Through it all… we remain a family at Southern Cross Schools
After reading a recent Facebook post, it became very clear! Something I have thought and known for years. Teachers do have super powers and they are truly phenomenal people!
A few extracts from the post:
We gave educators no notice. We asked them to redesign what school looks like and in about 24 hours, local administrators and teachers ‘Apollo 13’d’ the problem and fixed it. Local educators fixed it in hours. HOURS.
No complaining and no hand wringing – just solutions and amazing clever plans.
Remember this when someone tries to tell you that educators have it easy or try and persuade you that educators are not among the smartest, most ingenious people in society.
Get out of the way of a teacher and watch with amazement at what really happens.
We all know the dates and time span that the 2020 Lockdown has spanned. It has created unfamiliar experiences in everyone’s lives and let’s face it, it has been tough.
Yet,like many things in life, tough times are an opportunity for people to reflect,grow and gain strength and that is what Southern Cross Schools has managed to accomplish.
Yes, we are a unique school situated in the heart of the bushveld in Hoedspruit. Our classrooms are thatched and our walks from one class to another might be interrupted by a giraffe munching on a few Acacia leaves. We are a close knit family. Now, our venue has changed, the beauty of our school might not be able to be enjoyed……but the feeling of love, unity and friendship resonates from places as far as Namibia and Mozambique.
So …how have we done it? Get ready for a virtual tour!
Your 1st stop …
Southern Cross Schools Pre-school
If you had to enter our ‘real’ Pre-school, you would experience an environment like no other. Many happy faces who all know one another, explore and grow under the African sun.
The Pre-school’s motto is ‘We Nurture’ and this has not changed.
What has been vital in the mental well being of our little ones, is a set routine,familiar faces and fun.
All classes in the Pre-school meet 2-3 times a week via Zoom. Zoom sessions are lively and interactive. Class teachers share their morning greetings,Family Time songs and have refined a routine that allows their classes to feel secure, familiar and important.
Each class receives a morning message and activities from their class teacher. These are all accessible on Seesaw which has proven to be an interactive and easy to operate programme. Most importantly, the children love it! Class teachers follow the morning routines, go through days of the week and the weather, the letter, number and theme for the week and introduce the focus for the day.
All activities are centered around the weekly theme and encourage our children to cover the content while having a lot of fun. Consistency is important and the routine that would have been followed at school, is replicated in a remote learning week. The week consists of:
Tuesday: Arts and Crafts
Wednesday: Show and Tell
Thursday: Nature Focus
Friday: Drama and Baker Baker.
All the Pre-schoolers are familiar with this routine and therefore, familiar with their days at home.
The whole Pre-school has also met on Zoom. It was fantastic to see the reaction of the children. To see how they miss one another and how they can easily pick up from where they left off.
Our Pre-school teachers have gone above and beyond. They have sent special videos of themselves dancing, reading special stories, and have made videos of our children for mother’s day! What a special place to be a part, whilst being nurtured by a group of super heroes!
I know you don’t want to leave, but it is time for the next phase of our tour …
Southern Cross Schools Foundation Phase
On a normal day our Grade 1, 2 and 3 classes are vibrant, energetic and full of smiles. This behavior remains cemented.
They have 3 possible Zoom sessions a day. Parents can select which Zoom session works for them and the children then join accordingly.
These sessions are centered around teaching concepts, listening to reading, catching up on news, all allowing the children to grow and interact with one another. There have been special visitors who have joined the lessons from siblings, hamsters and dogs to snakes. It is not unusual for children to dart off to collect something to share as the conversation develops. All these behaviors are welcomed and allow for a feeling of authenticity and flexibility. It makes this time incredibly special.
The Foundation phase also use the Seesaw App. There are videos every day from each class teacher, teaching their children personally and peppering their day with exciting and different tasks and ideas to work on. Along with seeing and being taught by their class teacher, they are still taught PE, Bush Lore and Drama by the respective teachers.
So,their days are fun, full and familiar. The key ingredient is adding personality and a unique caring touch to every platform that is worked on. It makes the process vibrant, energetic and full of smiles.
Nothing has changed and it is time to move on …
We are still in the same beautiful space, the Founder’s Circle, but we are stepping up the ladder. It is time to have a glimpse into the Grade 4-7s day under lockdown.
Intermediate Phase Grade 4-7
FaceTime, FaceTime,FaceTime, this is the key.
The Grade 4-7 class teachers upload videos daily with personal morning greetings and instructions for the day.
Because the academic side to life is becoming a little more serious, class teachers have daily Zoom check-ins with their children, mostly in smaller groups to allow for more personal contact. These meetings involve concepts being taught, receiving feedback on activities that have been assigned and answering any questions that the children might have. These sessions also provide the opportunity for the children to connect with one another.
Class teachers are aware that some children will struggle with a section or a concept. These gaps have been filled by arranging one-on-one or small group sessions to assist learners who might be struggling.
But it is not all business. There is a lot of room for play and creativity. Activities like show-and-tell, hat day, dress-up like book characters, scavenger hunts and visits from guest speakers, have provided the space for many laughs, giggles and informal discussion.
The focus for this phase of the school is to encourage collaborative learning, problem solving and critical thinking. They are often working on tasks together and finding the solutions for problems presented. Interestingly, the Grade 7s class is determined to stage their production and are working through their script on Zoom with Maureen Lahoud, our phenomenal Drama Teacher, they are adamant the show will goon!
Dealing with this age group, their mental well-being is also vitally important. Each child gives a daily personal report on how they are feeling and they complete a weekly reflection which their class teachers respond to personally.
This is the key. Keeping a personal interaction and connection alive, making sure that all communication lines are open and available.
And now we take a walk to a newer building. The Earth Circle which is the home of Southern Cross Schools College. It is beautiful and waiting for the return of its children.
The Last Stop – Southern Cross College
This is a different space in terms of academic requirement, but it is the same space for personal interaction and family care as any other place on campus.
Academically,each grade has a subject specific timetable which they follow. Their day consists of three 1 ½ hour lessons. Each lesson has 45 – 60 minutes of FaceTime with the learners and half an hour for the learners to summarise, ask questions regarding the lesson or complete work that needs to be done. Collaborative learning has not become unfamiliar to our learners. There are often activities that require breakout rooms for discussion and debate.
This approach is also used to assist learners who might be struggling with a concept to have their peers rework and assist with a problem they might be having with a section of work.
Teachers are available from 08:30 – 15:00 for any help required via WhatsApp groups or email.
Assessments are given to our learners and various platforms are used for them to submit their work.
But, more importantly, all the College learners are divided into their usual mentor groups. Mentors are in close contact with their mentorees to ensure they are coping on many different levels.
Mentors are available at all times and work closely with the Deputy Head and HOD in the College to ensure our College learners are able to vocalise their concerns and anxieties,as well as share their fun, passionate and creative personalities with their peers and teachers.
Mentors meet formally on Zoom with their mentor classes twice a week. These meetings are structured by each mentor, but include sharing jokes,discussing current topics, sharing YouTube clips and general knowledge quizzes,to mention just a few.
The key to this is that these young adults are given the platforms and support to ensure they remain confident, positive and secure.
My apologies, on your way out there is one last stop. The Headmaster’s office. It is a peaceful space, a place where his door is always open and this has not changed.
Through all of this, the communication with parents, the Board, financial challenges, being a father and husband and much, much more, our Headmaster, