- A CSO STATEMENT OF COMMON BELIEF
- A NEW ADDITION TO OUR WEBSITE
- PROVIDING LEARNING AT HOME - THE HOW AND WHEN
- PRIORITIES IN LEARNING FROM HOME - Time Allocation and KLA Focus
- THE TECHNICAL STUFF
- UP FOR DEBATE AND PARENTAL GUIDANCE
- LINKING TO OUR COMMUNITY AT THIS TIME
- IT'S ALL ABOUT BALANCE
Welcome to this special edition of the School Newsletter. Its not often we feel it neccessary to send a holiday time newsletter but such is the changing landscape of our times.
The purpose of this newsletter is to step out exactly how we intend to provide continuity of learning for our students for at least the Start of Term 2 and for as long as it is required. This is the "nuts and bolts" that will attempt to not only clarify the Why, How, When and Who but also the What, What ifs and What abouts?. We won't answer everything because the situation continues to evolve but these are the agreed practices the staff have committed to in planning, preparing, delivering and supporting Learning at Home. We acknowledge the announcement from the Premier this week to begin returning students to face to face learning in some form of rotating roster in Week 3 of this term. The Premier referenced that the specifics will be determined by the schools itself. How this will work at Corpus Christi to ensure the best health and educational benefits for students and staff will now become our priority over the next few weeks leading up to Week 3. Until then we will continue to operate our school according to the processes in place in this newsletter. I suspect we will have a new model for you before the Newsletter that is due in Week 2.
As was the case at the end of Term 1, our school will remain open for those students who NEED to attend because there is no supervision available at home due to parent work commitments. In maintaining this model, the teachers are allocating a fair proportion of their time and efforts to focus on the Home Learning pedagogy, as opposed to managing students who are unnecessarily attending school. It is as a result of these efforts from the staff and the time provided by parents supporting essential attendance only, that we are able to present the school community with the ongoing processes to provide quality home learning as outlined in this newsletter.
We understand it is school holidays but we are hoping that by providing this information in advance of the start of Term 2, we can prepare ourselves for the best learning journey ahead. We look forward to a return to our school community together again as soon as it is reasonably safe, practical and advisable to do so.
The Maitland Newcastle Catholic School Office has put together a Learning Continuity resource to assist schools in supporting parents in Learning from Home. Below is some excerpts from this resource that sets our the philosophy and foundational beliefs in education in general and more specially at this time. I thought it might be worth a read for your consideration.
A Statement of Common Belief - Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
This is a statement of our ‘theology of education’ which seeks to honour the dignity of each child, family and staff member. During these unprecedented times, it is important that we maintain our commonly held beliefs that underpin our identity, decision making and practice as Catholic communities. Catholic schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle believe that ‘at the heart of everything is Jesus Christ’. Because of this, we acknowledge the following:
The personhood and dignity of each child/young person, parent and staff member. Therefore...
- Firstly, we acknowledge with deep respect, the traditional custodians of this land.
- Every child/young person has the right to feel safe. Teachers and parents are encouraged to be aware of messages conveyed through general conversation and news items.
- Parents are valued for the advice and wisdom they respectfully share.
The Catholic social teaching principles of ‘solidarity’ and ‘common good’ guide our sense of togetherness and community. We act for the good of all. We are inclusive of the rights of each person and group. We have a duty to protect the vulnerable. Therefore...
- We recognise that business is not ‘usual’. The circumstance of our school communities are changing by the day.
- The spiritual, emotional and physical wellbeing of our children/young people, families and staff must be considered above all else.
- Continuation of learning must be adaptable as the situation changes. Each teacher, family, student and school will do what is possible.
- We find creative ways to support and nurture our community through information and technology to reduce isolation.
- We prepare for the bringing together of our community once again, when it is safe to do so, knowing that things will be different.
- Parents are trusted and empowered to make decisions about how children/young people learn at home.
- Parents are generally not trained teachers and are not expected to deliver a curriculum.
- Learning will be different in every home.
- The home environment is full of rich learning opportunities.
