WRITTEN BY JAMES PERRY, YEAR 4 TEACHER, AUSTRALIAN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL SINGAPORE
I’ve learnt a lot since returning to school from post home-based learning (HBL). I’ve learnt from my family, school colleagues and parents; but most importantly I’ve learnt from my students. It’s been truly amazing to see how they’ve adapted to the ‘new normal’ classroom. They’ve proven to me that what may worry adults, is but a bump in the road for them. Their capacity to cope with change – inside and outside of school – is inspiring.
Since returning from HBL, school days tend to start earlier. Students who travel by school bus roll into the classroom from 7:45 onwards. I use this time, before the whole class arrives, to chat with students and we complete some fun tasks together. These include art, fact fluency, vocabulary or STEAM activities. As other students arrive, they settle down, reconnect with each other and, noticeably, the classroom vibe really picks up as they discuss, critique and extend themselves with their chosen tasks.
Come the ‘true’ start of the school day, the class is ready to go. Our day starts with greetings in various languages and a timetable check to find out what our day entails. Despite the new safe distancing measures, which means the students have limited physical contact, this part of the day is vital to check-in on wellbeing and help the students to continue to develop socially and emotionally. We often chat about questions or ideas that are at the forefront of students’ minds. Since COVID, these can be quite wide ranging. This time creates a ‘discussion outlet’ and empowers students to express their feelings, while also putting them at ease. Crucially this also ensures that classroom routines and structures can also be reiterated.
The day runs smoothly from here. Students still attend specialist classes, which they love, and are fully engaged in our curriculum core areas. Whilst our lessons are now a little different, students work around these challenges, such as collaborating on ideas from a safe distance. They’re also keenly aware of new routines, such as wearing face shields and masks, frequent hand washing, cleaning workspaces and how to handle shared resources, such as books. Students have seamlessly taken this in their stride, making life much easier than anticipated for teachers and support staff.
Through necessity, students’ use of technology has only been enhanced since Singapore’s Circuit Breaker began and this is clearly on show for teachers. Google Classroom allows for distanced interaction while still feeling as if they are sitting with their work partners. The Seesaw app is used to quickly share classroom happenings with families. Students have learnt which apps works best for them in different stages of their learning. This could be Spark Pages to present their writing, Clips to summarise their work or Google Slides to showcase presentations. As a teacher, my own tech skills have also been enhanced through this ‘unofficial professional development’!
Students have also embraced change at lunchtimes and recess. Games have been adapted, new games have popped up and the smiles and enjoyment are there for all to see. Students wash their hands before and after eating and the cry of ‘social distance’ can often be heard across the playground which always brings a smile to a teacher’s face.
As we exit Singapore’s Circuit Breaker and enter our new form of normality, I know that students have developed skills to cope with change and they will embrace the new opportunities which these times will bring. It’s been inspiring to experience first-hand that our students are so cognisant, adaptable and realistic about the future of their schooling. It’s out of their control but not out of their comfort zone!