 2020. 

Firstly, I thank you all for the immense support you have offered over the last two weeks as we have transitioned to online learning. Our staff have worked hard to get this underway at short notice and it has taken both dedication and stamina. Teaching is taxing in normal times but having to do everything in an entirely new way is doubly so.

I particularly appreciate how parents have given their support for their daughters’ learning. Some girls are capable, thanks to their age and disposition, of working very independently, but many are not. For those girls, parents have shown tremendous commitment to their education as they have bundled them out of bed, helped them prepare for the timetabled day, answered questions and not taken offence when their daughters completely ignore their advice in favour of what the teacher says. (If it’s any comfort, teachers’ children do this to their parents, too. Apparently I am an expert in education everywhere except in my own home…) I also recognise that parents have had many competing commitments and are adjusting to a complex new world, which has made juggling their children’s timetables at home even more complex. So, a very big thank you from all of us.

Looking Ahead
When it comes to a pandemic, only fools rush in to make forecasts. We are very conscious that circumstances may change but we are currently planning on the basis that this mode of schooling will continue throughout Term 2. With this in mind, sustainability is the focus of our thinking and planning. We want the girls to continue learning but it must be manageable – for them, for their parents and for their teachers.

As feedback from these three points of the triangle comes in, we will be adjusting our timetables and expectations – to reduce the intensity with more and longer breaks and little if any homework for most age groups; to incorporate as much social connection with teachers and peers as possible; to package some fun into the day and to support the girls’ emotional and mental wellbeing. For Junior School, we are investigating ways to minimise the need for parental assistance. We really appreciate your feedback – both the positive and the constructively critical – and we will be continually reviewing and adjusting over time.

We will be making many adjustments to the planned curriculum and teaching resources for Term 2, and to facilitate this we will finish the term one day early. We will also take a different approach on Wednesday next week, setting the girls some tasks and projects within a structured day but without teachers engaging in direct instruction. This will release two days, Wednesday and Thursday, for teachers to engage in collaborative preparation and planning, which is required before the break so that they can then individually use the school holiday period to prepare for the coming term. We also recognise the fatigue reported by many families who are ready for a break heading into the Easter long weekend.

A few notices

  • Parent Teacher dates for Senior School have been revised – please see details below. These will be held via videoconference with instructions sent to parents in the week prior.

  • The School has a limited number of laptops that have now been reconfigured for student use. If your daughter is struggling with a device at home, please contact either her class teacher (Junior School) or tutor (Senior School) and we will endeavour to assist you.

  • The survey for Junior School parents closes today.

  • Our ongoing channel for feedback from all parents about online learning is via the survey here which will remain open.

  • We will be writing to parents early next week about plans for next term and how the School will be supporting families that are experiencing hardship.

One of the highlights of my week has been ‘video-bombing’ as many classes as possible across all years. I have marvelled at what is being done in every conceivable subject and format. It is the Principal’s privilege to interrupt almost any lesson and I have shamelessly exploited this! What a joy to see so many smiling faces onscreen, from our tiny Kindergarten girls through to some quite sleepy Year 12s at morning roll call. The girls are missing each other – and we are truly missing them.

Ms Elizabeth Stone