Here in SMC, we pride ourselves on the excellent communication that we have always enjoyed with you, our parents. Now more than ever that communication is key. We have and always will welcome feedback on all that we do. Sometimes that feedback highlights relevant issues and concerns which affords us the opportunity to address when reviewing our plans, practices, and procedures weekly. As a senior management team, Principal and Deputy Principal, when we set about making or changing plans, we will always seek to find one that is workable, accessible, achievable, and sustainable for all participants. We have and always will ensure to have the health and welfare of our students, their parents, and our teachers at the forefront of our minds when we set about planning for challenging circumstances like this. The words “challenging” and “unprecedented” are being used so frequently now, by all of us, that when we use such phrases, we tend to forget their true meaning. Creating an online, at home timetable for all students and teachers, to engage with, in the long term, is challenging. The situation that we all find ourselves in is unprecedented and we must be mindful of the difficulties that we will encounter as a result. The information below provides a brief overview of some challenges that have been brought to our attention:
- Some students find the workload too much and parents from all year groups, have contacted us stating that.
- Some parents feel that the workload is too little and again parents have contacted us with their concerns in that regard.
- Anxiety being felt by our 3rd and 6th year students and parents in relation to the uncertainty surrounding their State Examinations in June
- Stress being felt by a cohort of students who have been “out of school” since early December due to Covid related issues
- There have been issues with a lack of devices in many households, Wi-Fi, motivation of the students…. etc.
- Parents have contacted to us to say that they are unwell themselves and need their son to look after younger siblings and hence that child cannot engage for some days with online learning
- Teachers with young families have no access to a creche facilities or primary schools and are delivering live classes from homes regardless
- Teachers (or a family member) have been unwell themselves. There is little access to substitute teachers who are prepared to go online with a group of students that they are unfamiliar with. In this case, teachers have been trying to teach through their illness to ensure that the boys do not lose out, academically.
The above provides a slight insight into the difficulty that is experienced when creating on line timetables. We have however, created schedules that are workable and sustainable, given the fact that on- line learning will never be a substitute for physically being present in front of the teacher, in class.
Our aim is to be honest and transparent with you, our parents. As mentioned there has been excellent feedback from you and we are grateful for all feedback. The majority of the feedback from parents is very positive, and the intent is to express their immense gratitude to their son’s teachers for all the hard work, effort, preparation, and individual help that is being provided. Thank you for those e mails. They are never taken for granted and are genuinely appreciated by all in SMC. As a Senior Management team, we are in awe of our colleagues and our students. They have adjusted to online learning quickly; teachers are curating a relatively new online platform and new ways of teaching, and all the while they themselves are faced with the everyday struggles that Covid 19 has imposed on all of us.
However, as stated earlier, genuine concerns have been raised by some parents, in relation to our school’s online timetable. To provide clarity, we now want to outline our rationale in devising our timetable for online teaching and learning.
One-hour slots were introduced to ensure that quality lessons were delivered. Trying to teach to any standard of quality online demands that the timeframe of the on line lesson be lengthened (relative to an in school timetable). That is why we created a whole new timetable to ensure that students would buy into their new schedule and hence we would have close to full engagement, which we now have. In addition to the live class, teachers assign follow up work through assignments on Teams for the remainder of the week. Such assignments are designed to deepen the students understanding of the content that was taught in class, while also probing for the areas that the students may find challenging. Students have the facility to contact their teachers at any time through the “chat” facility on Teams to clarify questions or queries that they may encounter with coursework. It is important to remember that online learning is a very different dynamic to delivering live classes. The preparation time that teachers must invest to deliver a quality online class (or alternatively an asynchronous class) relative to a live face to face class is substantial. Many of our teachers are scheduled to teach all year groups. Therefore, when a teacher finishes with one group (after an hour) they are now moving onto going live with the next group. Having spoken to several students, teachers, and parents over the past three weeks, a substantial volume of work is being covered in one hour.
We do appreciate that from a parent’s perspective, the timetables may look sparce, and may create the impression that the one/two-hour slot is the only interaction that your son will have with his teacher throughout the week. This is not the case. “Free” slots as they appear on the timetable are times allocated to the students to complete extra homework/ assignments/revision, and so therefore are not in any way designed to be interpreted as “free” time. Teachers are in contact with their students throughout the week, outside of their designated 1 or 2 hour slot. Very often additional live/pre-recorded classes will be given by your son’s teacher to enhance their online learning and understanding. Students at Junior Cycle will have two sometimes three hours of live classes per day while at Senior Cycle students have three or four hours of live classes. The time in-between should be spent completing assignments for those two or three live classes as well as the completion of assignments coming through from their remaining six teachers at Junior Cycle and four at Senior Cycle.
Young People and Their Wellbeing
Your son’s wellbeing teacher has and will continue to touch base with him every week. The purpose of this linking in by the Well Being teacher is not to add to your son’s workload, rather, it is to encourage your son to stay motivated, get some exercise and try to remain positive. A challenging event like the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic can affect everyone’s mental health. Each of us is doing our best to look after ourselves. But young people and children might need extra attention and support. For some people, there is a sense of a ‘new normal’ and of getting used to these temporary circumstances. As the situation evolves, anxiety levels may change. Others will find it an increasingly difficult and anxious time. But for most, there will be ups and downs on a daily basis. The HSE have developed an excellent resource for parents who may wish to read up on tips and strategies that you could use to help your son to take care of his mental health. This resource is for parents and students. The link is provided below.
- Students can download MapMyRun to show their times/ progress
- All students’ times and videos can be submitted to Mr Conneely through email firstname.lastname@example.org/ TEAMS
- A full list of guidelines that students must adhere to will be provided to student’s who sign up with Mr. Conneely.
Our SEN coordinator, Ms. Nodlaig Clancy, has requested that the above information on Dyslexia be communicated to all parents. Many parents of students with dyslexia struggle to know how to support the student at second level as the challenges are different to those experienced at primary level. The Covid crisis has exacerbated this as home schooling has returned. This webinar aims to give practical help and advice.
The topics addressed include:
- How dyslexia affects the student at second level
- How to support the student in the following areas
- Memory and Learning
- Spelling and Vocabulary.
- Key educational choices such as subject choice, language exemptions etc.
- Resources such as useful websites.
As is consistently stated in our e mails, we are here to help and support you all. This is a challenge for everyone and all any of us can do is to employ our best effort.
David Quilter Lorraine Shiels