Achieving growth through adversity
For most of us, the start of the year at Tintern has again been notably smooth and productive. Classrooms are thriving centres of activity and collaboration, study periods are being well utilised, School Production and music ensemble rehearsals are buzzing and students are playing school and House sport with passion and energy. These are all terrific to see and are hallmarks of what happens each year at Tintern through the shared commitment of the School community.
However, for a number in our community, the start of this year has been very different. On the first day of school we had approximately 15% of our school absent and for the first three weeks, Tintern, like all schools, was trying to come up with ways we could suddenly deliver quality online and virtual education to a mixture of students in Melbourne and still in China.
For me in my role as teacher of Year 10 Science, this has involved learning how to use an online platform I had never even seen a week before school commenced, alongside what I would normally do. Like all our staff through this period, I have gradually adapted to teaching a hybrid set of online and real-world pedagogies, mixing online meetings with practical activities and web-based platforms, delivering resources and tasks to students ahead of us all working out together how they can complete them with the equipment and resources they have in China.
In my Year 10 Science class I still have two students who are marooned in China; two of the School’s five students who are still at home in various places. My two science students are both keen learners, on two days per cycle getting up to be in front of a computer at 5:30 am their time! They have been seeking teaching information, tasks, worksheets and guidance in a bid to stay up with the other students who are here at school, and they are persistent in trying to get online tasks completed despite significant access limitations. In China, internet access is heavily controlled, and access is not equal in all parts of the country. One of my students cannot access his School email, nor the Tintern Portal, while the other can get to both. They both have few learning resources with them, not imagining they were going to be participating in distance education online when leaving Australia at the end of last year. Neither has a printer and they cannot leave the house to print out work.
I’ll confess honestly that personally I’ve found this multi-modal delivery really very challenging. Perhaps it’s my age, but it has really stretched me to the limit of what I can manage in the classroom, and at times beyond. But equally, I have to also say it has been very satisfying when it has worked, even more so when it has worked well, and as the classes have passed, it has worked well more and more often. And always in the back of my mind is that the two students in China have it much tougher than I do. Sometimes they cannot join the class online when the internet won’t allow it, or when I get something wrong at our end. They can’t get up and walk outside between classes and they currently have no prospect of returning this term, and possibly for even longer.
So, I hope they’ve grown through their very significant difficulties as I feel I have through my lesser ones. It’s interesting to look back and see how easy it is to get used to a comfortable and familiar anything, and how much you grow when pushed out of that comfortable place!
Factis non verbis