The learner is always at the centre of everything we do at Melbourne Girls Grammar, so when we moved to remote learning in March 2020 our first priority was setting up the infrastructure to deliver a continuous curriculum for our students. We then moved on to how we maintain connections in our community. With a proud 127 history, we have so many dedicated community members who were eager to stay engaged with the School, so we had to be creative about how we stayed connected.
From students to staff, alumnae and parents as well as prospective families, maintaining connections while remaining physically distanced required innovation and creativity.
For our valued alumnae, Young and Old Grammarians, the OG Book Club gave everyone something to discuss and suggestions for new novels to get stuck into. The Student Pen Pal Club was particularly well received by members young and old as Middle Years students started making fast friends with women who had walked the same halls as themselves.
Regular calls were placed to Old Grammarians to check in and catch up. It was in these calls that a lot of parallels were drawn to past crises in the School’s history and how the underlying resilience of Grammarians helps us all work together to get through hard times.
While working parents might have previously struggled to attend Parents Association meetings they wished they could attend in person, COVID-19 gave us the perfect reason to present and record the meetings to share with our parents and caregivers, and is something Melbourne Girls Grammar would like to continue. We had parents from around the globe as well as those working from home attending.
As community favourite events had to be postponed or moved online, we had to be creative about how we celebrated special occasions. For Mother’s Day we sent kits to our Grammarians to decorate gifts and make cards to honour our mum’s.
ANZAC Day, Easter and other special events were also celebrated while apart. Special videos were created to share with Old Grammarians, students, international students, staff and parents to include everyone in our celebrations. Our Old Grammarians particularly enjoyed a special Easter Chapel filmed by Reverend Kirsty Ross in the Chapel of St Luke; a location very dear to most of our alumnae.
An All Digital Publication
This year’s biannual publication, the Information Exchange, was all digital for the first time ever. Just as the School asked its staff and students to embrace technology during remote learning, we asked the broader community. This was a truly innovative approach to a publication with such a rich history.
Presenting the first semester of curriculum delivery and connection digitally rather than in print, has enabled the School to truly demonstrate how we all embraced the change and found new and creative ways to connect.
As Principal Dr Toni Meach said: “This edition of IE captures the creative ways our community has lived through this pandemic, including a spotlight on our remote learning and how we dealt individually and collectively with isolation. It is a treasure trove of narrative, images and recordings and I am sure will be an important keepsake for our archives.”
Some students were missing the daily social breaks with friends, and the usual natural interactions with students outside their own year groups. That’s when our Student Executive Council launched a weekly email blast to share tips and tricks for remote learning and keeping themselves entertained and productive. The publication boasted morale boosting challenges and supportive encouragement for all year levels.
For our Year 12s, a lot of milestones are being missed this year with COVID-19 restrictions. As a way of creating something special for this cohort, we engaged a portrait photographer to visit Year 12s at home (while maintaining social distancing and every other safety protocol) to capture this moment in history. The compilation of these very special images will be given to Year 12s to remember everything they achieved and overcame in 2020.
Staff’s weekly meetings were moved online to Zoom. Each week hundreds of participants joined the zoom to hear updates from the Principal and messages from colleagues to stay informed and connected.
Social Media played a role in the connection of all areas of our community with various initiatives designed to help others share and relate. A ‘Share your Workspace’ initiative asked our students and staff alike to share their new set up, which included pets, children, plants and paintings. It was great to see what worked for everyone in utilising what space they had to set up their new working area and borrow some tips for making productive spaces. From science experiments in the ELC and virtual music lessons, to sunset photos from our boarders located across the globe, we focused on sharing the diverse experiences of our community as a way of remaining connected.
The School encouraged current and future community members to peek behind the red brick walls while our popular campus tours were put on hold. In their place, tour webinars were introduced, allowing prospective families to learn where an education at Melbourne Girls Grammar can lead, from the comfort of home. The webinars were well attended with prospective families near and far enjoying the live presentations and Q & A with key members of staff and current students.
Our Grammarians were at the heart of everything and as remote learning now looks to be settling into our shared history, Melbourne Girls Grammar is eager to take these lessons with them into the future and adopt innovative solutions as part of the ‘new normal’.
When students were welcomed back on site, they saw posters and billboards reinforcing the expectations of being onsite. Fact sheets and support materials were distributed to the wider community as we prioritise the safety of all community members.
Unprecedented times call for innovative measures. One thing we all learned from recent times is our ability to adapt and be innovative in our approach to remain connected.