Education has always been faced with challenges and has, for the best part, responded to these challenges admirably. During periods of War, schools (including Nudgee Junior) were relocated so that learning could continue despite the battles that were being fought on our soils to protect the freedoms we were accustomed to. Teachers and students were forced to leave the comforts and relative security of their own buildings and set up in towns and regions hundreds of kilometres from home. Anyone that has moved house, whether it is down the road, interstate or to another country, will admit that change is difficult.
In early 2020, when signs from overseas were suggesting the COVID-19 virus was spreading, the world held its collective breath. Schools were no exception. By the time March had rolled around, the entire landscape had shifted and it was not a matter of IF, but WHEN. The response from teaching staff was swift and plans were put in place for imminent face to face learning with an undefined timeline.
“Courage is knowing what not to fear”- Plato.
This could not be more true for our students as they faced uncertainty on a whole new level. I’ve often been asked ‘What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed in your teaching career?’ There are a few things that I could reply with but after this year, I think that resilience of students would be at the top of the list.
Modern day life for many of our students is about instant gratification- getting it now. The Social Dilemma, a documentary on Netflix, highlights some of the challenges that our children (I’m writing with my parent hat on now) face in a world of likes, requests and the constant search for a dopamine hit. My eldest kids are nearly eight and they are aware of social media. I watched a youtube clip the other day and all they wanted to know was whether I was going to “like” the video. I wasn’t- I needed to check which way a latch fitted on a gate.
The Social Dilemma
Modern day life for many of our students changed in 2020. They were forced to change habits, forced to learn in new ways, forced to be slow down. While some students found the changes difficult (as many parents and teachers did too), the overwhelming majority were able to adapt and change. Through the eyes of Plato, they were courageous. They were resilient. They will be better off for it.
Like the student who makes things difficult in Middle Years but comes around by the time of graduation, the COVID kids of 2020 will look back on what was achieved and should be, rightly so, very, very proud. The same goes for teachers and this next bit is for you.
What was achieved by the wider teaching group at Ambrose Treacy College was resilience at it’s best. John Hattie’s research into identifying what actually works in education, identified Collective Teacher Efficacy (CTE) as the single most influential factor to influence student outcomes. CTE is the belief that when teachers are working together they are capable of developing students’ critical thinking skills, creativity, and mastery of complex content (Donihoo, 2017). In other words, teachers working together and believing they can affect change can positively influence students (including those from disadvantaged backgrounds), foster positive behaviour and raise their student’s own expectations that they can achieve and be successful (Donihoo, 2017). I could not be more proud of what our teachers achieved in those heady days earlier in the year.And this brings me back to the kids. Your kids. My kids. Our resilient kids.
Cesar Chavez famously said that ‘students must have initiative; they should not be mere imitators. They must learn how to think and act for themselves- and be free’. The initiative shown by our student body throughout the year has been nothing short of remarkable. Their ability to get up and get on with it- to act for themselves- has been on display and the resilience shown by many has been so rewarding to watch.
To the Seniors of 2020, I offer you this parting advice-
Don’t let 2020 be defined by what happened, let it be defined by how you choose to respond to it.
So many of our dreams at first seem impossible. Then they seem improbable. And then, they when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable. Christopher Reeves