As a result of COVID-19 (“Coronavirus”) everyone is living in a state of flux – each hour, each day we are seeing changes and new rules being put in place in order to try and keep us all safe.
In Australia, the end of the school term is fast approaching and holidays are near. It appears that it is now only a matter of time until schools in this country temporarily close across the board. Many schools have already begun this process (some due to exposure to the virus and others in precaution) and we are likely to see more and more in the days and weeks ahead.
This is new ground for everyone – teachers, students and parents – and not something anyone has had to really deal with, on this scale, ever before. Schools and staff have been working overtime in past few weeks doing what they can in anticipation that this will occur and to ensure they can continue providing education to our children. I know not all families will be set up for home learning to occur through the use of technology and I trust the schools will work with everyone as best they can to provide assistance and solutions on this front.
During these challenging times, I ask that everyone continues to be patient during this time and that we all try and work together as a team to navigate these unchartered waters.
When schools close, the first thing to point out to students is that they will NOT be on holidays (unless of course we make it to the holiday period before this happens). Just because schools will close they will still be expected to continue with their learning and education during normal term time. It will be school as usual during either this term or next, either side of the holidays.
Each school will have their own expectations around how a student will continue to learn and it will be important to read any information provided. Schools will be trying to accommodate all year levels, though many are indicating that the senior students will be up and running first. This makes sense even though (of course) each student’s learning is important.
So what next for all students?
It will be important for students to realise it won’t be a holiday and that school work will still need to be done – particularly senior students.
Students need to be more self-disciplined than ever in continuing their learning at home. As noted above, schools will have their expectations and should provide any necessary links, resources and information for students to use and follow.
So what’s my advice?
My advice to both parents and students is to ensure students continue to stick to having their usual routine as much as possible. I suggest that they use their normal school hours and continue to do their work just like they would be doing if they were at school.
I know from experience that many students will struggle with focusing, and then distractions and procrastination, when they are left to their own devices. It will be important to ensure expectations are clear and set in place both from the school and parents as to how this will work. Clear boundaries will need to be defined.
Where possible students should avoid distractions that precent them from concentrating on their studies/tasks. I recommend that if they don’t need a device to complete their work that it be removed to another room to avoid any temptation. Procrastination too can rob a student of time and affect their ability to complete their work to the best of their ability. Both of these can create stress and overwhelm for students. Here’s a link to a BLOG I have previously written for more ideas.
This BLOG is not designed to have any definitive answers for everyone but to be used more as a guide depending upon the situations that may occur. At this time, like everyone else I cannot predict what will happen and therefore have specifically only addressed a couple of different year levels rather than all.
Please note students won’t be doing themselves any favours by taking any more time out – their time is limited as it is in terms of what they need to learn and get done during their time at school. If they do have to work from home it is important to keep the same structure as they have at school and to continue to use their time as effectively as they can.
Naturally the school will be setting work and they should continue along as best they can to follow this. On top of that they need to stay motivated and can be reviewing any work they have undertaken in Term 1 and ensuring their summary notes and revision tools have been created. I usually recommend that the school holidays, when they arrive, are used for a break, but also to ensure students are on top of everything before a new term starts. The more effort that is put in to ensure, they are learning and retaining what they need to, the easier they will find it during exam time later on.
Students should be encouraged to keep in touch with their fellow class mates and where possible engage in conversations or study groups to assist their learning and understanding. Here’s a link to a BLOG on the benefits of studying in a group – this can be done online just as effectively as it can in person.
There will naturally be many unknowns ahead and the main one being, depending upon how long this goes on for, how students will be assessed ie SAC’s, assessments, tests, exams etc. No doubt more information will become available in relation to this over time, and schools are working with VCAA and other governing bodies to determine what this will look like. A few of my Year 12 students in NSW are shortly due to sit internal assessment exams as part of their HSC and I know this will be a potentially worrying time. All I can advise at this point in time is that students should still be preparing for these in the same way they would whether they are at school or not.
Primary School Aged Children
For those with younger children, routine and structure will also be important – continue to get your children up at the same time, get them dressed and follow as much as possible their usual school hours.
It could be a good idea to work with them in creating a timetable so that they can see and follow whatever it is they will need to be doing. I recently did this with a group of Grade 4, 5 and 6’s and it was amazing what they came up with in terms of what their week looked like.
Remember there is a lot of learning that can still occur in the home like preparing and cooking meals together, going for a walk to the park, reading books…. As one mother who home schools her children said to me today your children will not suffer academically no matter how many weeks they are away from school as Learning happens everywhere.
It will also be important for parents to set boundaries not only in terms of children completing any work but also for themselves as they too may be having to manage working from home at the same time.
Naturally no one has any idea of how this all might play out and how long it is likely to go on for. No doubt it will continue to evolve over time. Just remember it is a time to be patient and for everyone to try and work together to make the most of the situation as best we all can.
One final message please remember students you will not be on holidays all of the time!
PS A note for parents on the use of technology, most students will be very familiar with using technology to learn and it won’t be as foreign as you might think. Most of my work with students these days is online via ZOOM and I have not noticed any major difference to that of face to face.
PPS – I too am in the same situation as everyone else as I have 2 secondary school aged children – one in Year 9 and the other in Year 12. We continue to have discussions about what may or may not happen, and as part of this have clearly highlighted it won’t be a holiday!