As we come to the end of another remarkable term, I would like to most sincerely acknowledge the work of all staff, students and their parents in the most challenging of circumstances. Our community has been exceptional and it has been resilient.
Resilience is the process of adapting positively in the face of trauma or stress. There are a lot of reasons why being resilient is important. It leads to improved learning and greater academic outcomes. Resilience leads to lower absence rates and increases involvement in school, community and family activities. Resilience increases life expectancy and increases health outcomes. There are a lot of really good reasons for young people to become resilient. It is only when you are faced with obstacles, challenges and stress that resilience emerges. Students who are asked to be autonomous and independent, who have new experiences, become resilient. Resilient people can see that it is not the circumstances, but themselves who impact on their achievement.
I recently attended a forum with two of our student leaders featuring Chris Wardlaw. Chris is currently the Chair of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) but in 2000 he was the Head Coach of the Australian Athletics Team competing at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Chris spoke about the very powerful experience of supporting Cathy Freeman and her coach in the final stages of preparation for her historical 400m Olympic final. The pressure and attention on Cathy was astounding, more than any other athlete had ever experienced previously. The night before the race, Cathy approached her coach and asked him to write out he race plan. She took it away but a few hours later she came back and asked him to write it again. Chris asked her why she needed it again. She answered that she just needed to know exactly what the plan was, because the way she was going to win this was to ignore everything else and focus only on what she had to do. She had to only focus on herself and what she would do in her race.
This term, Kew High School has consolidated it’s position as a leader in delivering an education program online. The skill and commitment of teachers in adapting and responding to the demands of moving the curriculum online has been exceptional. I have attended a range of lessons across the school. I have observed teachers engaging students across a spectrum through the use of varied and diverse platforms, often simultaneously. I have observed students being brave, taking risks and overcoming difficulties in order to learn online. I have seen students excited and challenged. Other schools across the system have looked to Kew High School as the example school in delivering the remote learning program. It is a credit to our IT team and to our teachers who have every point bene innovative whilst always keeping students at the centre of every decision and every action.
I have been so very impressed with the initiative taken by student leaders across the school to engage all members of the school community in activities designed to connect students back to our community. Activities such as video presentations, film activities, Strava running groups, student newsletters and a classic catch competition have been initiated and organised by students, for students. I would particularly like to recognise the School Captains, Anna Williams and Jadyn Lam, together with all Year 12 leaders, for their tireless and selfless efforts to hold the student community together. They truly have been exceptional leaders.
This extraordinary year has challenged our school community. But we have cared for each other, we have ensured that learning has progressed, we have conducted the VCE and we have created opportunity to connect in new and different ways.
Our students have been resilient. Like Cathy Freeman, they have focussed on what they each need to do themselves. Though 2020 has been hard, our school community will grow and each of us will be stronger and more capable as a result.
I hope that you all enjoy the two week break and are able to rest and spend time with people who make you happy. I very much hope that we will be able to return to the classroom early in Term 4 and reconnect with each other in person.
Some of the examples from students so far – these are progressive unfinished work that the students are currently working on:
"My name is Ariana and I am a student at Kew High School in Melbourne. During this stage 4 lockdown, my textiles class worked on our quilts to learn about art and share our experience during online learning through our piece. My piece shows an open book with a fairy-tale world spilling out of it, with the designs based on one of my favourite novels. Though quarantine has its challenges, I have been able to spend my time reading a lot of books and it definitely makes quarantine that little bit easier."
-Ariana Belmores year 10
Keira Blackwell year 10
Emily Wright year 9
Lana Cole year10
Catherine Lawson year 10
International Student Program
We currently have 66 International Students studying at Kew High School. They come from Viet Nam, China, South Korea, Cambodia and Kazakhstan. Most of our students are in Year 12, 11 and 10 and they live in homestay families.
Our students are highly successful, and we are always inspired by their capability to complete the vigorous VCE curriculum without the close proximity to their family and friends back at home. This year, however, we are in awe of the resilience and strength they’ve shown in face of this global pandemic. At the start of this year, they came back from their home countries, already having had a taste of what Covid-19 was like. Shortly after they started the school year here, they started to feel the pandemic unfolding in full in Australia and in Victoria.