- Schools recognise that circumstances at home may include, parents working from home, members of the family who are unwell, limited access to technology or other circumstances which may prevent students from engaging with formal learning opportunities.
We believe that humans are relational and live best in community. Therefore...
- Compass and Schoolzine will form the baseline communication between schools and parents.
- Established communications and approved technology platforms will be maintained where possible.
- When learning from home, staff will be in contact with students as determined by the local context, circumstance and consistent with minimum Diocesan expectations.
- Our teachers are committed to find ways to remain in relationship with their children/young people and families.
- Communications will be respectful, collaborative and in partnership with all stakeholders.
- Schools will provide a variety of manageable learning experiences that are appropriate for a home environment and use established means.
- All experiences are opportunities for learning and reflection on learning.
- We acknowledge that parents will need different support depending on their circumstances to implement learning at home.
- Catholic education is engaged in the context of the pursuit of truth. The truth is that none of us have walked in this landscape before. We need to be kind to each other.
We believe that children are true citizens who are connected and contribute to the world. Therefore...
- Learning is not simply “delivered” to children. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises that children/young people contribute meaningfully to their learning and wellbeing. More than ever, it is a time of listening to the voice of the child through their words, drawings, writings and behaviour.
We are a people of hope, who nurture a positive view of creation and all life. Therefore…
- Daily prayer is encouraged to connect children/young people, families and staff members to the global Christian community and God as a source of consolation and hope.
- Learning experiences foster a deep connection and wonder at the beauty of God’s creation.
- We live in hope of better times to return and the courage to withstand the strangeness and challenges of this time.
In the final weeks of Term 1 we provided home learning packs via parent email with the option to pick up a paper copy from the school. We recognised that providing these learning packs through the parent email may not allow student to independently access the online version of these packs (especially relevant to the older grades). Also, the emails had a tendency to be corrupted, be delayed in their delivery or disappear entirely.
We are proposing that we provide the learning packs (still as PDFs/ word documents) via a website platform attached to the school website. The video below attempts to unpack the webpage for parents and students. This link is similar to the explicit teaching video that teachers have designed for the English and Maths each week. I thought it would be a good chance for parents (and kids themselves) to view how a video link might make things a little clearer than trying to explain on paper. It is also explained in the text below the video link for those preferring to read the information.
- Look for the Tab - HOME LEARNING
- Pages are password protected for copyright reasons. The password is 2298
- Mark the web page as a favourite and pretty soon the students will access it themselves.
The Home Learning page itself allows you to navigate to every class' learning within the school as well as specialised learning activities in Music, Library and PE with a page for Wellbeing and a page for Technical Support.
Each class page or specialised teacher's page has the weeks learning schedule, a PDF of worksheets and links to to explicit teaching videos that our staff will develop each week in Literacy and Numeracy. These teaching videos might have instructions and demonstrations to the maths, guided reading, spelling or phonics for the week. Students can click on the videos as often as needed to consolidate the learning.
The learning for Week 1 Term 2 will be uploaded on Friday 24th April in anticipation for the start of term on Monday 27th
One of the things I would like to get right from the outset of Term 2 is some clear and consistent understanding of what Learning at Home will look like for Corpus Christi students. This document will provide clarity in:
- How the Learning will be prepared, provided and delivered to students whilst they are Learning at Home
- When and where will learning will be provided to students and parents to access?
- What expectations are there for engaging in Learning at Home with reference to maintaining attendance records at school?
Whilst detailed, it is hope the attached document will answer all of the above questions and be a reference guide going forward, for as long as the current context prevails. It will be adapted as the term goes on.
Much has been said about the balance between learning continuity and student well being during this extraordinary time. I am very much aware of the dilemma between the two and the ongoing battle each day to keep children occupied in meaningful pursuits for the benefit of their wellbeing. Admittedly, maintaining a learning agenda (even as little as 2 hours) can be demanding. However a day of "I'm bored", a day of not achieving anything to be proud of or a day glued to electronic gaming can also become problematic to a child's wellbeing (while gaming/electronics may not impact immediately, the long term impact is quite concerning).
