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

Sunday, 12 July 2020

COVID -19 (Part 3) Responding to Feedback and Rising to the Challenge of the Second Wave

On July 8, a second phase of Stage 3 lockdown restrictions were implemented for 6 weeks in Melbourne. School holidays due to finish on July 13 were extended for our primary school students until July 20. During this time, all staff were expected to return to school for five student free days to review teaching plans and prepare for the potential of remote learning for Term 3.

On July 10, Victoria recorded 288 coronavirus cases, its highest number of cases to date.

Just as the daily coronavirus cases have risen, the staff of St Pat's will rise to the challenge and support our students and community to flourish during this second wave of coronavirus.

Time for Action
The day after the new restrictions were announced, I met with two of my school leaders at school for several hours to begin to draft plans for our student free week. We had to prepare for the potential of remote learning (as I write this post on the eve of our return to school, the Victorian premier has confirmed home learning will commence from July 20). This time, we have the opportunity to learn through our experiences during Term 2 and make positive changes based on feedback from staff, students and parents. Two days later, on the last day of the school holidays, we met again for several hours to ensure that we were fully prepared for the student free week.

"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.

Whilst running up a sharp incline on the COVID treadmill (see previous post) we responded to feedback, adapted and improved our home learning practices last term. This time we have the benefit of learning from our experiences and making the most of five student free days to refine and improve our practices further.

If any of our students or parents expected our teachers to automatically follow the Term 2 pattern of remote learning practices, then they will be pleasantly surprised. Naturally, some aspects will remain the same but other elements will be adjusted so that we can offer a better programme.

Why? Because that's exactly what expert teachers do with their teaching all the time.

"We identify needs ... and build professional capacity and capability... to ensure our students will be engaged and motivated." (St Pat's Shared Vision).
Based on the feedback from students and parents (see below), some of the adjustments will include a review of:
  • the frequency of small group and whole group Zoom meetings and teacher interactions
  • the modelling of explicit teaching concepts and strategies
  • the presentation of the learning template and access on the Community Learning Site
  • the inclusion of extra wellbeing opportunities 
  • the focus on our Catholic identity and opportunities for social justice connections
  • the gathering of assessment data to inform further teaching. 
Ultimately, we wish to develop guidelines to ensure consistent home learning practices for all year levels across the school. The improvements we make will be utilised for both offsite and onsite learning practices going forward.

Student Feedback
Fortunately, at the end of Term 2, I met with some of our students to capture their responses to the pros and cons of Home Learning.
SRC # 7 End of Term 2 Feedback
In this video, the #stpatsmbna SRC reps share their views on the pros and cons of Home Learning and the best part about being back at school.

Parent Feedback. 
Do you wish to offer any further feedback ? 
During the Term 2 home learning phase, we continually invited parents to share their feedback via telephone conversations and email. Here is some of the feedback. If parents wish to offer further feedback, please email

Just wanted to send a note to say thank you for the time you take to send ...a recorded message on Seesaw for his work completed. It’s really appreciated during these times which I’m sure you are extra busy (Year 3 parent).
I'm sure you are both super busy today preparing for a return to onsite learning but I just wanted to send you both a quick email to say thank you for all your hard work over the last month and a half.
The take home packs you prepared were so organised and well thought out, it certainly made for a more efficient and smoother at home learning experience for all involved. The class zooms were a real highlight -the boys looked forward to seeing you and their friends each morning .
We always talk about what a fab choice we made in selecting St Pats as our school and our experience over the last few weeks has only served to reinforce that! (Year 1 parent)

I just wanted to drop a quick email so say a huge thank you for all the support, encouragement and patience given to the students (and parents!) whilst learning from home. The continued all round support and guidance especially from the teachers has been outstanding, a credit to their teaching skills (Year 3, Year 6 parent)

I was just watching the video from the SRC reps. They did a great job. Well done.
We have been very impressed with .. during these challenging times. I've been listening into the zoom calls and ... been brilliant. Very pleased overall with the home learning. For two full time workers it's actually worked better than we expected. (Year 1 parent)

Thanks for your email and reaching out. This weeks (W2) more structured home-learning has been working well for ... He’s definitely found it more challenging and there is more work for him to complete. A big improvement from last week. I think next weeks detailed planner will also work well for him. Is it possible to email the planners out when they become available? We don’t have Google chrome so it’s not easy to print out and format from the Home Learning site (Year 6 parent).

