I remember hearing the term VUCA used for the first time five or so years ago. These letters stood for words (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) describing the conditions of living in a rapidly changing world. Our experiences of the past 18 months have been VUCA and more. Today, we are expecting to hear from the Premier, with updates about plans for schools in Term 4. These following last week’s announcement of the extension of stay-at-home restrictions. The result of constant change and the shift away from normal life has an impact on every one of us. Our school community is made up from over 800 households. Every household is being challenged by the current situation. It is also important to realise that each of our households are challenged in different ways, determined by our own circumstances, responsibilities and the age of those for whom we care.
The school continues to work to support the health and wellbeing of our students and support continuity in learning through this time, providing a range of programs shaped for the age and stage of our students. Natural variations within our students means that this won’t always work easily, and this will give rise to stress which plays out in a number of ways in both our children and ourselves.
It is interesting that the flow of articles on social and mainstream media over the past week that have recognised this. These emphasise the point to hold loosely onto what we are used to, to retain the things that are of greatest value, and be willing to explore new ways of learning, moving towards the same goal of growth in character and learning in children.
One example of such articles includes Memo to parents and carers on home schooling: ’Don’t panic, and don’t feel guilty’ in which the deputy director of UNSW’s Gonski’s Institute for Education and other educational researchers consider the evidence of the impact of lockdowns on learning and his response for his own primary aged children. Available evidence about learning during lockdowns is very limited but there is no shortage of speculation. While there is a loss of traditional face to face interactions, which are important, there are opportunities for different learnings including the development of independence and learning through different approaches.
So, while our teachers are working hard to provide material suitable for learning from home, checking in and following up students to maintain contact and engagement, there may be times or situations in which the goal of completion of schoolwork needs to be held loosely. The school has already taken steps and adjusted the routines of the day and workload expectations to home learning conditions. While positive routines are beneficial, trying to replicate every aspect of what was in a ‘normal’ school day may not be beneficial in the long run. I encourage you to be gentle on yourself, your children and their teachers as we partner in navigating our current situation. Please contact us if you would like to discuss how the school can further support your children in their learning.
The same article emphasised what is critical now. What we need to focus on due to it long lasting benefits – that is the health and wellbeing of our children. There are things we can do to support the wellbeing of students isolated from their friend, teachers and classrooms.
Five key steps to support wellbeing (in ourselves as much as our children) include:
– Play – this is a powerful means of learning, even for older children. The learning gained in play is also a contributor to success in later academic learning
– Getting outside – to give your mind and brain the opportunity to ‘look’ beyond immediate surroundings
– Gaining regular exercise – the benefits of exercise are seen in both the mind and the body
– Socialising – in person with those in your household and friends online. Participating where you can with your son or daughter’s school activities
– Regulating the amount of news media that your children are exposed to, or consume – much of what is in the media focusses on, are things over which we have no control, are negative and feed our anxieties
There is no one size fits all approach that works for these times, so I would like to leave you with the encouragement to prioritise what is essential for the health of your children, focus on what can be achieved in academic learning on a day-by-day basis. Success will be measured by the quality of our partnership and so let us go forward in terms of support, kindness and empathy for one another.
I do want to note that it is will sadness that two of our school leaders we be leaving their roles at the end of 2021.
Mrs Shaw will be stepping out of her role as Assistant Deputy Principal K-2. While she is leaving this role, Mrs Shaw will continue to work with us with a focus on supporting staff in the areas of curriculum and staff coaching and also leading the implementation of school wellbeing projects.
Mr Chris Smith, who has held the role of Dean of Students Years 7-9, will be moving to the Inaburra School to take up the role of Director of Professional Learning.
I would like to recognise and thank both Mrs Shaw and Mr Smith for their great service in leadership for the school and the work they have done with so many families. They will be missed and it is our hope and prayer that they find great success as they move into new roles.
Mr Keith McMullen