What an amazing transformation of our learning environment during a time of crisis
Since 23 March, when the College moved toward online learning, both staff and students commenced the transformation of our teaching and learning environment. This transformation to online has not always been smooth, in fact, there has been significant learning for both teachers and students along the journey. What truly is impressive is the way teachers, students and parents have adapted, so cooperatively, to this unfamiliar mode of delivery. It has been truly remarkable.
For many teachers, including myself, teaching is a vocation where we are called to do God’s work in a dedicated and loving manner. Over the years, I have been blessed to have worked with many such teachers as they provided great hope for the young people they educated. Teachers have not always been respected or truly recognised for their role in the education of our young people, and at times many teachers have endured tumultuous and challenging moments that really questioned their commitment to their vocation. We as teachers are in a privileged position as we are provided the opportunity to engage in the formation and development of young minds. Teachers assist in the moulding of these minds in becoming the young gentlemen who will become the voices for a better future.
Over the past 10 weeks I have been in admiration of the teachers at our College because they have endeavoured to continue with their vocation by a means that is totally foreign to them, online teaching and learning. They completely transformed themselves to deliver a learning that would become the ‘normal’ during this time. They have learnt new skills in the delivery of online material, navigated through technology that didn’t always work, discovered new ways to look after our wellbeing and mental health, while at the same time attempting to teach the prescribed curriculum. They have adapted to the circumstances and despite anxiousness and some hesitation about this ‘new’ online delivery, they have made the best of a situation that was unplanned and unwelcomed.
What many do not see in our profession such as the planning, the programming, the lengthy time required to design a task, differentiating the delivery of the work for all to access, the collaboration, remaining relevant and creative, the feedback, the goal setting, the compulsory professional learning expected by teachers to maintain their accreditation to teach and the numerous meetings all contribute to the complexity of our vocation. Doing all of these and much more need to be done online. I stand in appreciation and acknowledgement of how our teachers were able to continue with their dedication to the teaching of their students. Truly remarkable.
I also need to acknowledge our students, in particular Year 7 students, who were thrown into this new environment of online learning without any preparation or real understanding. Becoming an independent learner requires a commitment to develop sound routines in the quest of being a successful learner. This independence does not come easy and takes significant time and practice to achieve. For our students to move into this independent learning phase caused frustration amongst many students. However, after the initial shock of this new delivery, students settled into their routines, and many thrived in this different platform. I do appreciate this is not the preferred mode of delivery and that teachers and students would prefer the face-to-face on campus version. If we are to remain faithful to the formation and development of our sons, at the core of this is, and will continue to be, the positive relationships that develop, on a daily basis, in a supporting and forgiving community. This can only be truly achieved while onsite. All students return on Monday, 1 June and it is here that we, as teachers, are able to regain the momentum lost and continue with our vocation of developing fine young gentlemen dedicated to work in the name of God.
As we transition back to face-to-face teaching and learning on campus, we are faced with many choices. We can either remain in a sombre and unenthusiastic state or as I mentioned to both Year 11 and Year 12 we can view this moment in history as an opportunity to challenge the ‘old’ and think of new ways to do things. This pandemic will remain with us for most of 2020, therefore we must, together, seek these opportunities, consider the options, then act so that 2020 will be a year to remember beyond COVID-19. The choice is ours, and I choose to remain positive, optimistic and enthusiastic in making this the best year ever. At our Year 12 assembly, I outlined to the students the need for them to make this choice. They can be remembered as the Year 12 COVID-19 group who did not live up to expectation or they can choose to use the current situation as motivation to excel in all aspects of College life. I hope and pray that Year 12 also choose to be optimistic about what 2020 can bring and what they can offer in the last 15 weeks of their time at the College.
Our first virtual Year 12 Semester 1 Academic Ceremony was a great celebration of the outstanding achievement by so many fine young men. Though it was disappointing that we were unable to invite the parents or have the entire College community present at the assembly, the Year 12 students, who were present, were very respectful in acknowledging the achievements of their peers. The community may view the assembly via a link that is posted on our College website.http://www.stdominics.nsw.edu.au/2020/05/year-12-academic-assembly-thursday-21st-may/
Maintaining a safe and healthy environment continues to be the responsibility of all members of our community. Over the past three weeks, as we have transitioned back to on-campus delivery of teaching and learning, ongoing risk assessments have been undertaken to ensure that we are prepared for Week 6 when all staff and students return. The changes to our environment such as no large assemblies, directional movement, constant reminders of healthy hygiene, ‘physical’ distancing (especially for staff) within classrooms, availability of sanitisers around the College, limited practical activities, non-contact sport and others, will continue for the immediate future until the lay of the land becomes clearer. The College has also increased the amount of cleaning throughout the day with an extensive cleaning program undertaken every evening. Though we have prepared and taken all precautions, we still rely on all members of our community to be diligent in supporting healthy hygiene and staying home if unwell. Over the past week, two schools have had to close as a result of a positive COVID-19 case. One of these school is a fellow EREA school. I pray that the Waverley community is safe and that they are able to return to their campus as soon as possible. Like most schools, the College has an Emergency Response Plan for a positive COVID-19 case. I am hopeful that we will never need to activate the plan however, we need to be prepared as the likelihood remains high until we have a vaccine for the virus.
MCS representative sport has been interrupted by these tumultuous times and I truly feel disappointed for all our Year 12 Rugby League and Football students who have been unable to represent the College in their final year. Wearing the blue and white is transformative in nature as the history of the College becomes embedded through the threads of the jersey. Each student is reminded of the traditions entrusted in them as they go into ‘battle’ for St Dominic’s. They seem to grow in statue as they run onto the field ready to continue the strong sporting traditions of the College. These are lasting memories that, unfortunately, will be one of the victims of the 2020 season, as there will be no rugby league or football played because of the uncertainty that still remains regarding the participation in sport and the venues themselves. Though disappointing, I would like to thank all those Year 12 students, who have represented the College over their time here, for their spirit and sportsmanship in their custodianship of the sporting traditions of the College.
A safe and healthy community remains the priority of the College and I look forward to all year groups returning to the ‘new’ normal on Monday, 1 June.
Let Your Light Shine
Mr M. Ronchetti