School News and Head's Blog

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Posted on: 16/10/2020

What's All The Fuss About?

  On 9 October, the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2020 was announced, recognising the outstanding achievements of people from across the United Kingdom. On this year’s list were 133 individuals who have been recognised for their services to education during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. These include teachers, head teachers and principals who have gone above and beyond to provide education to young people. One Head who has very deservedly been recognised is Katharine Birbalsingh.  Katharine is the Head and founder of the Michaela Community School, an 11–18 mixed, free secondary school and sixth form in Wembley, established in September 2014. I have followed the work of the school and Katherine’s social media presence over the years and sadly Katharine has, on several occasions, had to defend what she and her staff do at Michaela to inspire the pupils to be their best.  I have always stood back and refrained from judgement; I feel that much of what her school stands for reflects what any good school should be doing. For example, her school has a stringent behaviour policy which the pupils are expected to fulfil, the school has “family lunches” where staff sit with the pupils and the children are expected to make conversation, use their cutlery correctly,  pour drinks, and clear their guests’ plates. The school asks children to walk on a particular side of the corridor when passing each other; the school asks children not to ‘loiter’ between lessons, arriving promptly for their next lesson, and the pupils are asked to memorise poetry by heart and recite it back. Over the years of reading about Michaela and watching Katherine being interviewed I have reflected on life at St. Helen’s College. Many of the Michaela Community School routines and expected behaviours resonate so closely to what we expect of our children here at St. Helen’s College! So what is all the fuss about it being branded  ‘Britain’s Strictest School’? Our Ducklings may only be 2 years old but, with encouragement, they tidy up their toys, they sit beautifully at snack and lunch around their tables, they say please and thank you and they recite a little prayer and song of thanks for the food they receive. Our Nursery pupils learn poems off by heart and recite these to their peers and parents in a special poetry assembly - the beginnings of our annual speech recitation event which, as you know, continues throughout the school. Pupils at Lower School and Upper School walk calmly along corridors, with the Upper School children knowing that they stick to the left hand side on the stairs. At both Lower and Upper School the children understand the behaviour expected of them and the children sign a classroom pledge together to state that they will uphold the standards expected from them. Those who find it difficult to uphold these behaviours are supported appropriately and there may be the occasion for further actions if required. Ultimately, the children know that behaviour routines are based on our mantra of ‘Ready, Respectful, Safe’ and, as a school, we have taken the best aspects from UK behaviour specialist Paul Dix and embedded them into our daily routines with the children. I truly believe that children enjoy structure and routines and they need consistency, but most importantly they need to feel safe and loved. I take my hat off to how the staff at Michaela Community School have weathered the social media storm over their routines and how the school is run - but I say keep up the great work! I feel so blessed to have the most amazing staff here at St. Helen’s College and this half term has been a testament to their stamina and professionalism as they are back doing what comes naturally to them all - bringing out the best in your children. I also feel blessed to have the parent body we have! You are truly invested in St. Helen’s College and what we do TOGETHER  brings out the best in your children! Have a wonderful half term break with your children and do speak with them about the activities and lessons they have engaged with this half term but also discuss some of the routines which we have at school - I am sure that you will agree that your children - ‘our’ children - are not in the ‘strictest’ school, but that they feel loved, safe and are thriving in a school environment which has good solid routines and boundaries. And that is a good thing!  I leave you with an interesting article written back in 2016 by ResearchED’s Tom Bennett and his impressions of Michaela Community School some years ago in the early days - I would love to hear your impressions! Mrs. Drummond
Posted on: 9/10/2020

Does It Matter?

