From the Principal: 25 May 2020

From the Principal: 25 May 2020

‘Ancaro imparo’ or ‘I am still learning’ 

This phrase often misattributed to Renaissance intellect, Michelangelo in his continual quest and thirst in the pursuit of knowledge and experience is not only the motto for Monash University, but also a phrase that could not be more apt for us all at this COVID-19 time in history. This period for all has been about new learnings and most importantly how we translate this into the ‘new normal’. We have been plunged into more time in our homes, being resourceful and at times looking for new learning opportunities to distract us. Learning can be fun, challenging, exciting, hard, indeed a plethora of adjectives. I have been reflecting on some of my learnings over this period. First, Sashiko and second, understanding the true strengths of MGGS. 

I first travelled to Japan in 1985 with my father and I have been returning regularly throughout my life. It made an impression; I have found myself drawn to the ancient and contemporary aesthetic of the country ever since. During the recent COVID-19 lockdown, I found myself learning the disciplined and precise technique of traditional Japanese Sashiko embroidery. The Sashiko stitch was originally used in the Edo period (16th century) to reinforce cloth which made it thicker and therefore warmer to protect the wearer from the cold. The pattern I chose to follow is known as Uriko, or fish scales. I first learnt to embroider when I was six under the guidance of my maternal grandmother, and COVID-19 seemed like the right time to learn a new technique. I share this with you as I did with the School Captains in our weekly meetings on Zoom. It is an example of continuing to learn and to be curious about our world. The concept that the ‘back should be as good as the front’ or in learning it is not just the end result, but the whole process is poignant. Doing is different from watching or listening and an important reminder that education is active and not passive.  

Second, now in my second year as Principal, I thought I was beginning to know our community well, however, the pandemic has revealed some true strengths. We are a strong crowd; and we rally. We come together to support others, to offer a kind word and to ‘step up’ and ‘step in’. Our Grammarians have amazed me with their creativity, their commitment to the learning and their sense of whole school even in a virtual setting. Our Student Executive Council have led remotely and inspired younger Grammarians to engage in a myriad of online adventures. I have valued and appreciated the constructive feedback given by parents, students, and staff to improve MGGS offerings. I have been overwhelmed by the innovation and work ethic of the whole staff, their level of productivity, and the generosity of spirit and care our parents and guardians have for our teachers and professional support staff. Over the last two months I feel that I can say I honestly know our community a whole lot better and feel grateful for this learning.

During the period of remote learning we have learnt a significant amount about how to deliver an effective and innovative Remote Learning Program to all our Grammarians and we are confident that every Grammarian is well on track to gain a year’s worth of growth in their learning for the year 2020. The remote learning has been designed by educators who have drawn on research, experience, and evidence to polish the MGGS digital practice. For example, since the beginning of remote learning MGGS (as of 19 May) we have collectively achieved:  

  • 19,712 Zoom meetings conducted 
  • 4,821,341 minutes of Zoom meetings held 
  • 214,432 participants in Zoom meeting 
  • 15 community webinars via Zoom hosted 
  • 10,655 pieces of student work submitted via eVI  
  • 576 videos uploaded to eVI 
  • 8,204 eVI news updates posted 
  • 264,495 logins to eVI via the website 
  • 41,143 posts to Seesaw added 
  • 34,382 comments on student work via Seesaw 
  • 31,042 visits by family members to Seesaw 
  • Over 217,146 emails sent 

This learning must not be lost and if knowledge is power, MGGS has become a whole lot more powerful as a learning organisation. As we come through this period, I am now ready to commence recruiting for two new whole school curriculum roles that will harness this remote learning and support the next phase of growth for MGGS as we aim to achieve our Strategic Plan 2020-2025. We recruit two Executive positions, including an Executive Director Digital Learning, Research and Innovation and an Executive Director Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Innovation. Both roles will commence at the beginning of the 2021 academic year and I look forward to the energy they will bring. 

Considering the recent announcements from the Victorian Government, we are now on the cusp of welcoming our Grammarians back to Merton Hall and Morris Hall. We know that many of you are keen to see them return so they can reinvigorate their relationships with their teachers and socialise with their friends. We too are excited and are looking forward to welcoming our students and our families back onto campus. The resumption of face-to-face teaching is something we all want. Our staged Return to Campus Plan has been carefully considered for MGGS, is focused, and highly practical. We ask that you follow the guidelines we have prepared carefully as they support a healthy and safe transition of our students and staff back to our campuses so that all can resume their studies quickly and effectively.  

Our Grammarians will be returning in a staged approach. I was present last week on the Barbara Tolson deck as we welcomed our littlest Grammarians back and tomorrow our Preps, and Years 1, 2, 11 and 12 Grammarians return. The remaining key transition dates for Term 2 are: 

  •  Monday 1 June for Year 5, and  

  • Tuesday 9 June for Years 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10  

By staggering the return dates of each year level, we have an opportunity to try out new safety measures and refine processes. We look to you during this period for your understanding and support, cognisant that some families will be managing multiple scenarios simultaneously. We are mindful of the continued vigilance required to ensure a safe learning environment for all. 

We have thoroughly prepared and signposted our school well and you should have received clear information in support of your daughter’s return. Please help us by reminding our Grammarians to follow some simple guidelines.  

  1. Pack light – at Merton Hall, the locker areas will be closed in Term 2, which means students will need to take their bags with them from class to class. Other arrangements have been made to safely store belongings in Morris Hall and the Barbara Tolson Early Learning Centre. 

  2. Assist your daughter to bring enough food to school each day as the T-Bar and Artemis Café will remain closed. There will be designated water stations to refill water bottles, however, the communal drink fountains will be turned off, or sealed.  

  3. Continue to communicate with us – for MGGS to provide the best learning experience for your daughter, please let us know if she, or you have any concerns.  Let us also know if she is not intending to attend school. Remote learning will continue to be offered in a modified form in Term 2 for those not at school.  

  4. In the instance that your daughter feels unwell, we ask that you please keep her at home.  If she does not feel well at school, we will contact you immediately and request you come to collect her. 

This week we launch the MGGS 2020 Annual Giving and we appreciate and recognise that the impact of the pandemic on our community makes this a very different year for fundraising. Our focus for our Annual Giving 2020 is purely on scholarships to provide opportunities for girls and young women to experience a MGGS education. We know that many families who normally would support our Annual Giving may not be in a position to make a donation, and we understand this. However, it is the collective that is important; and if many give a little, then we can continue our Scholarship program initiatives. You can find the MGGS 2020 Annual Giving by following this link.

To finish, a quote attributed to Michelangelo, The more the marble wastes, the more the statue grows’, is also apt for us. As we refine, and sculpt, and polish our learnings we emerge from this pandemic a bolder and better community. Please stay healthy and take care. 

Author

Dr Toni E. Meath, Principal