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Byron Shire
May 6, 2021

Student challenges – and rewards, in iso

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Photo – www.mbyplism.catholic.edu.au

Eve Jeffery

Parents of Australia are learning a new respect for teachers as they walk a mile in their shoes during the COVID-19 lockdown.

St John’s Catholic Primary School in Mullumbimby is a small school community of about 100 students. Almost all are accessing online teaching, and t hose who cannot, for varying reasons, are being supported with non-digital materials.

School principal, Renay Condon, says that staff have been incredibly innovative in how they have modified their approach to learning and teaching.

‘They have done this in a short space of time to ensure our students are supported in learning within a remote environment while being equitable for all,’ she said.

Mrs Condon says another challenge has been ensuring safety for staff and students by maintaining stringent hygiene practices.

Mrs Condon says she strongly believes, given the circumstances, the blended learning approach is working well.

‘We would become complacent if we didn’t continue to pivot and adjust to the continually changing circumstances we are all experiencing.

Sudden change in schooling

‘Generally, families are coping well during this sudden change in schooling, however, some of our families are having to cope with job losses too, which of course adds another complex layer of challenges for them. We have a range of supports available to our families and encourage them to contact us should they need help’.

The creativity of the students, and how they have embraced this change has been inspirational for all the staff, she says.

‘We’ve had the opportunity to get to know them even better, and meet another side of them, which may not often be seen in a traditional classroom setting,’ she said.

‘Just yesterday our staff were watching a young man present Kids News via a video he had made at home.

‘What a star in the making he is! We’ve found most kids love recording themselves, either as a voiceover for the work, or in a video presentation.’

Regular Zoom meetings

Mrs Condon says that the school has regular Zoom meetings, even with their youngest students and their families. ‘These meetings are supporting them to know that, as in all things, we can have good days and we can have bad days, and it is okay to take a break and just “be” as a family. I love the idea that some of our families are keeping connected to friends with Facetime playdates for their child.’

Many children had just started their school career when classes were stopped, but Mrs Condon says she doesn’t believe parents would need to start students in kindy again next year. ‘Students are still learning, and we look forward to safely transitioning back to face-to-face learning.

‘Our teachers have demonstrated how innovative and agile they are, and we are all very excited by how these innovations will be able to enhance the traditional classroom experience for our students.  We all greatly miss our students.’


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