Editorial: How JTC students have adapted to attending school during a global pandemic

Students from John Tonkin College have expressed their excitement to head back to school as attendance becomes mandatory again across WA from today.

Teacher Conor Gregory has been holding discussions with his year 8 students during pastoral care sessions to see how they're feeling now they are returning to class with all their friends.

Mr Gregory wrote about his experience for the Mandurah Mail.

JTC Hindsight's 2020

As we continue to adapt and respond to these unprecedented events, year 8 students at John Tonkin College have taken a moment of reflection to share their COVID learning experiences with the community.

A class that began with students viewing Probably Tomfoolery's The Great Realisation poem led to students reflecting on their time at home and assessing how their perspectives of school, classes, and life have evolved.

Students initially enjoyed the freedom of being able to work at their own pace and developing independent learning skills, but quickly missed the direct and immediate access to their teachers.

Student Erin Hogan said email and Connect was great but "not the same as discussing a topic with my teacher".

"I really enjoyed completing HASS work from home, the PowerPoints and work packages were really interesting - but I did miss being able to ask my teacher when I had a question," she said.

Student Isabella Popazzi said she "really enjoyed" AVID.

"We kept developing our study and writing skills but the content directly related to COVID-19 and helped us process how we were responding to the crisis," she said.

Upon reflection, all students identified being at school as their preference over learning from home.

While so many students demonstrated incredible adaptability during the changing modes of delivery, there was a number of issues all students had to overcome.

Student Keira Warner said she found staying on task "much harder" at home.

"I often struggled with internet connection and when I was online, I got distracted easily. At school I didn't have to wait for email responses to get answers and my friends often motivate me to stay on task in class," she said.

Students noted that the techniques learnt through pastoral care programs helped them deal with stress and anxiety while in isolation.

Many enjoyed using mindfulness techniques, music and physical activities that have been explicitly taught through programs at school.

Student Keirra Peacock said she found her subjects "more relevant" since returning to school.

"In HASS, we have been learning about pandemics throughout history and that has helped me understand how things like COVID-19 happen and how people have dealt with things in the past," she said.

All classes expressed overwhelming gratitude to the teachers and staff for all their efforts to adapt to rapid changes.

Some highlighted a new appreciation for the amount of work that goes into preparing 'normal' lessons and motivating students outside of the extreme circumstances that COVID-19 imposed.

Student Ashlan Carter said she appreciated her school "so much more" because homeschooling was "so difficult".

"I realised the amount of work teachers put in every day. So much work was put into online materials and work packages, and then catching everyone up once we started to come back to school," she said.

As a school, a community and a country, we talk a lot about responsibility.

A teachers' responsibility to inspire you and push you to learn.

A parents' responsibility to make sure you stay on track, get your homework done and don't spend every waking hour on social media.

A government's responsibility for setting high standards and supporting teachers and principals.

At the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best facilities in the world, but the most important factor in student's success is the responsibility each student has to their own education.

As The Great Realisation states, perhaps, as we are seeing through the courage and resilience of students, we can emerge from this pandemic with a renewed sense of motivation, priority, and appreciation - perhaps for students in particular, 'hindsight's 2020'.

Conor Gregory is a teacher at John Tonkin College.