The Victorian Government gave the student and family the option to withdraw or to suspend their studies in March but 97% of our students decided to stay to commit to their studies at Kew High School. They went through the Term 2 remote learning, endured the mid-year break when they were not able to return home overseas to reconnect with the family and friends, came back to school but returned to remote learning again in Term 3 with the rest of the school. We shared with them a 54-day Cope calendar in Term 2 and we started to share their favourite piece of music or song during our weekly assemblies with them this Term. Mai, our Year 12 student, chose the song of “Life of the Party” and wrote the following message to her fellow students:
"Basically, this song is about self-love and confidence. The intention of the song is to encourage young people and teenagers to believe in their own choices and otherwise to reassure those still struggling to figure out who they want to be that you will be fine 🙂 you will eventually find your ways. 🙂
So this is also my message to my fellow year 12 buddies: love yourself, trust yourself. We are amid uncertainty but everything should end up being fine. I hope that we can make the most out of it, try our best and looking forward to the best things happening.
Enjoy!" - From your kindest friend on Earth 😉
Our parents overseas are standing side by side with the school too. Mr Le Dai Hanh, a parent from Viet Nam, donated to school 2,000 pieces of high-quality cloth masks with KHS embroidery!
We thank our students for their resilience and strength; we thank our overseas parents for their solidarity and generosity; and we thank our homestay families for their care and support of our students. We are going to be a stronger and more resilient as a school community coming out the pandemic!
As a part of our Fitness unit, and in order to further facilitate connectedness to their peers during remote learning - with the added purpose of having a brain break/opportunity for a bit of fun/to get students out of their chairs and moving - students in year 7 Physical Education classes have been taking turns delivering a 60 second activity challenge for their peers at the start of each online PE lesson.
Students worked with a partner to plan and present a 60 second activity challenge. On their allocated date, the leaders turn on their cameras while they explain;
The two leaders then demonstrate the activity for the class on camera (for example a skipping challenge or a target throwing challenge in 60 seconds).
Then when everyone is set up, the whole class all turn on their cameras and complete this 60 second fun activity together. With the new large gallery feature in MS Teams we can all see each other on the one screen and it is like we are all in class doing the physical activity challenge together!
Afterwards, the rest of the class give some peer feedback at the conclusion of the activity.
Music has been a great source of entertainment and expression during these times and this positive climate has continued in Musicland throughout the Lockdown period . Music students and staff have been involved in teaching classroom and instrumental music on line which has thrown up many challenges but has continued to be productive and inclusive.
The senior music students have continued to give regular performances online, using a variety of platforms to produce their work. In particular, the Year 10 Solo music students have given a number of remote performances which they have videoed; a selection of these can be seen on the Kew High School Clickview site which are available below.
Instrumental Music students have been given a number of varying tasks to complete to provide variety and engagement during the lock down period. These lessons have included Kahoots, quizzes, written work, projects, composition, recording sessions and ensemble preparation.
The Year 12 Music students have made time at home to make time for extra rehearsal and practise sessions in order to prepare for their end of year Performance exams.
I would like to thanks all of our dedicated music teachers and students for their on going engagement and positive attitude. We are all looking forward to returning on site to continue with our face to face lessons and ensemble rehearsals.
Over the confinement (isolation), year 11’s who take French spent a couple of Fridays meeting former students who took French during their time at Kew High School.
First, we met Nevie Peters (class of 2018). Nevie is currently studying Arabic and International relations at the University of Sydney. She is also in the army reserve and is looking forward to work in diplomacy. She really inspired us with her international outlook. She gave us amazing studying tips as well and showed how studying French at Kew fostered her love for languages and for foreign affairs. We were very grateful to her for her time and were impressed that she was speaking amazing French despite not having had formal lessons for two years.
Next, we caught up with Izzy Roberts (class of 2017). Izzy is now studying a double degree in music and teaching at Monash University. Pre Covid, Izzy completed a placement in Italy, teaching music near Florence. She then visited France for the first time as well. Izzy is a passionate artist and took music and drama in VCE. She told us about her challenges learning French, while doing two time-consuming subjects like drama and music. It was amazing to have a conversation entirely in French with her, even though she has not done any French since leaving Kew. When asked about it, Izzy told us that she’s been maintaining her French because she’s been “addicted” to the language learning app, Duolingo since her Kew High School days. 😊
Term 3 has been a busy and exciting term for our Health and PE virtual classrooms. 7 Health has focused on investigated addiction. Students have delved into issues such as social media, online gaming, binge watching TV, sugar, caffeine, smoking and alcohol addictions. During Year 7 PE classes, students have been learning about a variety of fitness components and completing related activities and exercises that highlight each of the fitness components in a range of sports and activities. Many students have had the chance to plan and deliver a 60sec physical challenge for their peers at the start of each lesson. It has been a fun way to start the lesson, everyone turns on their cameras and participates in a short, fun physical challenge together which has increased the connectedness to their peers during this period of remote learning.