Also, it is important to remember that we will come through this and the expectation to engage with 6 hours of school a day will return so we must be mindful of what we allow now versus what will we then expect when things return to normal. This is more important for our older students who are preparing for high school, even our Year 5 students will be facing high school soon enough. Again, its all about balance.
For parent consideration, I would divide a day's potential learning engagement into three areas, each with a different priority level or weighting.
|FOCUS AREA||PRIORITY||TIME ALLOCATION||DETAILS|
|LITERACY AND NUMERACY||1 - ABSOLUTE ENGAGEMENT||1 - 2 hours depending on age of student.||It is essential that there is some level of learning continuity in these areas. Teachers will provide work that aligns with the learning Scope and Sequence that would otherwise be covered at school. Zoom conversations and Explicit teaching videos will support this. Students will be asked to be accountable in completing this work. Families will also need to ensure students are supported to complete it to the best of their ability.|
|INTEGRATED KLA||2 - PREFERRED ENGAGEMENT||1 - 2 hours depending on age of student.||
Teachers will continue to provide activities in these areas which include History, Science, PDHPE and Creative Arts. If students are able to remain engaged in learning at home for a longer period of time, these are the tasks to be completed. Teachers will discuss some of this with the students in the Zoom meetings.
STUDENT DIRECTED LEARNING/ ACTIVITY
|3 - ONGOING ENGAGEMENT||1 - 2 hours depending on age of student.||
Students who love to be engaged in an ongoing task of their own interest can work towards a project (research based, ICLT based, Creative based) of their own. This can be lego challenges, creative dioramas, backyard projects, building a bike track, sewing or anything that interests the students. The children can share this with their teacher by taking photos at different stages as well as the completed task.
PLAY AND TEAM BUILDING
|3 - ONGOING Engagement||As often as is possible||
Do not underestimate the power of learning through play. An hour in the sand pit , playing "house" or playing a board game can develop so many powerful moments of learning.
Also, don't underestimate the team building and communication skills that are embedded in completing a household chore together.
There are important technical steps that we ask parents to support especially at the outset of this Home Learning journey. Attached to this article are some important instructions on how parents can connect and download the different access platforms for successful home learning.
Our first priority is for students (from Year 1 - 6) to be using their emails via the MN connect page (Optional for Kindergarten but Kinder teachers will still use parent emails). The use of student emails is a logistical decision as all students share an email structure that allows teachers to access and connect efficiently with the whole class.
Parent emails are varied and are often changing (due to sometimes stressful circumstances when letting the school know of the change is the least of your problems). The link to enable student emails at home is below.
Our second priority is installing Office 365 on home devices using the student school email sign in details (each student gets 5 installs per email). If nothing else, this is a significant cost saving if parents are setting up a device in the home. The link to enable this is below.
Our third priority (but perhaps the one with the most potential), is to download the Zoom app so that students can access ZOOM meetings with teachers and classmates as a regular contact with school while at home. We cannot tell you how wonderful it is to see the student's faces light up when they are connecting face to face online. It really makes our day as teachers as much as it does the kids. It truly is an invaluable resource during these crazy times.
Invitations are sent via the student emails (hence why we need them accessing their own emails - all except Kinder) but Zoom will need to be installed on the device. The link to enable this is below. The following instructions ensure you download and sign into zoom using the studnet's organisation emails. Please follow them directly. If you are using zoom with your own organisational emails, the students will need to access it via the following instructions.
To Print or Not to Print?
This one is much debated in our school at the moment. Our younger students need access to paper copies by the very nature of their learning. However, as students progress through the grades, the need to have a worksheet for every lesson is lessened. In fact, setting work out from a board (or a screen) into a book is an important organisational skill and one that can be done with support as early as Year 2. I would encourage parents (of all but Kinder and Year 1) to consider resisting the urge to print up every page in the worksheet PDF at the start of the week. Instead. as the students cover that lesson, consider whether they could copy it from the screen to the page in front of them. Of course there will be some to print off , but then it is about 1 page instead of all of them. Students have been provided with an exercise book (mostly homework books) to copy work into. If you do not currently have one, you are welcome to contact the school to pick one up.
