From the VP: What is the purpose of school?
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 123 No 3, 11 May 2020, page no. 9
The first aim of school is, of course, to teach students the curriculum – teaching the basics and giving students the ability to think and respond critically to what is going on around them. In addition, and possibly of higher status, especially at the moment, is the ability to teach or enable connection and belonging to school; community and broader society.
To achieve this, schools are connecting to their school communities in new ways.
Flash mobs; line dancing; funny hats; big hair; crazy hair; songs; trick shots and games; challenges and favourite recipes are all being shared on social media and delivered to the inboxes of parents and students to support continued engagement with families.
They show the human face of being a teacher or school leader - just like when you are in the shop and a student sees you for the first time as a human, separated from your identity as being someone only connected to the school environment.
The current situation shows how we can connect far beyond the school gate. Students have participated in listening to teachers reading their favourite books or watched live events that are occurring around the world.
Curriculum, and the teaching of the broad scope of academic requirements, is the main aim of what teachers and school leaders do on a day to day basis. And in all honesty, it probably is where most of the energy goes.
But generally speaking, while the good academic results are satisfying and motivating, at the end of the year the memorable moments tend to come from the extracurricular activities. Camp, sports, cultural events that offer students a way to succeed and have connection beyond the classroom.
On the flip side, there are many similar demonstrations to teachers of the appreciation many in the community have for them. Comedians singing, amusing memes; demonstrating the complexity of supporting their own children in remote and flexible learning touches a cord of humour for many, as a teacher and, for many of us, as parents also.
Connecting and belonging in education is not something that happens easily. The personal and professional cost to staff of maintaining such intense expectations across the school community is sustainable only for short periods.
It is also not without its pitfalls. What is done for a situation such as the COVID-19 crisis can create an expectation into the future that cannot be met.
As some students return to school, we are not at the peak of the year yet. As the providers of education in this uncertain time, you can only achieve what you can. Business as usual will not return in our schools for some time yet.
Many in our community continue to feel fear, uncertainty and anxiety about what the next few months may offer us.
The certainty of school and the constancy of the role of teachers and principals underpins coping with all these issues.