The image above shows the artwork of a Cohort2024 student that has become the new mural on the wall of the Nelson Alexander Real Estate Office in Preston. This artwork is a timely reminder about both the importance of our vibrant community and the talents of our amazing students.

This letter provides you with some guidance and information about where we are headed in remote learning for Term 2. For parents and guardians who have not yet explored OneNote or Teams with their students, you can watch two very short videos on Remote Learning:

Our School’s Mission is “Empowering Tomorrow’s Leaders”

As we, collectively, respond to the global health crisis posed by the covid-19 virus by staying home and learning online we are acting to protect our community in the only way we can.

While we are doing this, let’s seize the opportunity to build students’ knowledge, skills and dispositions in ways that will empower them as the leaders of tomorrow!

We know from the research of the Foundation for Young Australians that our young people are predicted to have, on average, 17 jobs over 5 careers in their working lives. To adults these figures can seem startling but, if we have prepared our students well and their career changes are based on their empowered choices, then this is an exciting proposition for our learners.

Remote learning in Term 2 gives us a unique opportunity to enhance students’ competence with the communication and collaboration skills in the online environment that will, for most of them, be a significant part of their life and work in the future. We know that when our young people graduate in 2024 and 2025, they will be entering a world of further study and work that is vastly different to that which existed at the start of this century.

I have great confidence in our students and their ability to positively shape their experience of learning during this time.

Keeping connected while looking (and thinking) outward

At times of high community stress, it is important that we each be kind to each other and to ourselves.

For our young people, staying connected with friends and family is critical. Take the time to face-time a grandparent, to text a friend, to write a letter or engage in any of the myriad of ways we can keep in touch.

This close community and family connection is needed to ‘ground’ our young people as they are exposed to a major world event that forces them to think well outside their usual comfort zone.

Thinking deeply about how the world works is part of what we want our learners to do at Preston High School. That is why we spend time in Community of Inquiry circles working on philosophy and the skills of thinking. We want our learners to think about their world and what shapes it. We want them to think about their role as part of their local community and their role as global citizens.

Students will do this deep and outward-facing thinking best when they have a sense of psychological safety provided by strong and supportive relationships close to home.

Our cohort of students is defined by their positivity and openness and it has been my pleasure to see such a generous and inclusive culture emerge and be driven by the students themselves at our school. I feel sure they will extend this in their engagement with remote learning at home.

We don’t expect you to be teachers

What great teachers actually do has been a rich field of academic research for decades. We know that teachers bring together content knowledge (expertise) with pedagogical knowledge (understanding how teaching and learning works) and with pedagogical content knowledge (how to make their expertise intelligible to others through specific pedagogies) to construct learning for and with students. Teaching is an applied expertise. As Richard Elmore, of Harvard University, asserts; teachers have specialized knowledge that “embraces theoretical, practical, abstract and concrete understandings and most importantly, it requires practitioners to link theory with practice, the abstract with the concrete”. (Elmore, 1990, p.103).

During this period of remote learning our teachers will be applying their expertise, and their understandings of our learners, to construct the learning experiences online.

For teachers and students at Preston High School the transition to remote learning is well supported because the tools we will be using are the tools we already use. Students and teachers are familiar with Microsoft Teams and OneNote which will form the platform for our work together.

There are, however, lots of ways families can help.

Families can help

We look to our teachers to set high expectations, foster learning and build strong pedagogies around working online with students. Parents and guardians, too, play an essential role in this.

We look to parents and guardians to ensure that the home encourages reflection on experience and nurtures curiosity. Children often see the world through the eyes of the significant adults in their lives, and this is the time for kindness, patience, and the fostering of wonder and joy in learning.

On a practical level families can assist with ensuring a productive working environment. This has been outlined in past communications.

Prepared for Term 2, and whatever the future holds

We are moving into uncharted waters, but we are doing so well prepared with excellent systems that students and teachers are familiar with.

There may be waves that buffet us and winds that blow us off course but we have a clear map (our curriculum), a strong boat (our lesson structure), a powerful engine (the tools we use to do the work) and a great crew of able sailors (teachers and students).

We have plans in place for all eventualities and if things go wrong we will find work-arounds.

There may be factors beyond our control. For example, as a new school we have the benefit of a brand new IT network with our systems housed by the Department of Education. This has many benefits but also means if the Department break something we can’t fix it ourselves. On the flip-side, if they break it they have more resources available to fix it than any single school could ever hope for.

Whatever happens, we are here and committed to doing our best to maximise learning growth for our students.

Most importantly, I have great confidence in the excellence of our teachers and their dedication to their profession and the children they teach.

Equally I have great faith in the commitment and positivity of both Cohort2024 and Cohort2025.

In our COVID-19 impacted world there is lots to be grateful for. Personally, I am grateful for the support of our families, for the excellence and hard work of our teachers and for the joy I see when students are engaged in their learning.

Sincerely

Sean Butler.