Of course we will always have some paper copies for parents to pick up from school. Even then, I would encourage older students to continue to practice copying some of the work into the exercise books so that they are continuing to develop the organisation and transfer skills this requires.
To Mark or not to Mark?
The first thing to note in this discussion is the difference between marking to see if students are engaging with the work (accountability) and marking to gain an understanding of student ability to complete the work (assessment).
The first is used to allow student to share the work with another person to demonstrate that they have engaged with and completed the task set. This can be done by any adult available in the Home learning environment (lots of stickers and praise). When they have done so, the adult ticks off that task on the Weekly Learning Schedule. If the child has particularly struggled with the lesson itself, we ask parents to make a note and email the teacher directly (if they are infants) or bring up the problem at the next Zoom meeting with their teacher (if they are primary).
Teachers are currently up skilling in the use of Microsoft Forms to formulate tasks that aim to assess student understanding of a concept that might be worked on over a week. The quiz based form will be emailed to students directly and they will complete this independently. Parents may also be emailed a request to support this by being aware that it is an assessment task and ensuring the work is that of the students. The teacher receives the data back automatically with their email being the identifier. At this stage this is a long term plan for home learning that we will begin to implement in the new term.
To help or not help?
Again, learning at home is about balance between children benefiting from support and building independence in the completion of a task on their own. In any given lesson,, a student in a classroom would be asked to complete work independent of an adult sitting right next to them. Don't be afraid to explain a task to a child and then give them some time to complete on their own (while you do what you need) and then touch base with them in about 10 minutes or so. This is most likely going to simulate the classroom level of support for most of our students with the only difference being the time frame before touching base being longer as students get older. The more we let students do it, struggle with it and solve it; the greater the learning will be. Mind you we don't leave them floundering in the deep end, which is where your support (and a teacher's in the classroom) to either continue to work at it or change tact becomes invaluable.
We have a number of projects planned to link community for students, staff and families
We are going to attempt a 'virtural' version of our Friday Awards Assembly each week. We are not sure yet if we will do this via live zoom which families can join (or watch later via a recorded link) OR maybe we will just film and edit it first and then provide the links to students and families to watch in their own time. Ideas at this stage include;
- Inviting the school leaders to be part of this by filming the different elements from their own home and sending us the links.
- A slideshow of photos set to the school song.
- Teachers will seek nominations from parents for class awards and also provide some of their own awards based on what they are observing during Zoom sessions and in student engagement with learning.
- Provide birthday wishes for students celebrating a Birthdays over the week to come. We ask parents to send in a photo of their child when they were a baby and we will sit it side by side with their most recent school photo and create a short Birthday Video for each week.
Celebrating Important Liturgies
In a similar fashion we will be marking the important liturgies throughout the term with some shared prayer resources that can be done as a family but also video links to the school members leading the liturgy for you.
Sharing and Celebrating Our Learning
We want to celebrate great learning over the coming weeks. Whether it be a class assigned task or one you have devised as a family, we invite everyone to send in those triumphant moments of learning in the form of a photo or a work sampls and if you wish a description. We will include these in the school newsletter each fortnight in the section usually devoted to Classroom Update. The first snapshots of student busy at their learning was a great start. Now we are looking for examples of great active learning and finished tasks. Teacher will also be looking for examples to submit.
School Student Leaders
Our school leaders are busy setting their minds to how they can find ways to connect and motivate the students as a community at this time. I am sure they will come up with new ways they I haven't even begun to think about yet. Watch this space.
I have posted this discussion before on one of the COMPASS updates but wanted to include it in this newsletter to parallel the information we are sharing regarding home learning for Term 2.
"I wanted to talk about the ongoing debate regarding continuity of learning, home- schooling and managing kids during these stressful times.
I am very mindful of both sides of the debate. One line of thought suggests that children do not miss out on continued learning (especially if this is for an extended period of time). As an educator, I of course subscribe to that. But as an educator I am also very mindful of the wellbeing of every child at this time. If they are stressed or anxious they are unlikely to learn anyway and a screaming match in the home learning space is certainly not desirable.