For those of you interested in Mindfulness, I am linking below a super article which has recently been written by Claire Kelly, the Director of Curricula and Training at the Mindfulness in Schools Project. The article resonated with me, since we frequently hear the notion of Mindfulness or the word ‘mindful’ bandied around, but it is often misunderstood. I am delighted that, at St. Helen’s College, our children are increasingly becoming more aware of what exactly Mindfulness is and is not. Today in assembly the children were led through a Mindfulness practice by one of the MiSP (Mindfulness in Schools Project) experts, Niamh. They were encouraged to notice what was going on in their body, in their mind, and eventually to bring attention to their breath.  What the pupils participated in may have been really challenging for some of them. Do ask them about the experience which they had in assembly today and ask if they will strive to take time to pay attention to their breath at least once a week. The number of St. Helen’s College staff who have participated in training to spread our mindfulness education around the school is also increasing; we now have Mrs. Crehan, myself, Mrs. McLaughlin, Mrs. Hunt and Mr. Roche, with more staff showing an interest in taking the next steps to becoming a qualified Mindfulness teacher.  https://mindfulnessinschools.org/just-calling-something-mindful-does-not-make-it-mindful/ I will leave you with this quote from Jon Kabat Zin, a Mindfulness Master, as he explains what Mindfulness is... “… a way of being in wise and purposeful relationship with one’s experience both inwardly and outwardly. It is cultivated by systematically exercising one’s capacity for paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally, and by learning to inhabit and make use of the clarity, discernment, ethical understanding, and awareness that arises from tapping into one’s own deep and innate interior resources for learning, growing, healing and transformation, available to us across the lifespan by virtue of being human.” Please do read the article. Namaste. Mrs. Drummond.  
Posted on: 2/10/2020

Mrs. Sal Cheema

On Tuesday this week, our community came together as staff and parents paid tribute to Mrs. Sal Cheema, who made her final journey from Parkway surrounded by family and friends. Mrs. Cheema very sadly passed away last week, having lived with cancer for many years. She and her family have been members of the St. Helen’s College community since their oldest son Suraj joined us back in September 2008, with their youngest son Amar joining the school a few years later in September 2011. Mrs. Cheema was one of the most inspirational women I have ever met and I know that everyone who knew her has been touched by her courage and selflessness over the years. She embraced every day to ensure that her boys were happy and she and Mr. Cheema are such amazing role models to us all in how to live alongside cancer and not allow a disease to take over one’s life. Back in September 2018, Mr. and Mrs. Cheema joined with five other couples to work alongside the national Breast Cancer Now campaign and they raised awareness through sponsorship with Marks and Spencer, appearing on posters in store and nationwide via social media. Amar, then in Year 5, delivered the most heartwarming assembly to the Upper School children about his experience of his family living with cancer. The sense of pride he showed that day in assembly as his mum filmed him from the side of the hall will never be forgotten.   Mrs. Cheema also started to blog about her life online, in a blog very aptly named ‘My Beautiful Life’, which carried a strap line encapsulating both her upbeat attitude and her intrinsic values: If the risk of getting cancer in a lifetime is 1 in 2 and I have had cancer twice, I believe I have taken one for the team. You are very welcome! Her blog is raw and emotional but also joyful and always full of hope, with her boys and husband an integral part of her writing. I have shared Mrs. Cheema’s blog with many family members and friends over the past few years; she brings a sense of reality to those who read it and an appreciation for the gratitude we should all feel. Her words and her attitudes remind us to live every day in the best way we can. Mrs. Cheema was also involved in other fundraising activities throughout her illness. She supported the Willow Foundation back in 2016 and then in 2018 raised the profile of the Noah’s Ark Hospice. Most recently, in September 2019, she organised a 12 hour walk around Hillingdon Athletics Stadium to raise money for AMMF, the UK’s only bile duct cancer charity. Family, friends and staff joined together on this day and, yet again, Mrs. Cheema’s endless positivity and stoicism shone through.  Mrs. Cheema was also Chair of the Parents’ Association at St. Helen’s College and the family were always keen supporters of school events. In the summer of 2019, we were delighted that Mr. and Mrs. Cheema joined us as our Guests of Honour for Amar’s last Sports Day at St. Helen’s College. It was a wonderful day, during which Mr. and Mrs. Crehan and I were able to reminisce with them about the boys’ days at St. Helen’s College and to  thank them for all that they had done to support the school over the years. It took a lot to stop Mrs. Cheema from participating in the mums’ race, but thankfully she had forgotten her running shoes! The photographs I have shared above are from that wonderful day. Mr. Cheema has now launched a just giving page in memory of his wife to raise funds for the Michael Sobell Hospice.  If you would like to join the community in donating in memory of Mrs. Cheema please follow the link here. Mrs. Cheema’s values have always been the shared values of our school community. She will be dearly missed by us all and our heartfelt condolences go to her whole family. She has taught us all so many life lessons and her memory will live on through her wonderful boys and husband.  God Bless.    Mrs. Drummond
Posted on: 25/09/2020

