To the families and friends of the St Edmund’s community,
This week saw our Junior School students join our students in Years 11 & 12 in their return to face to face learning. It was wonderful to see them on Monday morning, eager and keen to not only socialise with each other again but to get back to class and enjoy the many benefits that come with being surrounded by their peers and classroom teachers.
I spoke to quite a few students this week in Years 4, 5, 6, 11 & 12 about their experiences of our online teaching and learning program and would like to share their comments with you. Our senior students spoke to me about the benefits of following their school timetable online, and the sense of regularity and structure that came with this. They enjoyed their Zoom lessons as they were able to catch up with their mates in class and interact directly with their teachers. Many found the work easy to engage with online as they were not being distracted in class and could focus better on their work, but still admitted that it was not as good as being in class. Many students also praised their teachers in terms of the level of interaction they had online – many teachers made the effort to make the online lessons even more engaging and enjoyable than regular classwork in an attempt to ensure that students were always engaged and interested in their learning, and they made themselves available for questions and clarification by email or drop boxes in Canvas. Students appreciated that teachers still gave them time to work on their assessment tasks and they found this flexibility quite valuable. Some senior students did admit that it was difficult to be motivated at times simply because of being surrounded by the many comforts of home.
One of the most significant disadvantages identified by Year 12 students in particular was the fact that they had missed out on part of their last year at school. Whilst we are not yet aware of the possibilities of going ahead with the formal and graduation Mass and ceremonies later this year, I certainly do hope that the restrictions have been eased by then to allow us to continue celebrating and acknowledging those milestone events with our Year 12 students.
I also had the opportunity to meet with a group of Junior School students and talk to them about their experiences of learning from home. Unlike our high school students, the Junior School boys did not strictly follow their school timetable – many boys commented on this and said that they were able to pace themselves well; they could be flexible with when they did their school work without having to necessarily follow school hours. One boy mentioned that it was great to be able to do school work in his pajamas and ugg boots – I’m sure we all know this feeling! Many of our Junior Students enjoyed working on Canvas, our online learning platform. They commented that it was easy to access and follow their work. They also enjoyed their Zoom chats in terms of being able to see their class mates and interact directly with their teacher. Many of the boys loved the hands-on experiences set for them by their teachers and using some very creative hands-on websites. The little building projects seemed to be a hit with most boys.
Of course with the good comes the bad. Our Junior School boys said that they would obviously rather be here at school in their classroom rather than learning from home. Some were easily distracted by other siblings and some felt stressed about the expectations on their parents in having to do their own work from home as well as check on their sons’ school work. Some students found it difficult to manage their time, often being carried away on doing one activity and losing track of time. Nearly all students missed the immediate and direct interaction with their teachers.
All students I spoke to (senior and junior) were very happy to be back at school, just as all of our staff were happy to see them back with us. We very much look forward to having Years 7 – 10 join us next Monday (25 May).
We will inform you of the return to routines and events as they come to hand. Next week sees the commencement of fitness training for our senior boys involved in co-curricular sports. This will be followed by fitness training for other students in our younger years. Our Deputy Principal, Mr. Ian Garrity, will provide you with specific information about this in an email to parents later in the week. We will have a very structured approach to good hygiene and safety practices in these training sessions just as we now have a very structured approach to hygiene and safety in our classrooms and around the school. All of our students must follow our new processes and procedures to ensure the safety and hygiene of all members of the school community. I cannot stress highly enough that we will be quite firm with students who do not wish to comply with our new procedures – these students cannot be a part of this community at this time if they are unwilling to follow our new routines. I would urge all parents to discuss this with their son so all members of our community are aware of the importance of following these new routines. These procedures were communicated to you by Mr. Garrity in an email last week.
Last week’s Gospel, John 14:15-21, sees Christ informing his apostles that he will soon leave them for good, but they will not be left alone, “I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you for ever”. In Christian theology, the word “paraclete” here refers to the Holy Spirit as advocate or counsellor. So we have Jesus console his apostles by saying that God the Father will send another comforter for them in the form of the Holy Spirit – they will not be left as “orphans”. In essence, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth which works to direct the Church and effectively aid it to preserve the faith, the doctrine, and the morals which Christ taught his apostles. In current times of uncertainty and challenge, it is comforting for us to know that we have the Holy Spirit with us, guiding us in our decisions, directing us in our choices and embracing us in love. If we are open to the gentle force of the Holy Spirit, then we open ourselves to the truth, to what is right and just. My hope this week is that we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit in our gradual return to school and work, being alert to our own needs but also being highly aware of the needs of those around us. This is a timely reminder of our scriptural theme for this year, “Whatever you have learned, received or heard from Christ, put it into practice” (Philippians 4:9).
We live because you live, we love because you love.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit,
help us to always reflect your life and your love in our lives
and in the way we serve
through our vocations and ministries every day.
Blessed Edmund Rice, pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts, forever.
Christus Lux Mea