Returning to School? A Report from Australia

Shelley is teaching in a “hybrid” fashion this fall – some students are in school and some are online.

She Shares her blog – read below.

“Teaching remotely has been bizarre! I decided I would use my blog as my way to communicate lessons with my students.”

Shelley Menhennet

Art Teacher Shelley Menhennet, has returned to school at Cambridge Primary School, Hopper’s Crossing, Victoria, Australia.  It is Fall term in Australia.  Her experiences may help you – or at least support your anticipation/anxiety about returning! She has generously shared her introduction to the Hexagon Project on her Blog. She has participated since 2012 with incredible work from her students at all levels! Thank you so much, Shelley!

May 24,2020

“Today I am feeling very anxious as I have to go back to school tomorrow after being in lockdown and teaching remotely for 6 weeks.

Our school, like all others in Victoria, Australia, has remained open for the children of essential workers and vulnerable students who are better off at school than staying home, only. 

All other students have had to stay home. All students have had to use a device to access remote learning being provided by the teachers from home.

So there has been 40-50 students at school every day over this period (from approximately 1050 students in our school) supervised by teachers on a roster.

From Tuesday, all students in Prep to grade 2 will return to school full time, as will year 11 and 12 students. My daughter Georgia is in year 11 and will return to her high school on Tuesday.

All teachers must return to school tomorrow whether they are teaching Prep – 2 or years 11 and 12 or not. I am teaching years 3-6 this semester.

All students from years 3-10 will return to school full time on the 8th June.

So, yes, I won’t be teaching any of the students at school. I will continue remote teaching for another 2 weeks for my year 3-6 students but will have to do it from school!

The reason for this is those of us not teaching Prep – 2 will be on duty to supervise school entry and exit, of students with parents not allowed into the school grounds at all, and we will cover all yard duty.

It will be a crazy morning on Tuesday, I am sure!

On top of that my mother in law died on 14th Feb so I had a lot of time off at the start of the school year(start of Feb) travelling to country Victoria, while she was in palliative care, etc. 

I then had my tonsils out on 27th Feb so then only got to go to school once before the end of term 1 and the commencement of lockdown!

So I have effectively been at home since I got home from hospital on 28th February!

Hence my anxiety about being out and about in the real world from tomorrow!

Teaching remotely has been bizarre!

I decided I would use my blog as my way to communicate lessons with my students.

All year levels produced a grid per week for students to work from. 

I was allocated a box on the grid for each year level 3-6 per week. 

The Victorian government guidelines stated the Specialist classes, of which Visual Arts is one, were allocated no more than 30 minutes of student time per week.

So whatever I did I wasn’t allowed to use more than this per week.

I sort of got around this by getting students to work on rough drafts, which wouldn’t take long to do, and then giving them time, over 2 weeks or more, to produce a final artwork. 

The students were given lots of choice in which materials they could use for their final artwork as they had to use what they had available at home!

This below is a link to my blog. If you use the categories list in the sidebar and click on a grade level  from 3-6 you will see the weekly posts. (Search for Hexagon Project to view her excellent introduction to the Hexagon Project plus instructions for students to upload their hexagons remotely on Artsoia.com. Our theme for 2020 is both Diversity and Surviving COVID-19. Deadline: June 30. 2021 Special Theme: Technology and Social Justice: Deadline June 30 2021. People’s Community Hexagon deadline August 15.)

http://thebackartroom.global2.vic.edu.au/

2019 Hexagon by Caitlin Clements, Grade 6, Cambridge Primary, Australia

Like most teachers have found, some students embraced remote learning and produced incredible artworks and communicated with me via email frequently….However the huge majority of my students did not engage in Visual Arts at all!

Like most teachers have found, some students embraced remote learning and produced incredible artworks and communicated with me via email frequently.

It was wonderful to engage with these students one on one, in an uninterrupted dialogue.

And some of these students were not those you expected!

Some of the most resilient, able, organised, engaged, chatty, students were the quietest students from the classroom.

However the huge majority of my students did not engage in Visual Arts at all!

Parents that were struggling with supervising their children through the remote learning experience with classroom literacy and numeracy taking over their lives, were quick to shove specialist subjects into the ‘we’re just not going to do it because it is not important’ basket!

The students that really needed art as a way to express themselves during this crazy time just didn’t get to engage in it!

I sort of feel that I am back to square one with communicating with most parents about the importance of Visual Arts in their children’s lives.

And now for the Hexagon project.

It was always my intention to join Cambridge PS grade 3-6 students up to the Worldwide Hexagon Project for 2020.

But, of course, normal planning went out the window weeks ago!

So I have written up a blog post about the hexagon project for next week for grades 3-6.

I have commenced joining up to Artsonia so the students will be able to upload their own hexagons.

i look forward to seeing what the students produce!

Today, has gone so fast.

I started this email hours ago and came back again and again and added more to it all day.

I”m off to shower and bed much earlier than I have gone to bed for weeks!

Wish me luck for tomorrow!

June 2, 2020 Update

I’ve just got to school for the start of Week 8 remote learning although I am working from school as I am supervising students of essential workers and/or vulnerable students today in years 3-6.

There has been about 40 grade 3-6 students here every day of lockdown.

And, believe me, you cannot remote teach and supervise 20 + students in a classroom, at the same time – but that is what I am expected to do!

And this is the second week back for our Prep -2 students so I need to go and greet them at one of our school gates at 8.35 every morning as parents are not allowed inside the school grounds at all.

So, all grade 3-6 and Specialist teachers and Assistant Principals are allotted a school gate, families have also been allotted a school gate which is their only entrance and exit point for the duration.

There are usually seven teachers at my gate in the morning and afternoon. It is overkill but it has reassured the parents as they let their little ones go through the gate that we are all here to look after their children!

Most of the students leave their parents confidently but for those that don’t they get to choose which teacher they want to personally escort them to their classroom, where their Prep-2 classroom teacher is waiting for them!

And most of the anxiety belongs to the parents to be honest!

A lovely Mum of a gorgeous grade 1 boy came to pick up her son on Friday afternoon with a big packet of chocolate biscuits for us to share at Gate number 2, for looking after her son and all the other students so well – that was nice!

And by 3.15 on Friday afternoon when I had forgotten my own lunch on the kitchen bench in the morning I really needed that sugar hit to keep me going!!!

Look after yourself,

Shell

Shelley Menhennet

Visual Arts teacher 1.0 

Shelley Menhennet, Art Teacher, Cambridge Primary

Cambridge Primary School 

Carruthers Drive

Hoppers Crossing VIC 3029