The focus this term in Year 8 Health has been personal safety. Students have created resources outlining how to stay safe online. Many chose to put a presentation together outlining how to use Snapchat and Instagram safely. Student have also been investigating the risks associated with illegal and legal drugs. Check out https://onlinesafetycat.carrd.co/# for a sample of Artina’s work. Year 8 PE students have been involved in a goal setting task. Students set an individual and specific sporting or fitness based goal. They developed an action plan, worked towards their goal in lessons and reflected on their achievement. At the conclusion of the action plan, the students shared one of their training sessions with their classmates and gave feedback to each other.
The focus for year 9 Health students during term 3 has been Risk. Students and their families took part in a standard drinks experiment. It was great to see so many families involved. Year 9 PE students have been learning about the skeletal and muscular systems and joints of the human body and associated movements. In year 10 PE, students have been undertaking fitness tests from home to determine how suited they are to the rigours of a chosen sport or activity. They then researched relevant training methods aimed at improving their performance. Additionally, students produced some trick shots to challenge their peers.
Year 10 Health students have been looking at the dimensions of Health and Wellbeing during remote learning this term. Students had to take part in a video call or head out for a walk (adhering to current restrictions) with friends/extended family to interact and socialise. This provided students with an opportunity to check in with others and still pay attention to their own social health and wellbeing during a time of isolation.
All classes provide an opportunity for students to develop knowledge in specific areas and continuing to improve their skill level in more challenging situations.
Finally, I would like to thank Kew High School’s Assistant Principal, Ms Pamela Dunstall, who is currently on family leave after recently welcoming her second child into the world. Ms Dunstall was recently kind enough to join an online MS Team meeting with the year 11 Health and Human Development class, who have been studying infant and early childhood development. The students interviewed Ms Dunstall and her daughter, discussing developmental milestones and examples of physical, intellectual, emotional and social development during a child’s first few years of life.
Year 9 Media students completed their first CAT this semester by doing a task that reflected the circumstances everyone is living through. They were required to keep a journal over five days and record their thoughts/feelings on their media use as well as their experiences of being in lockdown part 2. Students also had to make a media product reflecting this experience. For some students, it was the first time they kept a journal and they found it rewarding. The work students produced varied from short videos, photographs AND paintings. Here is a sample of some of the work:
This term the KHS Wellbeing team chose to focus on a whole school approach to recognising and developing strategies to deal with anxious thoughts and their affects. It has also been important to provide education on the difference between worried or anxious thoughts, and Anxiety as a clinical condition, as misdiagnosis of oneself or others can have a negative impact when considering effective coping strategies and achieving a calmer mind.
The Zone of Control template has aimed to help our students reflect on whether or not the thoughts they are experiencing align with things in their life that they can influence - for when they do not, these thoughts can become unhelpful ‘what if’ ruminations, leading to worry and anxiousness. Students were able to create their own zone of control templates, and in doing so identified helpful thinking and unhelpful thinking, participating in healthy self-reflection to help them cope during a time when many of the wellbeing supports they may have accessed previously are not available to them.
We have supplemented our work in identifying and regulating helpful and unhelpful thoughts with our Wellbeing 5’s exercises, presented in our Connect program. The Wellbeing 5’s exercises are a series of short, evidence based strategies that help student’s interrupt and challenge unhelpful thinking or calm and ground themselves when they do find themselves feeling anxious or worried.
Our aim as the KHS Wellbeing team has been to foster a culture of self-reflection and effective self-care in our students. We are always here to help but we hope, through this terms foci and the programs to run in the future, to instil in our young people the preventative skills and understandings which place themselves and their own personal coping strategies at the centre of their wellbeing.
You may also have noticed our presence in your Newsfeed and inboxes, advertising a plethora of parent facing wellbeing webinars and courses. Some of these have included:
The aim of these webinars and short courses has been to raise awareness and provide support to our parent community in supporting their young people during this difficult time. It is important that we as teachers and parents model life-long learning to the younger members of our learning community, and these events provide that opportunity to do so, as well as helping us reflect on our own wellbeing.
