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 

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