So, as we come to the end of Week One of ATCLearns@Home, I am reminded of Captain Kirk’s ritual of entering a ‘Captain’s Log’ as the Starship Enterprise continued its mission. I guess in one way or another, we are all experiencing an ‘outer space’ adventure as we come to terms with our ‘new normal’-at least for these next 5 weeks. Thus, I commence Captain’s Log: ATCLearns@Home Week One.
I am in awe of teachers throughout all schools as they have so rapidly, creatively, and efficiently launched the various remote learning models. Our teachers at ATC have done a marvellous job of this. I particularly wish to acknowledge our IT Team, led so ably and calmly by Seb Tabulo and ‘Tech Coaches’; Lisa Holohan, Jane Ellice, Patrick Behan and Matt Warr who supported teaching staff in Week 10 of Term 1 to adapt to new applications; especially Microsoft TEAMs. This learning is ongoing as staff master the various applications they are using to support and enhance our core platform of SEQTA. This includes regular professional development, collaboration, and review. I celebrate and thank our staff, both teaching and non-teaching for their commitment, positivity, and support.
Similarly, I am in awe of our students and parents who have transitioned so effectively with us. We have appreciated the positive feedback and encouragement we have received in recent weeks and especially in the first week of Term 2. As ATCLearns@Home continues, our teaching teams are reviewing and collaborating to improve their practices to support our boys. Thank you to all the parents and caregivers who have communicated with us in week one and supported your son either at home or here at ATC to begin this journey.
It is important that we continue to be realistic about how different this is! The technology can be wonderful sometimes and frustrating at others. We experienced some initial challenges with OneNote this week due to congestion across not only the country but all south-east Asia! I am told that Microsoft added an extra 50 servers to power this in Australia during the week. At my own home where I have three daughters full time at University and my wife who teaches secondary school Maths at home, the internet in our suburb has dropped out 3 times in the last 3 weeks for about 4 hours at a time. It rattles one’s nerves to say the least! All will be well; we need to keep perspective I tell myself as I see people in India making platforms in trees to gain social distance!
Another fact of which to be mindful is the huge growth in use of online applications across the country in a very short period. I am told that Microsoft educational products sales have grown over 800% in the past six weeks in Australia and a product such as TEAMs had perhaps 400000 teachers and students using it across Australia prior to COVID -19 and that when New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia come on line next week that it will be more like 2 million. This is a major reason why we have been conservative concerning online video conferencing. We agree that some online conferencing will be very helpful pastorally and educationally, but we wish to launch and consolidate our first phase and collect evidence of internet capacity before transitioning into some use of conferencing in our second phase. We have some pilot groups testing this for us and will monitor capacity early next week in order to make some decisions about our next move.
It is important that we find the ‘sweet spot’ of running a marathon together-not a sprint. Too much schoolwork will be overbearing and stressful and not enough will be disconnecting and disengaging. This ‘sweet spot’ is different for different ages and different boys of course but it is the balance for which our staff are striving. I am not of a view that ATCLearns@Home will be perfect and that we will instantaneously identify the ‘sweet spot’ for all students-this totally new experience for all concerned will require patience, communication, pragmatism, and positivity. All these qualities are in bountiful supply within our community. It will also require independence, determination, doggedness, and resilience. It is here where the challenge lies for our Men of Courage from Years 4 to 12. Week one of ATCLearns@Home has confirmed for me that our boys have the right stuff for this.
I remind everyone that the school timetable is a guide. There is no need to feel that it is compulsory to follow it rigidly while at home. Our model deliberately has some flexibility. For some boys, using the timetable is fantastic and for others, having some choice and variety is helpful-both are valid approaches and can be accommodated by our model. I have outlined some suggested amount of time for daily learning for various age groups. If your son completes his work, it is very valuable to spend time playing, reading, cooking, exercising, or creating to support his formal work on ATCLearns@Home. The staff at ATC, both teaching and non-teaching are committed to inspiring and supporting this through our holistic approach as represented in ATCLeads@Home, ATCMoves@Home, ATCReads@Home and ATCServes@Home. I thank everyone who is engaging in these activities and challenges as this holistic approach is what an ATC education is all about.
Next week, our staff will move to an onsite skeleton model. We will have the College Leadership Team, 20 teachers, School Officers and Administration Staff onsite each day rostered to supervise students who are attending ATCLearns@Home at school. Most teachers will commence working from home next Monday for the next month and will come onto site one day per week. We have averaged about 100 students from Years 4 to 12 each day in our first week. The recommendation from the Premier’s office and Health Authorities continues to be that if students can be kept at home this is preferable. We are pleased to be able to support the sons of essential workers at this time. Thank you to our community for the courtesy you extend to our reception and administration staff.
Forward notice that for the 100 or so boys and staff on site next week, we have decided to re-open the Bakehouse tuckshop from Monday. Students will be able to pre-order as per the arrangements prior to the Easter break. Orders for the Junior School will be delivered to them. Middle and Senior School students may pick up from the Bakehouse.
Like Captain Kirk’s various visits to bizarre planets, it is so, so important that we leave no member of Starship ATC behind-everyone must be on board, accounted for and working to the best of their ability. I have been delighted with the level of engagement we have enjoyed in week one of ATCLearns@Home and warmly congratulate the boys and thank our parents and caregivers for your support. However, like Captain Kirk, there are different planets ahead for us. Week 2 will not be as shiny and new as Week 1 and Week 3 will not be as novel as Week 2. It is vital that we stick to the path, support one another, stay in touch and make the most of what we have because this too shall pass and we will emerge from the experience a stronger, more agile and more creative community than ever before.
On behalf of the entire Ambrose Treacy College community, I extend our respect and gratitude to all women and men who have served in the various theatres of war and conflict throughout our history. I extend our appreciation and admiration to members of the extended Nudgee Junior and ATC community who have had family members make the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good of our peaceful, safe, and prosperous country. It is no small part of our story that our school relocated to Mount Tamborine during the Second World War and that the American Army used our site as a hospital base. It is an inspiring reminder that we will work through this current situation.
The COVID 19 crisis pulls all of us into a re-examination of what is important in life for us individually, our relationships, our hopes and our contribution to our families, community, and our country. I for one, find myself feeling exceptionally proud, thankful, and optimistic that I am an Australian. Each year, we remember that we stand on the shoulders of those who forged the culture and identity of our country and tomorrow both in times of peace and conflict and, in a special way, we pause to give thanks and reflect.
We shall remember them. Lest we forget.