Family Instinct

This week I have a guest blog from Mrs. Hunt, our Head of Lower School. When Mrs. Drummond asked me to write a blog, my first reaction was one of panic! What would I write? What would be worthy? I have never been a fan of Facebook or the like because I think who would be interested in my life!  I am genuinely never happier than when I am with my family; we are lucky enough to share the same interests and the adage of ‘families that play together, stay together’ rings true for us. That said, I find myself in a position which many of my friends and colleagues are facing or have faced. My baby is off to uni! This, and the fact that I am about to reach a very significant birthday, has made me somewhat more reflective than usual. Many of you will know that I have been at St. Helen’s College for numerous years and was privileged enough to see both my children pass through the school. I have very fond memories of Tom staring lovingly through the nursery door, waving patiently as Miss Carmichael gently coaxed him back into her room.Whereas, a few years later, Lois would just burst in demanding the attention of Mrs. Mummy! How quickly those days flew by and how treasured they are. When I show prospective parents around at Lower School, I often refer to the ‘feel’ of the school. I will always remember when Mr. Crehan showed me around in 1999 and how I knew it was not only where I wanted to work, but also where I wanted my children to start their schooling. I would also like to add how impressed I was by the fact that Mr. Crehan was able to refer to each child we saw by name, something I have always tried to emulate. (It is at this point that I can hear my new Year 1 children calling, ‘but you always get in a muddle’!! I refer back to that aforementioned birthday as an excuse and the fact that there are approximately 164 of them at LS and one of me!). Anyway, going back to that ‘feeling’ you get inside when you know something is right; I have continued to trust that with many decisions, including future schools. I truly believe that when children are happy then they will learn.  Late last year I became aware that my eldest, Tom, was not truly happy. He was at Swansea University, half way through his engineering degree. We would communicate by text and the occasional phone call and he would make the occasional comment that hinted that things were not as they should be. My instincts were on high alert and over the Christmas holidays my husband and I managed to get him to tell us what was wrong. It turned out that he had realised that engineering was not for him, which was not an easy decision for someone who had been committed to a career in engineering since his first box of Lego! Anyway, after a great deal of discussion, he left Swansea behind and set forth on his new career path to be a paramedic. He has been an ECA on the frontline since June and he loves every minute of it - it is wonderful to see that he is happy once more. We are all currently coping in situations that none of us could have foreseen, but when I walk around the school I am greeted by joyful and happy children who, with dedicated support from the staff, are showing remarkable resilience and acceptance of their new normal. As I stand sentry at hometime, I am witness to more true happiness as I see them being reunited with you, their loved ones, their family. I am also delighted to report that despite our necessary adaptations, my recent prospective parents spontaneously commented on the ‘feel’ of the school and, I might add, complimented me on my ability to name the children we encountered!  So in summary, is there a profound message in my blog? Well actually I think there is. Family is everything. Treasure time together, laugh, cry, talk, listen and play together. Trust your instincts; they will serve you well.
Posted on: 18/09/2020