Given the stage 3 restrictions announced today I was hoping you could give some thought to having the teachers at St Pats available more often throughout the school day in Term 3 in a more structured way ( Year 2, Year 6 parent)

I would hope to see more interaction throughout the day from the teachers. A morning check in to set up the day is great, but I know that further check-ins, group learning or email contact with required response in a limited time frame would be extremely beneficial... perhaps a solution to this problem is for the teachers to be checking in more frequently with the students. Our teachers are excellent, dedicated teachers and our children benefit from the interaction with them. (Year 4, Year 6 parent)

What will the staff do during the 5 student free days ?
During the week, the staff will reflect and respond to feedback (see above), review and redesign learning plans, film instructional teaching videos, prepare resource packs, arrange the distribution of resources and readjust teaching plans to prepare for the potential of remote learning. We will also prepare to loan chrome book devices if required, issue the expression of interest forms for onsite learning for families of essential workers and vulnerable children.

Amidst all of this, we will continue to hold tight to our  St Pat's Core Values, in particular, these two:

We are all in this together and will continue to work to meet the needs of each of our students to provide the best opportunity for everyone to improve both with their learning and with their wellbeing during these challenging times. We understand that each and every one of our families has their own unique set of challenges and we will do our utmost to support all of you as we rise to the challenge of this second wave.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

COVID-19 Part 2 (18 May - 5 July 2020 ) Turning Point: Transition back to school & the COVID Treadmill

After 6 weeks of Home Learning, it was time to prepare to welcome back our community

The Victorian Government announced that Monday May 25 would be a staff closure day where all staff are expected to return to work onsite. Initially, the Foundation, Year 1 and Year 2 students would recommence school on Tuesday May 26 followed two weeks later, by the Year 3, 4, 5 and 6 students. After 6 weeks of working full time onsite at school, with a supportive team of staff, whilst most staff and students were based at home, it was time to welcome back all of the staff and the junior students.

It was during that final week, the sixth week of remote home learning, that Mary Wilson, Schools That Deliver Network facilitator contacted me from New Zealand.
We set up a Zoom meeting on Friday 22 May. My meeting with Mary, gave me a chance to reflect on how to make the most of the staff closure day and prepare for the transition back to school.
19 May 2020

Dear Jenny

....The world has certainly changed in the last two months and life will be changed going forward.  Hopefully we can put all the great things we learned during lockdown into our ’new normal’.

How are you going in Melbourne?  Are schools back as yet?  Our NZ schools went back for all children yesterday and there was about an 80% attendance across the country.

What have you learned about yourself as a person and as a leader during this unique experience?  What has each of your staff learned about themselves?  What about the students?  The families?  What are you planning to do with all that learning? ........

Ngā mihi mahana
Mary Wilson 

21 May 2020

Hi Mary,

......Yes, what an experience we are having ! Thank goodness for our core values. I started a blog piece weeks ago but not much time at the moment to finish it.....
Finally on Monday, all staff will come together onsite for a closure day (we haven't seen 80% of staff face to face since March) and then our Foundation, 1 & 2 children officially return on Tuesday. Yeah !!
Are you free to Zoom tomorrow Mary ?

Following the Zoom meeting with Mary, I went on to prepare for the closure day and ensured that I maximised our staff time together. 
Here are the slides from the day.

