Just like that, we are in Week 8. As we move into our 4th week in lockdown and the challenges of Home learning I wanted to reflect just a little on some thoughts bouncing around in my head - like that annoying tune that repeats over and over again.
In a world where you can be anything, Be Kind.
This has become my mantra.
I must own that I have switched off a lot of Covid alerts on social media because it is there that I am finding my most disheartened moments. Its not the news of increasing numbers and more deaths (sad as this is) nor the realisation that we may be in this for a good while yet (frustrating as that is). It is the chat threads that have disheartened me the most. We are all scared and worried about the situation and in a time when we could be anything, I am saddened to find blame, anger, excuses and even hatred targeted at situations we can't control - at an abstract "them" who have caused all this. Its almost like we are fighting a parallel pandemic - let's call it the X-ray strain because it is showing us our true inner selves.
Here is an idea.
When we are exposed to Covid related anger and blame,what if our true response was to be kind to each other. Be kind to ourselves, our families and even those we don't know; for those that may make mistakes and those whose judgement calls have proven unwise (so easy in hindsight). Its easy to be angry at a party at a beach or someone who came up from Sydney because they had an opportunity for work that may have been alluding them at home. But what good does it serve? What if, instead, we show forgiveness, understanding and compassion for everybody, in all situations. What if we don't mirror negative behaviours, even if we are scared, annoyed, frustrated, confused and disappointed. The old saying that "We cannot control things that happen to us but we can control how we respond" has never been more true.
I could quote many more things but one that strikes a chord is a Bible passage from St Paul's Letter to the Ephesians that was shared at a meeting I was in last week. St Paul wrote to a community in turmoil and conflict and he said to move beyond all that and "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." Nearly 2000 years later and it still rings true. In the last few weeks, our word was Hope. Let's make our word for these next weeks be "Kindness"
Be Kind to yourselves and your Family
While we are discussing these things and as we look down the weeks ahead, I also want everyone to allow themselves a break. Join me as I take a step back and reflect on what has been achieved in just 4 weeks and just how well the children are doing with their learning. That is not to say it hasn't been challenging because it has. For those families doing it tough at home (maybe just every now and then or maybe it is creeping up more often) I want to share the the message of a better wordsmith than I. A principal wrote this and it was been doing the rounds last week.
I know I have said in the past and maintain it now. It is all about balance. As an educator I am always very mindful of the wellbeing of every child. We know that without a shadow of a doubt that wellbeing is the key to both teaching and learning. If anyone is feeling stressed or anxious, they are unlikely to learn or work productively and a screaming match in the home learning space is certainly not desirable.
What else is in this Newsletter?
Both David, our REC, and Vanessa, our school Psychologist talk a little more about Kindness and Wellbeing at this time. We have also included some links to some valuable online events that parents may like to look at. Keep in mind these are tomorrow and Wednesday but may be worth a look.
We also wanted to respond to some questions that parents are asking about the home learning model we are currently implementing at school. In the Teaching and Learning Update, Katie, our AP, has outlined a few areas areas of the Home Learning model that may assist with students completing their learning. Three documents are:
- Seeking Help/ Support when Learning From Home
- Seeking Feedback of completed work when Learning from Home
- Agreed Practice for Teams Meetings when Learning from Home
Be Kind, have Courage and have a good two weeks.
Jesus confronts the Pharisees, who pay only lip service to God
Here is a little Faith Formation for you!
Gospel Focus – The things within
We live in a culture that is very quick to lay blame on external factors; some people are very reluctant to accept responsibility for their own actions and look for opportunities to distance themselves from feelings of guilt or even regret.
Every person has opinions on how to improve the world, though no one wants to practice kindness in their own backyard.
World peace will not arise from overthrowing dictatorial powers or ending conflicts between nations. It will happen when humanity raises its consciousness beyond that of fear and hatred.
However, kindness not blame, is fundamental to the human existence. We are thrust into the world as newborns and enriched with the kindness of our parents’ nurturing for the ensuing years.
I’ve often reflected on the idea that Peace Is Only A Thought Away. Its motives
emerge through kind thoughts towards oneself and others.
The great Desmond Tutu said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
Kindness is not something that demands hard work. It originates from the simple act of doing no harm to others and involves judging less, however compelled you might be to do so.
People believe kindness is particular to those of religious faith because of their moral vows, yet kindness does not require you to be of religious faith or even spiritual. Demonstrations of kindness are observed in man’s best friend, the dog.
Kindness has many benefits including increased happiness and a healthy heart. Kindness broadens your life’s frame and influences the giver more than the receiver. It slows down the aging process and improves relationships and connections, which indirectly boosts your health.
In these times of social media interactions, an important lesson in kindness involves asking yourself: ‘How would I handle being the recipient of this?’ If it doesn’t feel good avoid the behaviour.