It has been important for us to continue marking those days on the calendar that help us recognise and celebrate the many diverse members of our student community, and this term saw us celebrating Wear It Purple day online. Wear it Purple Day celebrates the LGBTQIA members of our community, and importantly, reminds both them, and all of us, that Kew High School is a safe place to be exactly who you are. We are stronger and richer for our diversity and our inclusiveness, and in a time when young people are more isolated than they have ever been, it is important that we celebrate that, so thank you to all students and families who downloaded our special Wear it Purple day Teams backgrounds and took part in the celebrations by wearing purple and ensuring that our solidarity with queer young people is seen.
I would like to finish by acknowledging the amazing team at Kew High School; the Teachers, Administration, Teachers Aide’s aides and other Education Support staff, for their incredible support of our students and families wellbeing during this time. It is a cliché that every teacher is a teacher of wellbeing – but at Kew, that is clearly true. Our students have consistently fed back to us that the biggest contributor to their sense of wellbeing during online learning has been the relationships with the staff at Kew High School. Never have those connections been more important and never have I seen a greater demonstration of care for and from a learning community.
In term 4 we will continue our focus on healthy thinking habits and positive coping strategies, as well as on building a shared language through which to celebrate the diverse and inclusive community that we are lucky enough to a part of.
As a Wellbeing team we wish you all the best for a healthy and restful term break.
The inaugural online Student-Led Conferences were held on Wednesday 9 September. Led superbly by the ICT team, the day was a huge success and validated the school’s priority on this day being an important part of the feedback cycle. Below are some reflections on the day.
"At first when I heard that KHS was going to trial student-led conferences using Webex I was nervous as I thought that there would be so many technical issues to deal with. However, after only a few conferences it became apparent that conducting the conferences online actually make the process more streamlined and stress free. This seems like it could be the new way of holding student-led conferences. Great work Penelope, Peter, the whole ICT team and everyone else who helped make this such as successful experience."
"Initially I was a bit sceptical about the interviews being run remotely, however they ran seamlessly. Parents don't need to run around looking for teachers or trying to find a car park. The lobby feature was great as I didn't have the pressure of parents staring down waiting to see me. The test runs leading up to the interviews with other staff was crucial to the success of webex. I think this could be a glimpse of how parent interviews will be conducted in the future."
"The Webex based student led conferences went really well for me yesterday - Penelope and the ICT team did a great job of choosing a great platform to use and preparing us for its use.
Also, lots of parents made a point of thanking us as teachers for the extra effort that we've put in this year, which was really nice to hear.'
"Student led conferences was a big success and ran very smoothly on the day. A lot of parents shared their appreciation for teachers and were extremely genuine when sharing their gratitude for all of the hard work that we have been doing this year. The questions that students were given in Connect as a guide proved to be very beneficial. Students were prepared for discussion and were really able to lead the conversations, resulting in a positive experience for all involved."
"The parents were so grateful and it was just a great feeling to connect with our kids and their families.
It was also great to meet the new year 7 parents, especially given how difficult it has been for some with their transition and reflecting with them on how they are gradually coming out the other end of this situation more resilient, still learning, developing and growing as young people.
This might be the way of the future! Maybe!
Also Jason was fantastic with responding quickly, when needed."
"We enjoyed seeing the familiar faces of our dedicated teachers again after such a long absence. Congratulations to parents, students and teachers for navigating this new communication platform and thank you to all staff for the role you are playing in keeping our students engaged and enabling them to continue to be a vital part of the Kew High community.
Well done to all."
School Council President
Dear teachers and all staff at KHS,
This is just a quick note to say thank you so much for providing the opportunity for families to participate in student led conferences via Webex. They came at the perfect time to help re-energize James’ motivation for remote learning and helped him feel connected to his teachers and understand his progress over this time.
The organisation and practical application of the interviews went seamlessly for us this evening and we appreciate the efforts made in the administration of not only a new process, but also the engagement of new technology, combined with high demand.
James’ teachers were extremely positive and reassuring, and assisted us as parents to understand his strengths and challenges during remote learning.
But most of all, the conferences provided a motivational boost to James who, while normally a focused and happy learner, was starting to become a little ambivalent about the whole process! So, thank you for providing an avenue to discuss remote learning in a positive light and to embark on next term- in whatever form that may be.
Best wishes to all staff. We hope you are managing well and thank you for your efforts.
Emma, Robert and James Pringle