Caring

  CARING (Adjective. feeling or showing care and compassion) The value which we are focussing on around school at the moment is ‘Caring’ and I am so proud of the whole school community as I observe such incredible examples of ‘care’ from the children, staff and parents. Over the past two weeks with our return to school there really has been an abundance of ‘care’, from the carefully planned and staggered gradual settling in of our very youngest new Helenians to the care shown by children welcoming new pupils joining existing classes, and the care shown by teachers as they lovingly and thoughtfully establish relationships and routines with their new classes. As you know,  part of our school motto,  written by the children, is ‘Care for each other’ and I will repeat also the wise saying Mr. Crehan quoted in his blog last week: ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.  I have actually been quite overwhelmed since the start of term at how our ‘village’ is coming together to support each other with such kindness and loving care. We have 79 new children, from Ducklings through to Year 5,  who have just started at St. Helen’s College, and I trust that all of our new families feel that they have received a warm welcome and feel cared for by everyone: staff, pupils and ‘older’ parents alike. If you are one of our new families, we look forward to many happy and fruitful years as a community, working together to care for your precious children and develop them into caring, responsible and loving members of our school and the wider community. The fact that we all show care ourselves is so important. Children learn best by example and it is every parent and educator's responsibility to raise caring children. Research in human development shows that the seeds of empathy, caring and compassion are present from early childhood but our children need adults to help them throughout their childhood to nurture and develop these virtues. We can do so by leading, suggesting or ‘instructing’, but surely the most effective way is by modelling: showing our children that we care, and that caring is rewarding and generates happiness and security. We need to cultivate children’s concern for others, partly because fundamentally it is the right thing to do, but also because when children can empathise with and take responsibility for others, they are likely to be happier and more successful. They will have better relationships their entire lives, and strong relationships are a key ingredient of happiness. In today’s workplace, success often depends on collaborating effectively with others, and children who are empathic and socially aware are also better collaborators - and likely to make better friends! As your children move through St. Helen’s College and they develop these key virtues, our young learners apply them every day - in the playground, in the classroom and at home.  It is heartwarming for me to take a virtual ‘learning walk’ around Google Classroom and pop into the classes - collaboration and care is evident in abundance as the pupils and staff question, support and challenge each other in their learning with the utmost respect and care for each other. Feedback is given, additional challenges are set (pupils and teachers) and the sense of belonging and pride in these virtual classrooms is phenomenal.  As a Head, I never envisaged the day where I would be able to take a virtual tour of the school and I feel such a sense of pride in the progress and outcomes of our pupils.  I am, however, grateful for now that Google Classroom has returned to its usual place as our flipped learning platform for homework (or home learning as I like to call it - the adults go to ‘work’!). There is no doubt that it is wonderful that face to face teaching has returned for our pupils, and that it is easier and more natural to show in person the care that is such an important part of the teaching/learning relationship.   Our current Year 6 pupils are stepping up to their new positions of responsibility and showing real care for others as the oldest pupils in the school; they should feel very proud of themselves. They are also preparing to sit the 11+ examinations which were postponed from early in the term and I would like to thank all the parents and teachers for the care they are giving the children as they approach this milestone in their educational journey. Our Year 6 pupils are superb ambassadors for St. Helen’s College and it is the exceptional care that they have received over the years which has enabled them to blossom into such inspirational young people: they are budding lifelong learners who contribute greatly to our school community and beyond. Finally, a word about self-care. Through our focus on Mindfulness, philosophy and positive psychology, as well as our wider PSHCE programme, we teach children that caring for themselves is one of the most important things they can do. As a school, we believe that when a child feels loved and valued, they are best able to learn and achieve their full potential. This is why school staff and parents show our children such exceptional care, but it is important to recognise that a significant part of feeling loved and valued is loving and valuing ourselves, too. So I encourage you to take care not only of your children but of yourselves and, in doing so, to set another excellent example for them. In this busy, busy world of full time jobs, parenting and caring for others, we can lose sight of how important it is to look after ourselves. You might like to re-visit the Self-Care September calendar from Action for Happiness, which has some great tips for self-care this month.  Mrs. Drummond
Posted on: 11/09/2020

