Sunday, 11 October 2020

COVID -19 (Part 5) Surfing the Second Wave during the Longest Lockdown in the World

Coronavirus Update

As the rest of Australia began to recover from the impact of the pandemic, community transmission in Victoria increased dramatically and on August 2 we moved to Stage 4 lockdown. On August 5 we reached our peak of over 700 new cases. Fortunately, after months of extreme lockdown which included an 8pm curfew, compulsory face mask wearing and an inability to travel further than 5 kilometers from home, on October 3 there were only 8 new cases.  Melbournians wait in anticipation for October 19 when the debilitating Stage 4 restrictions should be eased to enable people to return to work and inject much needed hope and life into the economy. Importantly, the delicate emotional wellbeing of those with elevated levels of stress and anxiety caused by physical distancing, isolation and job loss during lockdown will receive a much needed boost. Sadly, there have also been 805 deaths in Victoria, with many families losing loved ones, especially the elderly. We continue to keep all families in our thoughts and prayers.

Australians are recognised for their resilience and optimism and adhere with determination to the core value of supporting each other to get through the most challenging of times. Just as a surfer repeatedly gets back onto their board, we refuse to be wiped out by the second wave.

Flexible Learning and the Second Wave
In the previous two posts, I shared the proposed changes we made to remote learning based on feedback from all stakeholders and the Flexible Learning guidelines and expectations going forward. That was early in July, when we we were reeling from the shock of 288 coronavirus cases. Little did we know at the time that due to the dramatic increase of coronavirus cases, our renewed Flexible Learning practices would continue for the full 10 weeks of Term 3 and the first week of Term 4. We eagerly await the return to onsite learning for all primary school children on October 12.
I described my experiences with remote learning during the first lockdown as running on the Covid Treadmill. This is definitely not the case as we come to the end of the current lockdown. 
We finished Term 3 with passion, energy and profound belief in the quality of the Flexible Learning programme offered across the school. Our Term 3 second wave experience more closely aligns with surfing ; catching a pipeline, skilfully guiding the nose of the surfboard through the barrel of the gigantic wave whilst balancing with ease and confidence as the wave carries you safely to land on the shore.

Amidst the many challenges of the Stage 4 lockdown restrictions, we are extremely satisfied that the combined efforts of students, staff and parents enabled all learners to achieve to the best of their ability. Student interaction weekly reports from staff developed during the course of the term to include a record of parent communications and online social opportunities for different year levels. We received numerous emails of thanks from the parents and are grateful for the overwhelmingly positive feedback shared with us all. Feedback included:

" ...We appreciate the teachers have gone above and beyond to support us and the kids.." Prep and Yr 2 parent
"..A big thank you to the wonderful staff at St Patrick's...they keep the kids busy whilst providing regular positive feedback..." Y
ear 3 parent
" so energised and happy to log on each morning..the home schooling has been a great experience because of how well prepared and energising you were each day." Yr 6 parent
"..Thank you for your commitment, support and care..I am certainly seeing growth, resilience and maturity...thank you for the key role you are playing..." Yr 6 parent
"..we are loving your work in the school assemblies absolutely fantastic to watch. Shows so much passion for what you do thank you.." Yr 1 parent
'' .. thank you for all your great flourishing under your direction and support..." Yr 5 parents
".. we really appreciate the time you take to review each piece of work, the feedback and messages you write back... feel connected, stay accountable and be motivated..." Yr 4 parent
"..can I once again thank you and your team for the selfless and supportive way in which you have helped us. .. we appreciate everything you are doing to support our children..."

Our student SRC leaders represent their classes and they met with me via Zoom on a weekly basis during term 3. We created some wellbeing videos to share with the community. The focus on wellbeing with tips to encourage us to express our gratitude and remain positive were ideas that came directly from the students. The video below is a reflection of the highlights of Flexible Learning for the students from Year 1 - 6.
You can access further videos by the Semester 2 SRC leaders at these links -


Virtual Assemblies continued to evolve and feedback from families in relation to the "transformations" seemed to give everyone a much needed lift. At this point in time we have uploaded and shared 15 virtual assembly videos. Below is one of the videos that included a senior leadership sing along and bloopers too! 

