Principal's Message

Principal’s Message Mid-Term 2, 2020

I write at the end of the first school week at level 2. The key principles of level 2 are to:

  • reduce the risk of someone getting infected in the first place,
  • ensure we can identify and contact anyone who becomes infected,
  • understand that it is not business as usual.

We have extensively planned for the reopening of our school and early signs are that the students are all embracing, or should I say, adopting enthusiastically, the extra hygiene measures that we have put in place. The continual cleaning and hand sanitising is an ongoing reminder of how we can maintain good hygiene practices at a time when this is a particular imperative.

I must admit I have never experienced so many enthusiastic greetings from students as I have walked around the school in the first few days since reopening. I’m not saying that students aren’t normally cordial with me, but their exuberance and the enthusiasm to be back at school is wonderful to behold. Schools are places full of energy and creativity and I hope we are able to restore all of the opportunities that are normally available to students, soon.

While we were in our level 4 and level 3 lockdowns, and while students were adjusting to remote learning plans and online conferencing, there were still achievements in varying forms from current and ex students. Please take some time to click on some or all of the links below:

  • Sophie Mance (Year 13, 2019) was awarded the extremely prestigious Girdler’s scholarship.
  • Sky Gobbi (Year 10) became a finalist in the Doc Edge festival with his short film about Underwater Hockey.
  • Former student Matty Di Leva (2010 – 2016) made Stuff  as an essential services frontline worker at New World Newtown.
  • Former student Jack Buchanan’s (2005 – 2009) family lockdown boogie went viral (perhaps not the right expression at the moment!) and he was awarded a CBS Sunny!
  • Our Shakespeare Society, who were scheduled to be performing in term 2 but have now postponed to term 3, were rehearsing the Tempest online
  • And Fresh Avocado launched their lockdown edition with some wonderful writing – my favourite is a piece by Cadence Chung (Year 12) called ‘Spill’ where she ruminates: ‘People joke that this is the end of the world but I think it is simply the end of what we thought tomorrow might have been.’

Remote learning during the lockdowns brought challenges but I also know it created opportunities and learnings for teachers and students. Many parents and caregivers have written to me about how much their student enjoyed working remotely but I also know that this hasn’t worked well for many. However, there is a need to carefully analyse the work during this period and adopt some of the better practices that have emerged for future learning.

We surveyed the students a few weeks back about how they were feeling and we had a terrific response with over 500 students taking part. When we asked our students about the aspects of remote learning they enjoyed the most, there were 3 themes that emerged in their answers:

  • Flexibility in terms of pace, assessment and independence [62 comments],
  • Use of technology to rewind learning & have it in accessible formats [34 comments],
  • Having a big picture plan for learning [23 comments].

A selection of student comments:

“I enjoy the flexibility of it, if you don’t feel like, say, doing English, then you can do Mathematics instead, rather than spending an hour sitting around, feeling frustrated. You can also come back and do our work later if you are tired and aren’t getting anywhere.”

“Being able to take breaks when I’m feeling overwhelmed/stressed helps me to not fully lose engagement and means I can come back to my work with a clear head.”

“…it would be good to have one remote day a week when we’re back at school.”

“I have found all the videos helpful, I struggle to read and write so videos are helping my learning a lot.”

“I quite like being able to look at a slide show and take notes because in class we don’t get shared the slides and the teacher can go a bit fast sometimes…”

“I enjoy that in some classes you know all the work you have to do for the subject at the start of week so, you can manage your time better.”

In these comments and in many others, there is some clear guidance for what learning could look like in the future and we must build on some of the really innovative teaching practices that emerged during the lockdown periods. This week we gave our senior teachers autonomy to decide how best to use their senior ‘double’ at the end of the day which has allowed some students ‘catch up’ time associated with varying levels of engagement with remote learning. Although this won’t continue next week, we will factor in our learnings from this and other aspects of the lockdown learning for our future planning for courses in 2021. The sorts of changes that we will consider are:

  • getting a better balance between whole-class teaching and smaller group tutorials with a review of face to face hours per subject or course,
  • using technology to open up more independent and self-directed learning methodologies and also enable more 1 to 1 opportunities, and
  • examining how our timetable can more flexibly accommodate different needs of students.

We need to acknowledge these opportunities for change alongside the crucial relationships that exist between learners and teachers and the important socialisation aspects of schooling. It’s then about getting balance, coherence and rigour so that we can continue to provide all the best parts of being at Wellington High School and make future schooling an even more exciting experience than currently.

Mauri ora!

Dominic Killalea