Back To School

It is so good to see all of the children and staff back at school! There is a real buzz of enthusiasm in the classrooms, and the sound of children’s laughter in the playground is a delight.Last term the children showed great resilience and determination with their learning and engaged fully with the online lessons and activities, but they are clearly thrilled to be back at school with all of their friends and teachers. I am not surprised. A good school is, if you will excuse a cliché, a ‘home from home’. And if I may employ another wise saying, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Children benefit enormously from the variety of interactions and mutual love that a small community can provide, whether it be an extended family, a close, local community or a school. Nowadays, with smaller families (my parents’ Irish country background was very different), and less cohesive neighbourhood communities, school, for most children, provides a daily multiplicity of human interaction which educates, enriches and enlivens. Not so long ago, ‘BC’, some forward thinking educational pundits argued that schools would gradually become obsolete. A brave new world of online classrooms and remote teaching would replace the existing arrangements, eliminating wasteful practices such as the school run and playtimes. A recent review of over 1500 studies carried out by academics at the University of Dundee concluded that online and blended learning are often more effective than traditional instruction. Certainly, last term’s lockdown experience showed us the enormous value of communication technology, and proved that pupil learning and well-being could be promoted very effectively remotely by skilled teachers using advanced online methods. But I am sure that every parent, pupil and teacher will agree with me that, while online use of IT can be used to support learning really well as part of a blended learning experience, actually being at school makes all the difference. We are social creatures, and learning is a social, interactive process which is built upon strong relationships. It is very difficult to build and sustain such relationships online, and with the best will in the world they can never match the quality of face to face interactions, which foster friendship, trust and love. A huge amount of learning takes place during playtimes, working together in sports teams, choirs and clubs, through taking on positions of responsibilities, and by observing respected role models such as staff and senior pupils.  Covid-19 continues to constrain us, but the most important step has been taken – everybody is back at school. I know that my colleagues on the staff are totally committed to promoting your children’s education in the broadest sense to the very best of their ability, and that your children will flourish under their loving guidance. Mr. Crehan
Posted on: 4/09/2020

Journeys

  (Definition: travelling from one place to another) One of the groups which I am involved with outside of school supports and inspires each other in our jottings or blog posts and this month the theme to write about is ‘Journeys’.  This has sparked many ideas for me in the last week as I have begun reflecting on what this means to me both personally and professionally and what it may mean to our St. Helen’s College community. We all go on journeys of one form or another, be it physical, emotional, mental or, more recently, virtual!    Over the weekend do give yourself some time and space to reflect on the following: Journeys we have been on Journeys we are on Journeys we will go on Perhaps you could find a way of bringing the family together to discuss this theme or even inspiring older children to write reflectively or creatively about their journeys? Journeys we have been on Many of us look forward to physical journeys each holiday and this summer, although there were many restrictions on our travel, I still managed to travel north to visit my mother and friends in my home town of Oban on the west coast of Scotland. I then continued my journey eastwards to Aberdeenshire for a long overdue visit to my sister, brother-in-law and nieces.  There were no visits to the airport this summer, packing sunscreen and beach towels, but my journey this summer was nourishing and grounding and took me back to my roots. For the first time in a long time I really appreciated the ‘journey’ and did not dwell on the destination and I soaked up the scenery, taking in the magnificent views as I drove from the south to the north. I am sure that many of you also appreciated our local environment and explored areas which we have perhaps neglected in the past when opting for overseas journeys for our summer holidays. Journeys we are on The journey we all find ourselves on at the moment during this global pandemic has been unique and one which we could never have ever imagined. However, it is so important to reflect on the positives on this journey.  Families have found themselves spending so much time together, new routines have been established, and we have perhaps learned more about ourselves and others around us then ever before. Journeys we will go on I have not planned any physical journeys for the immediate future; however, I have promised myself some sea air as often as I can in the next few months. Visits to my daughter at university in Kent may be the driver of these journeys! The emotional and mental journeys ahead for us all are unknown at the moment and I will most certainly be using my mindful meditation, bringing attention to my breath and grounding myself to assist in coping with future journeys in a calm manner. Upper School pupils have taken part in some ‘grounding’ mindful exercises in our remote assemblies this week to help them through the journey of their busy day - please do ask your children how they ground themself and the effect that this can have for them. I know I have commented on this before, but I will reiterate that our St. Helen’s College community is incredibly committed to working together on this strange journey we are currently experiencing. The trust, mutual respect and relationships between us all are being forged ever stronger as we journey together through this most bizarre time of our lives.  If you would like to pen your thoughts on ‘Journeys’ - those you have been on, those you are on or those you will go on - please feel free to share them. Over the course of this new academic year it would be wonderful to have some more guest bloggers to share this spot with me! Have a wonderful weekend and a safe ‘journey’ to all this year. I will leave you with you a photo of one of my favourite creatures - to whom I managed to get up close! - and a scenic view from my journey this summer. Mrs. Drummond
Posted on: 10/07/2020