So what to do? We are working hard at providing parents access to learning that parallels the learning that would otherwise be in the classroom. However, we want to be clear that this is a provision that parents will need to balance their use of. It should not be completed at the risk of family relationships or student wellbeing. I would encourage parents to be mindful of a balanced approach as they seek to create a learning environment at home. Feel free to discern the work provided in that context BUT ask that a priority is given to Literacy and Numeracy. Again, I would counter an argument to let the children simply play with the advice that we will eventually return to normal (preferably sooner than later but it is hard to predict). The expectations for now need to prepare children for the expectations to come so we can't ignore them altogether and then expect otherwise of the students when things do return to normal. In other words we also need to be mindful of a smooth transition back into the classroom when the time comes.
On a practical note, I highly recommend the following
- Negotiate the day’s schedule together. See the school's schedule as a starting point and to set time goals.
- Try to designate an area for focused learning that is not blurred with play spaces (appreciate that it is not always possible)
- Be ready to adapt to anything.
- Aim for about 3 hours of focused learning (1 - 2 hours of focused literacy and numeracy minimum)a day. Celebrate it when you get there!
On a more philosophical note, I would like to suggest the following:
- For every period of focused learning, reward it. Create a reward chart that allows students to work toward something they really want – negotiate what this would be.
- For every period of directed learning (where you are assisting and instructing them), balance it with independent focus on a task (and reward them for doing so). Leave them for a period of time and do what you need to do.
- For every period of inside learning, balance it with an outside activity. Build the garden you were always going to do, fix the bike, create an obstacle course, have a campfire – and do it together. Don’t be afraid to hold a family cricket match or if you are particularly brave, build something. Be thankful, if you have an outdoor space to do this. Use the weather while it is warm enough to do so pleasantly.
- For every period of “still, silent” learning, balance it with physical activity and robust discussions, debates and even some singing or just dance.
- For any period of high stress and anxiety where you feel you are at a dead end, surrender. Give your family permission to step back from it all, cuddle, talk it through, cry, relax and rebuild.
- Remember connections are so important. Plan for deep connections with loved ones and friends. Yes, FaceTime, messenger, Skype and Zoom maybe all we have at this time but thankfully, we have them.
- Remember your story and share it with the kids. They love to hear about your time as a child. Look at old photos of you when young. When have we ever had time to do this?
- Allow students to remember and create their own story. Look at photos of when they were young. Let them see times other than these. Talk about times that will come. Allow them to dream.
- Don’t forget for everyone to have some alone time, including parents. Schedule it if you have to. Talk about wellbeing. Articulate the different ways you can focus on wellbeing as a family and individually.
While this is a scary time for all, it could very well be the time your children remember as the best time in their life, a time with family, a time of being together. We are the adults. We are faced with the most important job of all, even now when we are at our most stressed; making sure our kids still have their childhood at this time, the rest will follow as time goes on.
I pray and hope that we will soon see these times pass but more so, I pray that we have the patience, resilience and understanding of each other and the situation as we negotiate these unprecedented times.
As mentioned in the introduction of this newsletter. We are currently working on a model that reflects the advice from Premier Berejiklian, the Department of Education and Catholic Schools NSW to begin a rostered return to Face to Face teaching from Week 3 on. We will communicate with our families on how this will work at Corpus Christi once we finalise the model (I expect this to be early in Week 2). Until then we will maintain Home Learning practices that were established at the end of Term 1, both in the home and here at school when attendance is necessary.
Be well and take care,
A Prayer during the Covid Pandemic.
In this challenging time Lord Jesus Christ, our true physician and healer, be merciful to us and bring us your aid in these troubled times. Heal all our sickness and every affliction of your people. Drive out our infirmities of soul and body; free us from all disease and especially from this pestilence.
We place in your gentle Heart the elderly, the frail, people with disability, children, young people and families, our indigenous peoples, those who are poor, lonely and isolated. As you walk with us, free them from fear, and give them patience and hope together with our loving care.
We place our trust in you, the risen Lord, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.