Throughout the challenges of the pandemic, holding tight to our core values with faith filled hearts is enabling our community to thrive.

As we continue to ride the second wave with passion and purpose, the  emphasis on faith and wellbeing is regenerating the hearts and minds of the community.

Family engagement is strengthening, staff capacity is surging and student agency is flourishing; further deepening the culture of inquiry, "the archaeological dig" that was part of our school wide review in 2019. 

Underpinning all of this is the realisation that we are actioning our long term goals as articulated in the School Improvement Plan 2020-2023. We are living out our vision to ensure learners leave our school self - motivated to make a positive impact on their world.

Seven months of lockdown hasn't deterred us..... imagine what we will all achieve together post lockdown. 

  • To our SRC students and young leaders for their contribution to the SRC and virtual assembly videos
  • To our hard working staff who responded to the challenge to "raise the bar" and make Flexible Learning truly count for every learner
  • To our students and parents who continue to work together, give and receive feedback and keep learning despite the unique challenges that we are all experiencing in these "unprecedented" times.

Friday, 17 July 2020

COVID -19 (Part 4) From Home Learning to Flexible Learning

In light of increasing pandemic cases due to community transmission, the Victorian premier gifted all school staff with five student free days to prepare for Phase 2 of remote learning. Each and every staff member at #stpatsmbna fully participated in reviewing feedback (see previous post) and redesigning a Flexible Learning program with a number of key changes for our community. 
At our school, we are committed to teaching a consistent high-quality and engaging curriculum with one to one and small group student support, a focused wellbeing program, opportunities for enrichment and extension and access to specialist expertise. 
Every student is unique. In the coming weeks, we believe we will support every student to flourish during this next phase of remote learning.
Staff maintain social distance and work in triads to review practices

All staff presented and shared their knowledge, research and tips for improving remote learning practise

Key Changes to Home Learning

"We value rich, regular and quality feedback.." St Pat's Shared Vision
Teachers have a reputation for actively seeking feedback on their practices and making adjustments for continual improvement. Some of the key changes that we have made include:
  • Home Learning will now be referred to as Flexible Learning
We will now refer to the learning that takes place as Flexible Learning. Based on feedback, we have made a number of changes to our Flexible Learning program and this time around we will all be more flexible.  Flexible Learning can take place in your homes or at school. Either way, the staff, students and families are making adjustments to learning and in doing so are being extremely flexible. The ability to make adjustments and be flexible is a valuable life skill.
The Home Learning tabs on the #stpatsmbna Learning Community Site have been renamed to Flexible Learning.
  • Children will be expected to wear their school uniform both at school and at home for Flexible Learning.
This time, we wish to ensure we treat everyone fairly and show that we are all serious about learning onsite at school or offsite at home. All children will wear their school uniform for Flexible Learning.
  • Specialist classes have been moved to one full day to allow for continuity of class teaching on other days.
Specialist teachers will be available on that day. However, class teachers will still take the daily Zoom roll call. The children can wear their sports uniform on the Specialist day.
  • Times removed from the Flexible Learning planner to accommodate flexibility for families. 
The suggested maximum time will be listed for each Flexible Learning activity instead of expecting families to complete an activity at a set time. The two 40 minute morning and lunchtime breaks will reflect the timing of breaks onsite at school.
  • Teachers availability has increased (see the Expectations of Teachers below)
  • Extra small group sessions and 1:1 or 1:2 sessions will take place (see below)
  • Wellbeing and Catholic Identity times have been prioritised
Dedicated wellbeing teaching focus sessions are planned into the Flexible Learning program along with opportunities to develop our Catholic identity.

