When my son Lachie announced that he was thinking about ‘dropping-out’ of university, I managed a calm version of ‘oh, that’s lovely darling’ and walked away.
It took a few days of gathering my thoughts before I suggested the (COVID) standard ‘let’s walk down and get a coffee’.
Our chat really helped me clarify that many of his mates were losing interest, he was sick of watching ‘expensive PowerPoints’, census day was coming and his debt was rising $8000 and he had four assignments due. Of course, by then, I had my counter-arguments all set.
The standout message from Lachie was that university was not addressing his needs. An awareness of the learning and wellbeing needs of our students is always front and centre of our planning and this has been especially important during this in-out-in-out term. The Middle School teachers have been determined to deliver varied and valuable learning experiences. They have been involved in vibrant curriculum discussions, explored myriad creative ideas and trialled and pivoted assessments. They have aimed to keep all students engaged and learning. We certainly didn’t want our middle schoolers to be thinking along Lachie’s line!
Wondering how well we had done, I checked in with the experts. Below is a collection of thoughts from a random sample of Middle School students – feel free to agree or not, to smile or tense up, but above all, enjoy!
Critic Reviews: the Middle School online experience
Hannah believes that the hardest subject to engage in is Physical Education as she is self-conscious about exercising in front of her siblings. Audrey, on the other hand, thinks that the delivery of PE has been much improved through the use of Microsoft Teams. Archer gets motivated when the teacher sets him tasks which involve going to the local park while Audrey has loved watching the blind Paralympians playing their version of soccer.
Raghav thinks that French has been ‘the best’ as your friends can’t distract you and because Education Perfect can be tailored to your needs. Archer thinks that French is the hardest because you don’t get as much teacher help compared to when you are sitting in the classroom. Audrey has a different view and will tell you that although her language lessons feel a bit rushed, she is learning lots and loving the instant feedback that online quizzes can provide.
Audrey also loves Food as her teacher is chatty, interested in the students and has creative ideas. While Archer appreciated a choice in what to cook, he didn’t find much fun being alone in the kitchen and missed cooking round the campfire with his Hattah group.
Raghav believes that Drama has taken a bit of a ‘hit’ while online but he has been impressed that the course has flipped to a scripted performance where he has developed his ‘voice’. Speaking of voice, Hannah thinks it is easier to present her Health project online as there is less pressure and people can’t put you off by making funny faces.
English break-out rooms and polls have been enjoyed by Audrey and she also appreciated Study periods which allowed her to finish work. Hannah knows that not everyone is using the Study periods and that some students are playing online games instead of watching the science simulations. There was also the comment that learning Maths was harder as you weren’t sitting next to anyone; but others thought it was fine as you could watch the video.
For many, the Festivals were well-timed and enjoyable, and according to Raghav the opportunity to work as a team and represent a country was great fun. Archer would have preferred having Digital Technology Adventures to a festival but used the time to catch-up on school-work and connect online with his mates.
Overall, Audrey thinks it’s great that Carey takes online learning very seriously. Hannah thinks the teachers know ‘what we are going through’ and care a lot about their wellbeing. Raghav believes that most students have adapted to online learning. The final word goes to Archer: ‘nothing will ever replace being at school with your mates!’
Throughout this term, each of your children is sure to have had a similar range of experiences. We certainly hope that by providing a range of activities and approaches that they have remained engaged and stimulated. As always, I am happy to hear your thoughts too.
Without a doubt, the flexibility and resilience shown by all students and teachers has been impressive and I am sure that everyone will welcome the holidays and the opportunity to down laptop lids.
Wishing you all a wonderful, energising spring and/or some gloriously lazy, snug sleep-ins!
Just as a side note, a few weeks later, Lachie was very quick to tell me that he had just scored 8.5/10 on one of those assignments!
Deputy Head of Middle School – Student Learning