Finding the positives in difficult times

In one of the greatest films ever made, The Third Man, the character Harry Lime states: ‘In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed. They produced Michelangelo, da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.’

Before I write further about some of the different approaches that have come from our recent experience in isolation I just wanted to convey how sorry I am for so many people around the world who have been so badly affected by the COVID–19 pandemic. There is also no doubt that our students have missed out on so many rites of passage and experiences that will never be given back. As always, we are hoping to ensure our Year 12s have a special final year, but one feels for them for missing out on their final APS summer sports games, House carnivals and other Carey traditions that we fondly maintain and mean so much to the student body.

It is also hard not to feel for the Year 11s who, in their penultimate year of schooling, start finding their passions and are able to choose further subjects that appeal to them and interest them greatly. For many, it’s the first time in their schooling experience where the timetable is not accounted for minute-to-minute and the ‘free’ – or as I like to call ‘study’ – periods provide the way for students to be able to bunker down into a library PERMA room and study a subject of interest.

Our Year 10s as well, who began the year with a change of pace and a different environment and who were only just finding their feet, found suddenly they were whisked away from this new setting with new Year 10s only having been here for 7 weeks.

Having said all this, there is no doubt the students, parents and staff are looking at things now using a different perspective. Collaboration, connectivity, and resources for learning are a few of the areas that have changed and have taken teaching to a whole new level. Schools innovating correctly see the changes in technology as a very useful conduit to support innovative teaching. It is important that they serve and not drive Carey’s learning objectives, but it also demonstrates the possibilities in the use of time, efficiency and making of many innovative practices.

Appreciation of Family
How lovely was it to be able to be with your family and appreciate once again the environment and world around us. The nostalgia of seeing families walking the block, going for bikes rides, children climbing trees and taking part in time together that wasn’t measured or prescribed was simply wonderful. Families were not rushing Child A to a music lesson, Child B to sports practice while juggling work commitments, important meetings and pressures of day-to-day life. We were able to sit, reflect and ponder on the important things in life. An appreciation of school also became apparent during the course of the term when students, parents and staff all were able to reflect on the reasons for sharing lessons and experiences in collaboration at school. Many missed the connectedness and sharing of ideas while in that working environment.

Taking responsibility
With lunch time detentions or call backs to finish work no longer in play, students really had to take responsibility for their actions and work or lack thereof. Although there were some teething issues with announcements and the use of Canvas, a clear plan and outline were given to each student each week which then gave them the independence and responsibility to work through. As wise, independent and motivated learners, most of our students took up this challenge and even commented on how productive they had become.

Relationship between Mentors and Mentees
During the last few weeks in Term 1 when we began conducting school offsite, many of the staff and students commented on how hard it was to conduct a meeting with so many students at once online. A revised wellbeing model in Term 2 with fewer meetings between Mentor and Mentee Groups and a smaller ratio between Mentor and Mentee was undertaken. With a ratio of one Mentor to five students and at times one-to-one meetings, many students and staff commented on just how much they valued the quality time that was given. Shifting that teacher–pupil relationship slightly but hopefully profoundly led to a stronger sense of mutual respect between staff and students for many.

Has this recent 10 weeks in isolation gifted us with some potential changes in timetabling, hours at school or methods in communication? Has it given us the opportunity and excuse to radicalise education and change the current system that has arguably been going on in Schools since the industrial revolution? There is no doubt the relationships between staff and students is the most important thing but just how what possibilities and innovative measure that come or have been fast tracked place us in a very exciting stage of education and time at Carey. Hold on to your seats!

Christian Gregory
Deputy Head of Senior School – Student Welfare

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