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For the Whole of Their Life.

What the Coronavirus Shutdown Taught Me About Teaching

Posted 25th May 2020
By Belle Holliday-Williams

Recently, I re-connected with some old friends, with whom I had gone through school. We shared many memories with each other, but were soon surprised by how much we had forgotten. Regardless of investing countless hours into the building and retention of knowledge, it became obvious that life beyond school had quickly eroded much of the syllabus content that once seemed unforgettable.

The stand out memories however, were those of our teachers. The connections, the interactions, the humour (or lack thereof) of particular individuals, the quirky tools they would use to engage us in learning, the unexpected acts of kindness, and conversations that served no other purpose than to build trust and empathy.

Dusting off my HSC transcript, it was no surprise to see that my best results were achieved in the subjects where I had the strongest connection with my teacher. They were the classes in which I felt known, valued, and knew that my teacher was invested in my success well beyond the final grade on my end of year report.

When the Coronavirus crisis closed the school gates, the initial questions from many leaders and educators were focussed on the delivery of curriculum. Are we prepared to remotely deliver learning activities to our students? And what will be the long-term effects of student achievement from this unprecedented disruption to our tried-and-tested model of education?

Whilst these were, and still are, important questions, what quickly became apparent as we embarked on this remote learning journey, was that maintaining relationship and connection with our students was a far more important battle ground. How would we ensure that each and every student would continue to feel connected, cared for and supported, as valued members of our College community?

St Philip’s Christian College is blessed to be equipped with exceptional digital systems, resources and innovative educators, making the transition to remote learning one I could enter into feeling confident and empowered as a teacher. However, these digital systems have had an even greater role to play in facilitating the personal connections we desperately need to maintain with our students through this season. Online Pastoral care meetings, video conferencing lessons, Chapel services, morning devotions, exercise programs, social events, competitions, and more, have all enabled our students to remain connected and in community with their teachers and with each other. And this has been an integral part of our focus during a time that physical interaction could not be relied upon as the facilitator of connection.

One of the five Cultural Distinctives of St Philip’s Christian College Waratah is ‘Connecting to Others’, and I cannot think of a time in the history of the College where this cultural distinctive has been outworked in such a meaningful and effective way.

This experience has reinforced to me that deep and rich learning cannot occur without laying the foundations of trust and connection. As some sense of normality returns to our classrooms, I hope that my teaching will look different to the way it did. I am more determined than ever that my classroom would not simply be a place where students acquire syllabus knowledge, but a place where the unique learning journey of every student is celebrated.

Aaron Batterham
Director of Innovation and Learning (K-12)

The Life

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