'my hope was to provide ... a safe and supportive environment, offering the familiarity of the known, yet embracing and celebrating our shared experiences of the past months'.
I drove through the Ruyton gates on Tuesday 26 May and knew already that it was going to be a great day. A different day, but a great day, nonetheless. It was the day we began welcoming back students to face to face learning. While I, along with many members of the Ruyton community, felt a little nervous, an overwhelming feeling of excitement lingered in the air. This day was to mark the beginning of the journey back to what we all know and love, our School filled with students laughing and learning together. Despite this, our Ruyton community would not be returning to ‘normal’. This day would mark a return to our ‘new normal’ and this would take us a little time to settle into.
Much has been written and said over the past months about the role of schools during this unprecedented time. Students, parents and teachers alike have been challenged like never before, and as a result, we have all drawn on a new skill set to continue teaching and learning in an unfamiliar landscape. What we have achieved together is truly remarkable. We need only look to the virtual Celebration of Learning Assemblies to see evidence of the rich and varied learning experiences students have immersed themselves in over these past months. We have also seen virtual Musical and Music rehearsals take place in individual homes each week producing polished and moving ensemble performances for us to share as a community. And, the Cross Country Team virtual training and House Qua-RUN-tine event challenged us all to remain fit, healthy and connected as a Ruyton community. These experiences, while challenging and unfamiliar, have emboldened us to believe that we can and will continue to embrace this unprecedented time and achieve together.
For some, the period of distance learning sat more comfortably than it did for others. Similarly, as we return to face to face learning, our feelings will vary. This is perfectly normal and is to be expected. As the Australian landscape has moved towards a gentle relaxation of restrictions and the staggered return to face to face education, the conversation has shifted somewhat. In a recent article in Teacher magazine (May 2020), Carl Leonard and Gail Brown acknowledged that ‘we are changed and different now, and we can move forward together, being kind and supportive to all.’ The article, focusing on the role of teachers in supporting students through the transition back to school post distance learning, highlighted the importance of building on the experiences of remote learning to ease the transition back to the classroom. Leonard and Brown believe that ‘the unprecedented level of responsibility that students have had to embrace is worth celebrating’ as this will enable a smoother transition, build confidence and reduce student anxiety. In addition, they argue that a safe and supportive learning environment built around familiar routines and structures is the key to a successful journey back to school.
As I stood on the veranda of Henty House welcoming our students back to School, my hope was to provide exactly that experience for our Ruyton students; a safe and supportive environment, offering the familiarity of the known, yet embracing and celebrating our shared experiences of the past months.
Lauren Perfect, Deputy Principal, Head of Senior School