As We Return

Posted on May 22, 2020

As our time in isolation draws to a close (hopefully) and all the students return next week, now is a great opportunity to spend time reflecting on our experiences: what did we learn?

St Paul’s School started the time away with the theme, “A time of wonder”. This theme came from the lessons Isaac Newton learned while he was in isolation during the great plague of London. We challenged the students to use the time at home as an opportunity.

As the students return to School, we have been surveying them to find out what they learned, and what we as a school can change to make the experience at St Paul’s School even better. Year 11 and 12 students have had an opportunity to give their feedback. The remaining students will provide their feedback next week.

The data collected was hugely encouraging. Year 11 and 12 students said that they felt that they learned as much academically as they might have if they were physically present. This is really encouraging for those in Year 12 who worry about the impact the pandemic may have on their ATAR performance. I think this year’s cohort will have an advantage. I think the Year 12s have fared very well indeed and have nothing to worry about.

The students said that they improved their independent learning skills and self-discipline while exhibiting greater patience, perseverance and self-control while learning at home. The time away strengthened their character and soft skills.

Not surprisingly, while academic learning hasn’t appeared to have been negatively affected, the students did say that the period of isolation had a negative impact on their mental and physical health. To support all the students as they return, we will engage a third counsellor for a few months.

What the students missed the most were their friends, closely followed by the real interactions with their teachers. What was clear from the results of the survey is that nothing can replace the real thing. A great school is all about relationships.

When it came to asking what students “wondered about”, the comments and reflections were honest, humbling and mature. These are impressive young people:

“I have learned about the importance of the smaller things, such as going for walks and embracing and being grateful for the little things in life.”

While the pandemic has disrupted every part of our lives, caused significant anxiety, stress and worry, there have also been some wonderful things that have occurred. I pray that the lessons we have learned in isolation are not lost, that the time has been an opportunity to “reset” and return to the things we normally take for granted.

Dr Paul Browning


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