A Brave New World at Moriah

A snapshot of the days preceding COVID-19 reveals a pressurised parent body who were generally in a constant battle to juggle the competing demands of work-life and nurturing their children and family unit. Technology and social pressures were significant distractors, which consumed the attention of all, whether it was parents, students and, at times, educators, who struggled to divide their daily timeline so that all the boxes were ticked for that day’s requirements. Each day spun by in a blur of demands which came fast and furious.

Then, COVID-19 hit the stop button on the frantic treadmill of our daily lives. We came to an abrupt halt, hearts still racing, somewhat stunned and unsure of how to engage with this motionless, different world. However, showing true resilience, our school community quickly and readily embraced the new routine that was offered by B’Yachad Online, and it felt surprisingly good. Family members pooled their individual strengths and resources to nurture one another; they set their radar to high alert to detect what each family member needed so they could be healthy emotionally, intellectually, and, of course, physically. The same dynamic occurred at a school and community level. Collaboration was the order of the day amongst both our Moriah College educators and administrators and our parent and student body, as every exchange between every individual or team was not about competition but rather about nurturing and uniting efforts to move forward and grow each member of our community to contribute to a collective big picture outcome.

As we restart the treadmill of life outside of lockdown, our brains are still filled with the insights we gained during our time of social isolation. Five insights stand out and I share them as follows:

  1. Moriah College is the cornerstone of our community, and the core values at its centre hold the people in its orbit securely
    Moriah links its families and their extended families in the most significant manner. It is important to keep the body and soul of the College functioning perfectly so that the community can function successfully.
  2. When social pressure is well-managed people feel happy and secure
    The removal of a frenetic social schedule released the feeling of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). It gave permission to family members to be comfortable in their own space where they now had the time and opportunity to engage with one another instead of trying to be in the right place at the required time with all the pragmatics that the context required.
  3. The role of family in personal growth and wellbeing is critical
    A cocoon was created for members to really look at and communicate with each other in order to drill down into the needs of each human in the unit and what was needed to meet those needs. These insights didn’t just disappear, they were revisited each day in order to assist each individual to grow and be their best self.
  4. Teaching and learning is complex and our teachers are highly valued for the specialised, multi-faceted product they deliver
    Moriah educators balance scientific and psychological practice and give their all to grow each of our little people into their best self. Parents engaged with the learning of their children via B’yachad; they observed how teachers reimagined their practice and how the processes of knowledge and skill acquisition and social interaction take place in their own children. They acquired a newfound respect for teachers and developed increased insight around the elements that suited their child’s personalised learning platform. 
  5. Our Moriah educators go above and beyond to provide the best possible product for our students, no matter what
    This is evident in the superior, blue chip online product that B’yachad delivers. Recently, the Education Department communicated that schools will not provide graded reports for Semester 1 due to an interruption to student learning, however, our Primary School educators have sufficient data to generate graded reports based upon combined evidence from face-to-face and online learning. Our educators revised their practice as they were required to telescope their attention digitally to each individual child that was called onto their Teams’ screen. They linked their interactions during livestreamed learning very specifically and critically to asynchronous platforms, which captured the outcome of each individual’s learning. They then considered even more carefully what worked and what needed to change. As both learner and educator deepened their understanding of one another, they also treasured each interpersonal exchange, which they hoped would happen face-to-face in the future.

As we slowly return to face-to-face teaching and learning, we understand that our world is now different. Education is a microcosm of this broader world, and having survived and possibly flourished through our period of lockdown, we realise that we almost don’t want a v-shaped recovery in our schools where we snap back to what was before. The preference is for the staircase recovery, referred to by demographers such as Bernard Salt. This more discerning, measured approach ensures we retain the best aspects and products generated during our lockdown phase with the best aspects of practice in the pre-COVID phase.

As we take each step forward, we need to reflect on the step taken and evaluate it to see if we stepped in the right direction or if we could step differently and generate an even better version of practice. We ensure that we recognise how we are allocating time to the Big Rocks in our life. This considers aspects such as physical and emotional health, family relationships, professional and educational life and spiritual and community connection. This ensures that we consider the impact of social pressure, time-wasting technology and detractors that compromise our personal growth and wellbeing. We recognise the opportunity for personalised learning and connection across the technology platforms alongside the strength of personal relationships with educators. We embrace new ideas and recognise individual strengths and passion in our students and educators so that we teach and learn with a consideration for what makes each individual excited to learn more and better and what medium is best for sharing their learning.

Recently, Michael Carr-Gregg shared his thoughts with the Moriah Foundation Circle members and endorsed responses that are evident in our Moriah practice. Essentially, he highlighted that a period of developmental disruption has been experienced and our return to face-to-face education needs to accommodate this disruption. The anxiety and fear that accompanies a pandemic cannot be ignored and even though we are in a recovery phase it is important to still name the emotions we identify and actively manage them by becoming an observer and master of our thoughts.

His idea of students generating a playlist to match their current emotional profile was the perfect currency for our young people. It is important that the adults in this situation choose a positive response to this context as it sets the tone for our children who mirror our state of being.

Michael Carr-Gregg suggested that we all make a conscious decision to retain what was best about lockdown in order to emerge as a stronger, healthier community. I celebrated at the close of this Foundation Circle talk, as Moriah College is definitely on point with every adjustment made; academically, emotionally and physically.

The menu of what is on offer has expanded significantly at Moriah as circumstances stretched the capability and learning of educators in this relatively short window of lockdown time. Whilst physically our buildings have increased healthcare, sanitary and social distancing provision, academic and socio-emotional opportunities have also been amplified. Our students now engage with a blended learning platform as we reunite in an “Uber-Learning Community”. Students access a blend of  the best of our educators and effective pedagogy, the best of their student strengths as identified in the Character Lab and Superflex Thinking, the best of technology platforms, processes and apps and the best of our parent support. A Brave New World has been created inside our community cornerstone, Moriah, and it feels like it is the perfect fit.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lynda Fisher is the Head of Primary School at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.

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