Summer Wishes

It is with immense pride that we bid our staff, pupils and parents a safe and restful summer holiday after what has been a remarkable year indeed. However, we must not allow ourselves to dwell on the negative aspects of living through this pandemic but focus our attention on what an incredible year we have had.  Your children have proved that they are adaptable, resourceful and resilient young people who bring so much joy to us all each day.   There have been so many highlights throughout the year as we have watched your children thrive and develop in our care and even when we found ourselves in lockdown in March, the staff rallied together to ensure the quality of our provision and pastoral care of the children was the best it could possibly be.   As a Head, I feel privileged to have led the school through this period of uncertainty and what has stood out for me is the sense of community which has brought us much closer together. You as parents stepped into new roles at home to support your children’s learning as the staff facilitated this remotely - you have juggled family life with home life (as many of our staff have also had to do) and we have so much mutual respect for the sacrifices and hard work which this has meant for everyone. I look forward to September with positivity and excitement - it will be a joy to have our whole community back together as one. There will be elements of our remote learning which will remain as part of our practice now, but it will be uplifting to have face to face interactions again, and for the children to be with their friends and teachers once more. I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to every member of the St. Helen’s College community for just being who we are, supporting each other and staying strong together - never before has the children’s motto for SHC meant so much: Strive for excellence Help everyone achieve Care for each other Have a safe summer everyone and we look forward to seeing you all again in September. God Bless, Mrs. Drummond
Posted on: 3/07/2020

