August 2020

COVID-19 reminds us of the strength of Community

Written by guest contributor: Heather Wood, Deputy Principal – Learning and Teaching

They say that many of our greatest lessons are learnt in times of great adversity – and that has certainly been true for the St Andrew’s School community during the challenging days of COVID-19 restrictions and isolation.

We will probably learn more as these constraints on our lives are further eased and we, individually and as a community, return to an existence more closely resembling the normal of the days preceding the pandemic.

But for now, perhaps the greatest lesson COVID-19 has taught us at St Andrew’s School – the students, their parents and the staff – is that we, as human beings, are fundamentally social animals. We want contact and connection; in fact, it’s something we crave and thrive upon.

It has also reminded us of the fundamental goodness of people, that in times of crisis, the vast majority of us are prepared to make personal sacrifices for the common good. We rise to the occasion, understanding that our wellbeing as educators, as students and as parents, is intrinsically linked to the health of our community.

We recognise and appreciate that we are part of a community and realise how vital a role our tribe plays in our lives.

You could say COVID-19 has finally allowed us to get it – the ‘it’ being that our community’s health determines ours.

Our behaviour over the past 100 or so days is a ringing endorsement of the ‘we’re all in this together’ mantra we embrace at St Andrew’s, and a big thumbs down to the ‘I, me, mine’ attitude that can prevail in other parts of society.

The children have undoubtedly led the way here, opening our eyes to the importance of connection and community. They valued the video catch-up sessions and chats with their friends and their teachers.

And when they were able to return to face-to-face learning within the comfort and familiarity of a bricks and mortar school, it was obvious to even the most casual observer that they were absolutely thrilled to be back among their friends, running around, playing and making up for lost time.

Isolation also threw up some positives for the children, particularly the older ones, with the distance learning model suggesting that students tended to appreciate having more say and choice in their day, deciding what they did and when.

They embraced the new responsibility and became a resource within themselves as they set about completing the tasks assigned to them.

They thrived as their levels of independence and organisation grew, and on return to the classroom, they have become skilful and competent in their independence – and that is something teachers have been able to build upon when they returned to the classroom.

From the school’s perspective, we also learnt another valuable lesson: rather than trying to replicate the school experience at home, our thinking needed to shift to helping the students to learn beyond the school.

It further reminded us of just how crucial our role as teachers is in helping our young students to navigate cyber safety. We needed to again unpack, with the students, precisely what it means to be an effective and responsible digital communicator, which has presented us with an additional learning opportunity on their return to school.

The lessons we have learnt and the pros and cons we have dealt with have left us better people, better teachers, better students and better parents, all keen to push the boundaries and further innovate in a post-COVID world.

We are asking questions, we’re challenging the way we do things – from teaching to sport and extra-curricular activities – and anticipate we will settle into a blend of the old ways and the new normal.

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  • St Andrew’s School is a South Australian independent, co-educational specialist primary school providing excellence in education from playgroup through to early years and on to Year 7. Principal Jackie Becher – an International Baccalaureate School – UNESCO Associated School.