Incorporate the smallest acts of kindness into your everyday life and notice the ripple effects.
A life of love and a life of kindness, that begins with you.
For the Children
Religious Education Coordinator
My thoughts are with you all as you navigate and balance work and family demands in this continuing lockdown. Feelings of worry and unease in this situation are understandable and are normal, for both adults and children, and you at home play a vital role in supporting and managing this stress.
The following article provides helpful advice around signs that your child might be struggling and how to respond
It’s important we all, families and school staff, keep the following in mind… “Children and young people react, in part, to what they see around them. They are very sensitive to adult and caregiver stress, so taking care of ourselves is integral to taking care of them” (https://www.schn.health.nsw.gov.au/news/articles/2020/03/managing-covid-19-anxiety)
We are here for you! If you would like to talk directly to the School Counsellor, about any concerns you may have, no matter how large or small, during the home-schooling period, please don’t hesitate to contact the school.
Hunter New England COVID-19 Parent & Carer Webinar: supporting young people
Headspace National are hosting a free online mental health education session for parents and carers of young people in the Hunter New England area on Wednesday 1 September from 12pm – 1pm.
The session aims to:
- Strengthen understanding of mental health and mental health literacy.
- Strengthen understanding and skills in how to cope and where to find help.
- Build skills and strategies to support the mental health and wellbeing of young people, including their transition to work and study.
- Build awareness of local, state and national supports available to young people.
This session will be delivered live online and will not be recorded. Registration is essential. Once registered, participants will receive an automated email confirmation from Eventbrite that contains the Zoom Meeting link and passcode to join on the day. Participants will receive a digital information pack following the conclusion of the session.
Supporting Children and Yong People Expriencing Anxiety
RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org for a Zoom inivitation link. Registrations close at midday on Tuesday 31st August.
Seeking Support when Learning from Home
One of the common themes we are getting from discussion with parents is that they are constantly needing to support their child with the learning. Obviously the need for this varies from Kinder - 6 and certainly a parent ensuring they are on task is valuable. However, the students do not have access to 1-1 interaction with an adult in their classroom learning. They are generally provided the instruction, explore the learning and then are expected to engage with it independently, seeking help and clarification only when needed. It is important to try to emulate this at home.
With the current home learning model, we have number of platforms which students can use to organise their work, participate with explicit instruction and then engage with learning with increasing independence. There are also a number of ways they can seek clarity in that learning task, the last of which needs to be the parent. If it is possible to clarify with parents then that is ok but we appreciate many of our parents are also working from home. More importantly, we don't want students to rely on the immediacy of their parents to answer their challenges. Autonomous learners understand there are a number of ways to clarify and seek help when engaging with learning.
Our teachers are here to support. Their working day is split between preparing the learning for the following week and supporting the current learning via TEAMs meetings with explicit teaching, instructional videos and responding to emails for support from students (and parents when the students are younger). We have put together a little document that students will be reminded of over the coming week as they continue to grow in independence in their learning.
While children in Kindergarten and Year 1 may need to rely on help at home, children as young as Year 2 could be engaging with each level of the diagram set out below and explained further in the attached document. You will notice that the use of green to red is quite deliberate as students understand the level of need when clarifying things - similar to that of a traffic light.
Seeking Feedback of complete work when Learning from Home
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 students 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) as well as sharing that work during their Teams Meetings. When the work has been completed the adult (or the student) may like to tick 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 for students to bring up the problem with their teacher either by email or at the next Teams meeting.
The second reason to engage in marking is for teachers to create some form of understanding on how well the student achieves the learning intention (assessment). While not every task needs to considered this way in the current learning model, there is likely one or two opportunities across a week in perhaps English and Maths where a teacher can attempt to gain some clarity in this area. We have discussed as a staff how we can achieve this in the current learning at home model. We have created this document below for parents with the understanding that, once again that this will look different from K - 6.
Agreed Practice for Teams Meetings when Learning from Home
As we begin to utilise our Teams platform more and more to attempt a form of face to face teaching during these lockdown weeks, we wanted to take some time to develop some clear expectations for students engaging in any form of Video Conferencing platform.
This is likely going to become a key communication platform in the broader life of our students as they grow to become adults so the skill set and the expectations when engaging with it now, will become the foundation for its use later.
Below are two documents - the first is an K-2 orientated statement of agreed practices or promises that a student understands is expected when using video conferencing. The second is the same document levelled at Primary 3-6 grades. This document is regularly shared with students when they join a teams meetings but as they do it more and more, it becomes embedded and only referenced at different times.
Class Awards for Term 3
Congratulations to all students receiveing and award for Weeks 6 and 7
Please note that all awards are being written and stored in teacher's classrooms to be handed out upon return to Face to Face learning. In the interest of consistency and tracking these, we ask the students to be patient until they receive their award in person.