Andrew Fuller, clinical psychologist, family therapist, author and speaker, recently wrote about the heroism of teachers in 2020 as they ‘pivoted’ their entire educational offerings (academic, wellbeing and co-curricular) during distance learning. The Ruyton teaching staff and co-curricular leaders have been nothing short of extraordinary as they have reinvented learning and teaching to move to a distance mode and then to a new normal of face to face learning.
Resilience is a word often used in our world, a life skill we value and seek in ourselves, our students and our colleagues. One of the unexpected gifts of these past few months has been the reminder that you can’t become resilient without personal challenge or hardship. Fuller acknowledges three important factors identified by research that reliably create the resilience to help people through tough times. Factors that help people through a crisis such as a pandemic and enable them to thrive after serious hardship is the ability and mindset to readjust, realign and reinvent.
Our staff and students have done just this – readjust, realign and reinvent. Our plans and vision for 2020 never mapped out this level of upheaval, yet our staff have pivoted as one. With student wellbeing firmly at the centre of their approach they have ensured the continuity of our academic programmes and, where possible given restrictions, our co-curricular offerings. Fuller reminds us that life is an improvisational art and that resilience is the ability to flexibly respond to whatever life throws at you – something our staff and students have achieved.
As a community we understand the value of learning from this journey and the importance of capturing our stories. We thank our staff, students and parents for their willingness to take part in our fortnightly surveys during distance learning. We gratefully received over 560 responses to the final survey, providing thousands of words of rich qualitative data describing our journey. This research is a work in progress as we continue to carefully makes sense of, learn from, and act upon the feedback. Given the level of technological, decision-making, physical and emotional fatigue being experienced by staff and students, there is no rush – not if we are going to truly learn from the experience to impact our future.
Already we are seeing important themes evolve from our data. Staff, students and parents noted the challenge for students to manage distractions and personal motivation in a different learning environment (distance learning). The value of individualised teacher support and face to face communication was universally noted by students and parents. Students reflections on positive and successful learning experiences tell the story of how this challenge provided them with the opportunity to adapt, evident in their growth in independent learning, organisation and motivation.
‘I have learnt to be more independent in my learning because you can’t just put your hand up and the teacher will be there straight away.’
‘When I go back to School I will try and problem solve for myself, because sometimes at home I had no choice and I felt good once I had fixed something for myself.’
Student survey responses
‘For my daughter’s return to School, I hope she will realise the benefit of having access to her teachers and will actively use that access. I suspect that she has taken greater advantage of being able to talk one-on-one with her teachers over the last couple of months than she did when she was physically at School.’
Parent survey response
The data weaves an interesting story about the growth of our students. It also documents a deep well of gratitude for our staff that I share with students and parents. Over the past few weeks I have been stopped in shops and on walking trails as Ruyton parents have spoken to me about the exceptional dedication and expertise of our staff during these challenging times. And I wholeheartedly agree. Quite honestly, it is my privilege to work with this team.
‘A HUGE thank you to all of the teachers for the exceptional job they did in educating our girls over the last nine weeks. I could not have been more impressed with the pivot, which no doubt was a significant amount of work for many. Between our two daughters we observed more than a dozen teachers make the change to online learning, and without exception, all made the change with professionalism and care. The School has been excellent, and the efforts of all staff and teachers are recognised and appreciated by our family. Thank you.’
‘I am genuinely grateful for the thoughtful and caring approach Ruyton has taken to distance learning. I am in awe of how effectively teachers and staff transitioned to distance learning. The approach appeared seamless and thoughtful. Particularly at the beginning of the crisis when we did not have many answers to many of our own or our children’s questions, it was a huge relief to point to a solid solution for a core aspect of their lives – schooling. Thank you so very much for your clear communication and demonstrable care during this time.’
Parent survey responses
On behalf of the Ruyton staff, we sincere thank our Ruyton families for their support during a challenging term.
Ruyton Girls' School