By Dr. Vivian Collyer
In schools, June is a time of excitement and celebration.
As they wrap up a year of learning, young students look forward to more opportunities to learn and play outside and take part in special events. Older students participate in year-end traditions and anticipate summer fun.
In spite of the pandemic, June this year has felt celebratory too, with more students having returned back into our schools.
Students have expressed their joy in being able to re-connect with their teachers and friends in person, and to play again in the recently re-opened playgrounds, even if on a part-time basis and at a physically safe distance.
Graduation commencements are happening this week as well, through “drive-up” acknowledgement ceremonies and videotaped mini-processions of graduates in cap and gowns posted to YouTube. Given the current circumstances, schools have found creative ways to recognise the graduates of 2020 and their accomplishments, while family members continue to beam with pride.
June is also a time where we reflect back on the learning that has occurred throughout the year, and we are taking stock as we exit this most unusual school year in order to inform our next steps as we move forward.
Since spring break, some have been thriving during this exceptional time in education, including connecting informal learning experiences at home to educational goals from school; focussing on literacy, numeracy, and core competencies development; and using videoconferencing to communicate and collaborate virtually.
Others have found the rapid shift to new learning approaches and the inability to readily connect with others face-to-face to be challenging.
At this point, we do not know what stage of the K-12 Education Restart Plan we will be in when school starts in September.
The Ministry of Education will make this decision in late August, informed by the Provincial Health Officer’s advice regarding the health and safety of students and staff at that time.
As a community we now have the time to pause and reflect, as we plan and prepare for meaningful learning for all of our students in 2020-21, no matter in what stage(s) we find ourselves.
We have just completed a survey of all families to find out what has been working well for their child’s learning from March to June this year and what suggestions they have for improvements.
Similarly, we partnered with a research team at Vancouver Island University to survey our employees about their experiences and those of their students to determine successes, areas requiring further attention, and recommendations for enhanced learning support and resources.
Based on the observations and advice gathered from families and staff, the district will be able to identify the learning approaches that have been beneficial to students, where we will need to focus our supports for learners, and how remote learning at home and hybrids of in-person and remote learning can be further enhanced.
As we approach the last day of the school year, it is important to note the many learning successes in spite of the challenges that the pandemic has presented.
As one parent stated: “surprisingly, the online learning methods worked well for my son, especially with video instructions so we can rewatch as needed to ensure content is learned.”
Thank you to students, families, and staff for making these success stories possible. The district looks forward to welcoming students and families back to school in September, whether we need to learn remotely, in-person part-time and remotely, or are back to normal full time classes. Until then, we wish everyone a happy and safe summer.
Dr. Vivian Collyer is the director of instruction for School District 69 (Qualicum)