Staff reflections

What are you most proud of ? Summary of key responses from staff:
  • The way we (staff and students) adapted to change and kept on top of all of the work
  • Focussing on the positives especially the positive feedback from students and parents
  • Ability to up skill as needed and use technology as a great learning tool
  • The calm reassuring and supportive atmosphere we created for our families 
What have you learned about yourself during this time ? Summary of key responses from staff:
  • I value relationships with family and friends
  • Persevering with challenges is rewarding
  • Change can be stressful but by keeping calm we can adapt 
  • Positivity, perseverance, patience and confidence are valuable life skills
What do you want to hold onto going forward ? Summary of key responses from staff:
  • keep a more balanced lifestyle, switch off and prioritise exercise and walks
  • being flexible and creative with technology as a teaching tool
  • maintaining calm under pressure and letting unimportant tasks go
  • keep the team spirit alive and continue to support one another
Staff working in the school hall to maintain social distancing
Bringing the whole staff back together for the first time in 8 weeks called for a celebration. We organised a delicious morning tea and lunch to show our appreciation for the staff. Due to social distancing and hygiene practises, we set up the hall as our meeting room for the day as sadly we could no longer use the staffroom as a gathering place.
Sandra and Kellie used gloves and tongs to serve staff for health and safety
COVID -19 Staff Wellbeing Bags
How do you show your staff how much you appreciate them, especially when there are about 40 of them ? This called for some staff well being bags, in fact extra special COVID -19 wellbeing bags. Inside the bags were:
a face mask; hand sanitiser; hand cream; Coffee voucher ; lollies ; chips ; rubber gloves and a beautiful sunflower to brighten their day
After I presented the staff with their bags, the staff presented me with a beautiful card and gift too. It certainly wasn't necessary but gave me time to stop and reflect.
COVID Treadmill Reflection
I can liken the past few months to exercising on a treadmill with very little control of the speed. Let's call it the COVID treadmill.

Once you turn on the treadmill, you choose the walking speed. Generally, you gradually increase  your pace and gain momentum whilst balancing on the running belt.

The speed of our COVID treadmill increased rapidly. We had to support each other to stay on the running belt as we quickly learnt to adapt to new and unfamiliar online teaching expectations. Some of us were fitter than others and could maintain a fast walk or a jog but none of us could sustain a running pace. We were coached by colleagues and learnt to create videos and improvise when Zoom meetings failed due to poor internet connections. When gentle inclines became hills, we had to learn to pace ourselves.

As time went on we became fitter than we had ever been. Our new found fitness will hold us in good stead for any future treadmill challenges.
The principal on the Covid treadmill !
I can't express how excited I was to have all of the staff back together at school.  Reconnecting with each other and being physically present after a couple of months of communicating online was energising. Planning the get together, ensuring there was the right balance of showering staff with appreciation and gently preparing for the safe transition back to school for the children as well as
providing reflection time by slowing down and pausing the treadmill of change.
Student Reflections
Survival Tips #4 Home Learning Reflections After  6 Weeks (29 May)
SRC share the ways that they have improved with their learning and organisational skills during Home Learning. How have you improved ?
SRC Survival Tips #5 Coming back to School (5 June)
Remote learning has come to an end. In this video, the SRC students share what they are looking forward to when they return to school.
SRC #6 Safety Tips at School (4 June)
The SRC students onsite prepared this video with some helpful safety tips for all of the children at school.
Our children were very happy to return to school. Staggered start and finish times and different entry points all contributed to the COVID -19 safety protocols.

St Patrick's Murrumbeena Virtual Assembly #6
It's the beginning of Term 3 2020. Find out about the weekly awards, nude food and the special guest award presenter !
Virtual assembly #6 was prepared at the end of Term 2 in readiness for Term 3. Our assembly videos improved over time and the whole school watched the videos on a Monday morning. I enjoyed dropping into classes to present the awards.

During the last week of Term 2 Victorian coronavirus cases began to increase and 50 to 60 of our students were absent each day.

7 weeks later (July 5)
As I write this post during the school holidays, Victoria is labelled as a "Covid hotpsot" 38 Melbourne suburbs are in lockdown including 9 public housing towers with the potential of more suburbs being closed. Other states are on alert across Australia. It looks like there might need to be a COVID -19 Part 3 post. This time we will be fit and ready to step back onto the COVID treadmill.

  • To Mary Wilson from the Schools That Deliver Team for an uplifting coaching conversation just before the 8 weeks came to an end
  • To our SRC students and Year 6 leaders for their contribution to the SRC and assembly videos
  • To Sandra and Kellie in the front office who helped to source and prepare the staff well being bags
  • To our wonderful staff who presented me with a beautiful card and gift
  • To our students and parents who keenly supported the transition back to school