Core Values

Our school Core Values guide our behaviours. In order to be open and honest about how we can all support our children fairly, the following expectations for teachers, students and parents will contribute to the success of Flexible Learning @stpatsmbna

Flexible Learning Guidelines & Expectations for staff, students and parents
Expectations of teachers
Face to face interactions and availability
  • Classroom teacher is accessible 9 -1.30 every day (except student/teacher break times - 2 x 40 mins). Afternoons will be for teachers to ring parents / respond to emails / provide feedback to students.
  • Every child is involved in a whole class Zoom every day and a small group instructional session at least once a week.
  • Needs based 1: 1 or 2: 1 sessions will occur with the teacher (parents will be notified in line with child safe requirements)
  • Zoom sessions on the Specialist day will be limited to a 10 minute roll call.
  • Emails to teachers will be responded to between 8am and 5pm Monday-Friday.
Teaching Instructions
  • Teachers will upload the weekly Flexible Learning plan to the Learning Community Site by 2pm every Friday
  • Teachers will upload at least one spelling video each week, plus one teacher directed maths and one literacy/reading/writing video or Screencastify each week.
  • Instructional time will be kept short and concise (7-10 mins).
  • Where possible, teachers will use slides to break down tasks. Students can reference videos or slides multiple times to reinforce strategies, concepts or skills.
  • One day each week will be a specialist focus day
Feedback to students
  • Timely and specific feedback will be provided to every student twice a week. This will be specific to success criteria. One for literacy, one for maths.
  • Fortnightly specific feedback to students around specialist areas from specialist teachers
  • Link to assessment rubric provided prior to teaching where applicable.
Expectations of students
At Home and Onsite
Students will:
  • Wear their school uniforms each school day unless it is their birthday or have won a casual clothes award
  • Be expected to be “in class” and present at roll call or parents will be notified immediately.
  • Be notified when their weekly group and 1:1 or 1:2 meetings will be and are expected to participate.
  • Have their videos on and their full name displayed when in Zoom sessions.
  • Wear headphones whenever possible to minimise background noise, as appropriate.
  • Follow the ICT User Agreement.
  • Only engage in the chat or drawing functions on Zoom when directed.
  • Follow year level guidelines of work to be submitted each day.
  • Contact specialist teachers via email for any questions regarding those subject areas.
As well as the above points, onsite students will:
  • Bring resources needed for onsite learning, such as headphones, pencil cases, sheets from take-home packs, chromebooks fully charged (Years 4-6).
  • Stay at home if they are unwell.
 Expectations of Parents
Parents will:
  • Arrange for students' names to appear when logging into Zoom meetings.
  • Arrange a learning space that is suitable for learning (minimal background noise).
  • Ensure children are wearing school uniforms and are ready for learning.
  • Support our Core Values of being respectful and positive in their interactions with children, school staff and other parents. Any concerns should be raised directly with the school.
  • Understand that emails to teachers will be responded in a timely manner between 8am and 5pm Monday-Friday. At times, teachers will be involved in Zoom meetings or onsite Flexible Learning and planning sessions.
  • Check emails and Flexischools announcements daily to ensure you are receiving necessary communications.
  • Understand that the learning program delivered onsite will be the same as the learning program delivered to students undertaking remote learning.
  • Keep their children home from onsite Flexible Learning if they are unwell.
"The knowledge is in the room"
We are truly blessed at St Pat's with a talented and dedicated team of staff.
During the week, the staff shared presentations around the programs we currently provide and will continue to offer during Term 3. These include:

  • Fine motor skill program
  • Oral language program
  • Innovations in IT eg Screencastify, video modelling
  • Supporting students with language disorders
  • Extending tasks for our highly able students
  • Differentiated spelling programs
  • Personalised Learning Plans and adjustments for students for Term 3
  • Assisting parents to read with their child 
  • Classroom Feedback 
  • To Know, Worship and Love online RE resource
  • Wellbeing practices to alleviate student anxiety
  • F-2 Maths - Place Value research and findings to support multiplicative thinking and the importance of place value in the early years

"Our teachers are excellent, dedicated teachers and our children benefit from the interaction with them...  My hope is that what was untried, but has now been tested, may be improved for everyone’s benefit. We are all in this together, as the sign on the front fence says, and it is my sincere hope that we can learn from the trial of Term 2 to make Term 3 a more positive experience for ALL our children and families " St Pat's Parent

At our school, we are committed to teaching a consistent high-quality and engaging curriculum with one to one and small group student support, a focused wellbeing program, opportunities for enrichment and extension and access to specialist expertise. 
Every student is unique. 
In the coming weeks, we believe we will support every student to flourish as we transition from Home Learning to Flexible Learning.

To the staff from #stpatsmbna for their commitment to developing a Flexible Learning program and a willingness to share their gifts and talents with each other and our children