Newsletter #8 27/08/2020

Principal’s Report

Our School’s Remote Learning Experience
I’d like to reflect on our school’s experience so far this year with Remote Learning and the impact of COVID-19, however, I am not doing so now on the presumption that things will automatically and miraculously return to normal but instead to review and acknowledge the wonderful work we have partnered to achieve for your children and for the school staff. Although we’ve been told to prepare to adapt our lives to a “COVID-normal”, there is an optimism I hold that I hope will see us return to school at the beginning of Term 4 in a “Maharishi-normal” way. This week, the Minister for Education and Victoria’s Chief Health Officer gave us a glimmer of hope that it would be the case, albeit doing so guardedly.

The experience for our students, teachers, ancillary staff and parents during Remote Learning (RL) #1 and Remote Learning #2 has differed significantly. The beginning of Term 2 started a new experience for us all, almost surreal in the manner in which we all had to navigate through that period. We began with our “Learning at Home” Packs and then slowly introduced Zoom calls, as an age-appropriate initiative. The school ensured that any potential for disadvantage was minimised with the distribution of nearly 30 school devices to individual students including laptops, iPads and internet dongles. This strategy was to acknowledge the need for students to have a separate device to their parents who were more likely to be using their individual or the family device for their own working-at-home requirements. Teachers produced high quality daily videos for their students which students were able to view on their devices. We were all very keen to evaluate the student and teacher experience along the journey. Teachers sought and noted the feedback from students, parents and colleagues.

The high status and esteem with which I regard our teachers and ancillary staff was elevated even further at the beginning of Term 3 when preparations were being put in place for RL#2. Your child’s teachers showed how incredibly adept they became at utilising the differentiation possibilities that came with the online applications they were using and also with those we developed, such as our new Maharishi School Portal. Zoom Classroom sessions increased to daily levels for our Year 3-6 students, while the younger students also enjoyed their newly-introduced Zoom connection once or twice a week with their teacher and classmates. Those students attending school were also guided exceptionally well by our teacher aides who worked very closely with all the teachers.

One of the main things that continued to be reinforced to all of us during Remote Learning#1&2 is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach which supports all learners. This is when we really saw the teachers rise to the occasion. They used the feedback from students, parents, the experiences of their colleagues, and their engagement with other professional networks to adopt new daily and weekly routines for the students. As at school, class work was targeted to individual needs and adapted to cater to individual and family circumstances.

There have been many positive outcomes to the RL#1& 2 experiences. We have enjoyed and appreciated seeing:
Parents significantly increasing their connection with their child’s learning
Flexible use of the school day to take into consideration family needs and commitments
Students developing their organisational and time management, skills
Students taking more responsibility and ownership for their learning
Increased communication and connection between teachers and parents
An increase in the responsible use of digital applications in teaching and learning
The increased usability of online resources for teacher engagement with students
Students’ eyes opening to learning that can occur outside the classroom (e.g. home being seen as a ‘learning environment’)
There are many other benefits experienced that are more specific to individuals but nonetheless we have all taken a unique and very challenging situation and have all played our part to do the best we can to achieve more positives and minimise the negatives.

As we approach the end of Term 3, the staff and I would like to ensure we minimise any ‘COVID Fatigue’ that you and your children may be feeling. Take time away from the routine and tasks we have provided when you need to, without any feeling of guilt by you or your children in doing so. Everyone’s wellbeing at this stage of the year is of utmost importance and is our priority. On behalf of the School Staff and Board, thank you all for your ongoing support.

Parent/Teacher Interviews
The teachers will soon be making arrangements with you to conduct Parent/Teacher Interviews via Zoom. We have allocated the last week of Term 3 when you and any of the teachers with whom you would like to speak can arrange a mutually convenient time on any day during that week (Mon 14th-Fri 18th September). Contact details and arrangements for these interviews will be sent to you soon.

Final “Learning at Home” Pack Changeover for Term 3
This Friday 28th August will see the conclusion of the current two-week cycle of Remote Learning schoolwork for your children. As you did two weeks ago, we ask that you (or a delegate) come to the school this Friday at any time between 9.00am – 3.00pm to return the current work requested by the teachers (in the art folio you currently have) and to pick up the schoolwork for the final three-week cycle (Mon 31st – Fri 18th September) in the second art folio that will be ready for you in the Multi-Purpose Hall.

Accompanying the Packs on Friday will be a selection of gifts for the students and families as an acknowledgement and expression of gratitude of the school staff for the support you have given us throughout the Remote Learning periods. The gifts will be included both in the pack and separately, labelled with the Family Name. Please ensure you collect the following:
Family Bocce Set – this is intended to help you see in Spring and the better weather with a fun activity that can be enjoyed together by parents and children. We encourage each family to develop their skills with this game. Our plan is to hold a Bocce Family and/or Student Tournament in Term 4, when we may be able to enjoy coming together, in a “COVID-friendly” way, for a school community event.
Each student will receive their own high-bounce ball (used for their downball games at school).
In each ‘Learning at Home’ Pack, there will be additional surprises for the students:
The Pearls have an extra special cuddly gift that acknowledges their first year at Maharishi School which has been so unfortunately interrupted for them.
Every student (Prep-6) will receive in their pack a Visual Art Diary in which they can draw and write, a packet of coloured pencils and an extra special pencil from their Principal who misses them so much.

On Friday when you come to changeover the Packs, you will see the Bocce Set with your Family’s name on it so please collect it. Also, pick up one high-bounce ball per student in their favourite colour. ENJOY!!
(I’d like to acknowledge Sport Australia’s Sporing Schools Program which enabled me to successfully apply for a grant that helped fund this school initiative).

Book Club
Scholastic Book Club is offering you the opportunity during remote learning to order from their current catalogue. Check the following link which will display options to see the current catalogue and to place an order:
https://www.scholastic.com.au/book-club/book-club-parents/
Cash is not accepted and all orders must be placed online (see ‘how to order’ attachment sent with this newsletter)
The school will not be receiving your order during this remote learning period but Scholastic have made arrangements to provide home delivery with a $5.99 delivery fee.

Term 4
Unless circumstances change, we hope and expect to have all students return to school for Term 4.
Staff will begin Term 4 on Monday 5th October with a Planning Day. This is a Student-Free Day.
Students are scheduled to begin Term 4 on Tuesday 6th October, however we await confirmation through the announcements that we expect to be made about schooling over the next few weeks.
The Grandmother Moon Project, funded through our successful grant application to Creative Victoria, and in which we have partnered with Barking Spider Visual Theatre, is expected to begin in Term 4 and scheduled on Fridays. Again, this will be subject to announcements about schooling. We will keep you informed.

Key Dates (presuming we are all back at school)
Mon 5th October Staff Planning Day for Term 4 (School Closed: Student-Free Day)
Tues 6th October Term 4 begins for students
Friday 9th October Grandmother Moon Project Launch (Years P-6)
Monday 12th October School Assembly – Term 4 Class Captains announced
Parent Group Meditation via Zoom (9.30-10.30am)

We miss you all. Take care and stay in good health.
S Charisis (Principal)