It has been terrific to welcome back all the Year 5 – 10 students in the past week; schools are just meant to have lots of students running around, laughing and learning and simply being the great young men we know, so it’s very nice to be back to something approaching “the new normal.”
I have visited each class across all Year Levels in the past week or two, asking the students what they saw as the positives and the challenges in the six-eight weeks of their remote learning experience. The feedback has largely been positive with a variety of good habits and improved work practices discovered, but the overwhelming majority were very glad to be back on-site with their friends — and even their teachers! Many students reported greatly increased levels of responsibility, resilience and organisation on a personal level. Using OLLIE Chat and MS Teams was a great way to work with teachers for part of the lesson, but the ability to set their own timelines to complete work, to push hard then back off when it suited them have been reported as key positives by the De La Salle students.
Other students spoke about the challenge of motivation whilst working alone at home, to keep up to date with the work without teachers and classmates to guide, support and encourage. These young men were grateful for the return to formal classes and the structure and routine this provides. Overall, the students rated the experience a success and felt the College looked after them from learning, wellbeing and organisational perspectives. It was certainly challenging at times to navigate the remote learning landscape and ensure none of our young men slipped through the cracks but a marvellous team approach by many dedicated staff teams meant we have returned in good shape.
The students’ attitude upon resumption is a critical element of restoring their learning and progression; maintaining the good headway they made whilst working at home and for some, catching up where they may have fallen behind. This is where we expect students to rise to our expectations and the simple and fair standards our teachers set. Each young man needs to work to the best of his ability, ensure all work is completed and submitted to the highest standard possible for each individual. It is critical to finish Semester 1 well and for the Year 10s and 11 students in particular, use strong study habits to make sure they have access to the units of their choice in the subject selection process next Term.
The current Black Lives Matter campaign brings into stark reality many of the ugly issues racism brings. In searching for lessons and any positive lessons to come out of this for our students, I have been looking at events in the USA and abroad through a Lasallian lens. A recent article in the
AXIS: Journal of Lasallian Higher Education drew interesting parallels with how our Core Principles can combat racism.
With reference to our Lasallian values, our Lasallian mission compels us to directly engage with racial justice. We cannot sit idly by, but must instead lead by example in creating change on individual and institutional levels (Young et al, 2018). The Five Core Principles of a Lasallian Education could well be used to adopt a more balanced and Christian approach at a local, national and international level. It is my hope and prayer that the work we do with our students as a matter of course helps them become young men of compassion, character and empathy, perfectly capable of seeing wrong and doing something about it in their own way. An emphasis on “Respect for all Persons” and “An Inclusive Community” for example, can help understanding, tolerance and acceptance in any circumstances. Whether it’s Year 7 students organising a game in the yard or dealing with Indigenous disadvantage in our society, embracing the reality that acknowledging these lived experiences of our peers are ways of helping each other—particularly our students—transform their realities and build bridges to each other and of building community/connection/association.
Young, Danielle M., Jeffrey J. Sable, and Jack Curran. “Exploring the Intersections: Racial Justice, our Lasallian Heritage, and the Catholic Tradition.” AXIS: Journal of Lasallian Higher Education 9, no. 2 (Institute for Lasallian Studies at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota: 2018).