Education in the Time of a Pandemic
Schools faced many challenges during 2020 from lockdowns, to restricted parent access and gatherings, to shifting to remote learning, however, I am glad to say that not only did Loreto College rise to these challenges, we also surpassed them and came out stronger as a result.
Whilst 2020 saw the cancellation of many things, it did not see the cancellation of our Loreto spirit, our strength and resilience, and our love and care for each other as a community.
In 2020 we developed an online learning program for all students at Loreto called VERITY@LoretoOnline. If we take anything from 2020, it is the importance of our value ‘verity’. Verity means integrity and truth, being true to ourselves and authentic in our relationships with others. We are asked to find truth in our every day, and as Mary Ward said, ‘To do what we have to do well’. So, in taking Mary Ward’s advice, we accomplished online learning extremely well by providing an authentic and enriching, albeit remote, learning experience for our girls.
The aim of VERITY@LoretoOnline was to provide students and teachers with meaningful teaching and learning opportunities through a variety of online platforms when teaching face to face was not possible. At Loreto we were already well positioned for online learning through our Learning Management System, Loreto Connect. This platform provides an online classroom for every class in the College, and our students and teachers use it daily for communication and learning experiences. To this platform we added Microsoft Teams and Zoom, as well as many other digital and online programs. However, what set us apart from other schools was that the teacher was present with the class for every lesson and for the duration of the lesson. In testament to the success of our online program, we were one of only a few schools in South Australia that was able to switch over immediately to online learning during our state-wide lockdown, ensuring that no valuable learning time was lost for students.
However, not every student was able to return to Loreto throughout the year and thus, our online learning platform was even more important for these students. Students from the Northern Territory missed all of Term 2, Victorian students were faced with having to quarantine on their return to school, and some of our International students learnt remotely from China for the duration of 2020, including a student who successfully completed her Year 12 studies online. Other International students who remained in Adelaide spent a challenging year separated from their families.
One of our greatest concerns in 2020 was managing the impact of the pandemic on student wellbeing. Whilst our Social, Emotional, and Academic Development (SEAD) Program delivers an extensive curriculum for girls in relation to their learning and personal growth; we wanted to ensure that we were addressing any wellbeing concerns that the girls might have, especially during times of remote learning.
To this end, we implemented our Student Pulse Program. Student Pulse is a tool for measuring the week-to-week wellbeing and engagement of our girls. It tracks the wellbeing of individual students so that the school can respond to those who express a need. It also tracks anonymised student attitudes regarding engagement with learning as well as the social and emotional needs of the girls, thus providing the College with information to enable us to make the changes required to our SEAD Program based on student voice and current needs.
Once a week, the girls were sent an email check-in asking them how they were feeling. Girls chose from a range of responses including: ‘I’m feeling great’, ‘I’m feeling positive’, ‘I’m feeling in the middle’, ‘I’m feeling negative’ or ‘I need some help’. If girls chose ‘I need some help’, an automated email was sent to a staff member of the student’s choice asking for assistance. This process allowed staff to follow up quickly with students before issues developed.
We are proud of our achievements in 2020 and ensuring our school remained strong through times of uncertainty. We are also proud of our girls who surpassed all expectations and achieved outstanding results whilst continuing to grow, flourish and care for one another.
Author: Dr Nicole Archard, Principal, Loreto College Marryatville
Feature Image: Loreto College Marryatville junior school students utilise iPads to assist with their studies.