A Governor's Perspective

Over the past few weeks you have had the opportunity to read blogs from Mrs. Drummond, parents and children all giving their thoughts on the distance learning provided by St. Helen’s College during these unprecedented times. I am writing now as someone who has looked on from the outside and has, for the past half term, been right inside “at the chalk face” or at least today’s IT equivalent! Back in the autumn, when Mrs. Drummond asked me if I would be willing to take on the supply maternity cover for Mrs. McLaughlin for the second half of the summer term, I was only too pleased to accept, but neither of us could possibly have imagined at that time what the summer term would bring.   At the beginning of 2020 we were being made aware that a pandemic might be just around the corner, but few of us understood what an impact that it would have upon our lives. As the spring term progressed, it became increasingly obvious that, in all likelihood, St. Helen’s College and all other schools would be asked to close and that the children would have to be educated at home. Waiting for that to happen was a surreal time as plans were made for what was surely to come, while the daily life of school continued largely unaffected. As Governors, we were kept fully apprised of the developing situation and we were always on hand to give advice and support to Mrs. Drummond and the SLT as they made their plans. As a former Head of many years standing, I have many experiences to draw upon but, like the majority of serving and ex Head Teachers, none that fully prepared us for this previously unimaginable situation.  As remote learning got underway at St. Helen’s College, I saw how much time and effort the teaching and support staff were putting into making necessary amendments to their lessons, planning and timetables. This was not in order to produce a ‘watered down’ curriculum, but rather to ensure the delivery of the richest curriculum possible from a different platform. As always, their aim has been to maintain the provision of as many opportunities as possible for the children to extend their love of learning and to develop independence, resilience and mutual respect as they grow as young people ready to make their mark in our ever-changing world.   This aim has been achieved successfully despite the challenges for staff, for the children and for you as parents. Even the most “tech savvy” people have had to learn new skills and understand new aspects of technology. St. Helen’s staff and children are fortunate in that many of them were familiar with, and aware of the power of, Google Classroom, but still there has been so much for all of us to learn. So, having been observing closely from the outside, on 1st June I entered fully into the St. Helen’s College online teaching experience.  I knew the Year 3 curriculum well, I had already met the children in 3M and had been fully briefed by Mrs. McLaughlin, but I also knew that I had much to learn about the technology, and my learning curve in that department has been steep! I am really enjoying teaching 3M. I have always enjoyed working with children, seeing those ‘light bulb’ moments, helping pupils to understand something new and exciting  about the world or about themselves. I love watching as they grow and develop, ask questions and form their own ideas and opinions. All of these and many others are the reasons why I have been involved in the education of young people for so long. Yet remote learning and teaching online is a real challenge; it is hard work! There is no other way to describe it and my current experiences have brought me to reconsider many aspects of classroom teaching that I had previously taken for granted.   All teachers plan their lessons carefully. There is a curriculum to follow and many would argue that, as educators, we have been too bound by that, but that is a discussion for another day. However, we are, by our very nature, spontaneous beings.  With the children in the classroom, no teacher would want to stick blindly to the plan when a new, unexpected learning opportunity appears. We are working with people, not machines, and therefore we want to respond to their needs as they arise. We constantly encourage our pupils to be independent. This is so much easier physically in the classroom where the teacher is able to monitor progress more closely during the lesson and gently steer a child back on course if they have drifted, often by asking a relatively simple question at the right time. With remote learning, a child may complete a considerable amount of work before the realisation that they are not quite on the right track. Similarly, with resources it is much easier to provide an individual with appropriate support or extension exactly as and when it is needed in a more discreet manner. Last week one of the pupils in 3M remarked that there were so many attachments to the assignment that day, so I explained that these were necessary ‘just in case’ for some and not all of the activities would be used by everyone.  However, I think that the greatest challenge of not being in the classroom with the children is that we cannot really see and appreciate each other as people. Yes, if all of the cameras are working and switched on then we can see faces, but not all of them all the time, and particularly not when the teacher is in ‘presentation mode’ on their device. As humans we constantly send out and respond to non-verbal messages, so not being able to see most, if not all, of these signals is very hard. A teacher is able to respond naturally and immediately to a smile, a shrug, a frown, a raised eyebrow or a despondent droop of the shoulders in the real classroom. These signals are unseen in a remote learning classroom and I have found this a very strange and quite challenging situation to which to adapt. The very term ‘remote’ is exactly what we, as teachers, do not want to be. We are not, and should not be, remote and distant; the children are used to us being there for them and that is how we have been used to working. The majority of teachers are not used to speaking into a void, to an unseen audience either and certainly that is something that I found I had to become used to pretty quickly. Some children have found it challenging to speak online; they feel more shy than they would be in the real classroom, and this can also prove to be a barrier to learning. A quiet, discreet chat is possible when we are physically in the same room but there is no such thing as a quiet chat in a Google Meet lesson where everything is heard, or printed, for all to see.  Fundamentally, of course, I am the same teacher that I was before this experience. I still want to undertake all that I am used to being able to do in the classroom, and so it has been frustrating when this has not been possible. I have no doubt that moving forwards there are some aspects of remote learning that we will want to keep. There are always positives that emerge from any situation, however difficult it might be. Remote teaching and learning has certainly made me ponder on which aspects of my role as teacher are the most important to maintain and those that I really would prefer not to continue.    After five weeks of teaching remotely, I can honestly say that it is only now that I am immersed in the situation myself that I can fully appreciate the enormous amount of time and effort it has taken the staff every day to provide for their pupils during this pandemic. So many aspects are involved: planning, delivering, marking, giving feedback, ensuring that pastoral care is all that it should be so that no child feels that their worries are not being heard and acted upon, speaking to the children about everyday matters, contacting parents to give information and reply to concerns, liaising with other staff and a myriad of other unexpected matters to be attended to. All of these things take so much longer than in a ‘normal’ school day. There simply are not enough hours in the day, or days in the week, and that is without taking into account the family commitments that all staff also have. All of the staff at St. Helen’s College always work hard and thoroughly deserve their summer break every year but this is particularly true this year, far more than any other. As a Governor, and I know that I speak for Mr. and Mrs. Crehan and the other Governors too, I sincerely congratulate the staff and thank them, not only for surviving and rising so well to all of the many challenges presented to them recently, but also for their dedication and determination that has meant that they have provided your sons and daughters with such a rich and varied experience over the past months.  During the past weeks you have been able to have increased insight into your child’s school experience at St. Helen’s College and I hope that you have found it to be an interesting and rewarding one. We do not know exactly what the future will hold, but your sons and daughters are growing up in a very special school in historic times.   I wish you, St. Helen’s College pupils and the rest of your families a safe, happy summer break as refreshing as possible in our current times.   Miss Beckett

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