Deputy Headmaster and Head of Preparatory School

Mr Jeff Symms

The Virtual Classroom

What a momentous week! With the increasing concerns around the COVID19 virus, the decision was made to open our online ‘virtual classrooms’ a little sooner than we had originally hoped. However, for two weeks prior, the teachers and our IT staff had been busily preparing for the day when we would go ‘live’ and by moving the pupil free day to Tuesday of this week, which gave the teachers the opportunity to test the processes and software and ensure everything was ready to go.

The reality though was that until everyone was actually engaging online, it was impossible to predict how it would all unfold. Would the technology work? Would our families’ home internet have enough bandwidth to cope? Would the school servers manage with the high volume of data transfer that would be required?

On Wednesday, the proof was in the pudding! And although there were a few technical hiccups, the day worked overwhelmingly well. As I travelled around the school, what I witnessed was truly inspirational. The Year Level teaching teams had organised around their individual boys’ needs, with some teachers being assigned to teaching the face to face program, while others taught online and some worked on the further development of resources.

Teachers were teaching and streaming lessons live, facilitating interactions between boys at home and boys physically in the room. Teachers in Preschool were engaging with their boys in songs and stories, while in other classrooms, the morning ‘catch up’ was being live streamed helping boys and their carers set up the day’s routines. Maths and English classes were happening and teachers gave THRASS classes. The boys sent through work to their teachers which was then being shared and compared with the work that boys were doing in the classroom.

There was inclusion and involvement all round.  Relationships were being continued – mate to mate, student to teacher and parent to school.

During these uncertain times, providing routine and maintaining consistency for our children will be challenging.  I think that here at TSS we are providing this for our boys in a way that will help them feel connected to their classrooms in a genuine and impactful way.

I cannot commend the outstanding team of professionals at TSS Prep enough!

Our IT team have been fantastic in ensuring the technical capability of our infrastructure has been up to the challenge. At one point in the morning, when online students and online classes were stretched to capacity, a quick shutdown to build increased capacity and flexibility occurred. Both boys and teachers were back online within minutes.  A very special mention must go to our Preparatory School IT Support Officer, Mr Stephen Robinson who has just been outstanding in his support of the teaching staff, boys and I know many parents who have requested assistance from home.

Remember if you have any technical questions, email in the first instance to [email protected] and someone will be able to assist.  Most issues are relatively straightforward to solve when you have the prior knowledge, so don’t stress.

Thanks to parents for their support during which I know is an anxious time.  Many of you are juggling work demands and now family commitments.  Your understanding of any technical glitches has been tremendous and your words of support and thanks to the staff have been highly appreciated and motivating during a time when their workload has substantially increased.  The teachers and support staff of the school have spent countless extra hours over the last few weeks to prepare – with trials of the software and group conferences occurring well into the evenings and throughout the most recent weekends.  This they do willingly and enthusiastically during a time when many of them too have family issues of concern to manage.  Some have elderly parents for whom they provide care, children or partners with compromised immune systems and their own children who are no longer able to attend school.  But they are here working to ensure good outcomes for their students.  Not all front line workers wear white lab coats.

The kindness and understanding that so many parents have extended to their son’s teachers has made such a difference.

We may come out the other end of this COVID-19 period, into a world changed in some ways.  But what won’t have changed is the deep sense of community and connectedness of our TSS family.

Creating a personal learning centre for your child

It has been interesting to see the different approaches taken by parents at home to create a work space for their son while he is engaging online.  There is no right or wrong and the kitchen bench in pyjamas works well for some families, while others are still having their son dress in his school uniform to create a sense of a ‘school day’, while other families operate in between.  As we have said with our online learning program, we have tried to include some flexibility to give parents space to make things work for their particular circumstances, and this applies to how and when you set the boys up to learn.

However there are some tips to establishing a ‘learning centre’ for your children that might help.

  1. Location carries memory:-  location can be powerful for shaping attitude and behaviour.  Children will have learnt to associate certain places in the home with play, and so it might be helpful to establish a regular zone for ‘work’.  This location consistency means that each time your son enters this space, he will have unknowingly shifted his mindset from ‘home’ to ‘school’ and be in a more ready place for learning.
  2. Remember that the spot in which they undertake their online learning is more than a workspace.  Whether it is a kitchen bench, dining room table or bedroom desk it is also their library, research centre, creative space, music lab and so on.  Try to keep the resources they might need for all of these tasks located nearby to prevent down time while they search for the materials for their next task.
  3. Try to think about the tasks they will do while they work and the sort of furnishings they might need:-
    1. comfortable place for reading – bean bag, couch or chair
    2. bookshelf to store their materials
    3. a space for the digital screen to be placed at the right height
    4. materials for writing and note taking
    5. access to power for their digital device
    6. room for a water bottle or jug
    7. suitable lighting.

Setting aside a special spot for learning may help you manage your son’s attention and motivation.  But remember – in this unusual world in which we find ourselves – do whatever works for your family!

Honours class program

TSS Preparatory includes an Honours Program for boys of high academic capability AND performance.  There are two multi-age classes: a 3/4 and a 5/6 class.  Information about the program can be found on the school’s website.  Go to ‘Menu‘, then ‘Admissions‘ then ‘Scholarships‘ and scroll through till you find the information for the Honours Scholarships.

Applications opened on February 24 through the school’s website and close on April 17.

Late applications cannot be processed, so it is vital that if you wish for your son to sit the entrance assessments, you register him as soon as possible after February 24.

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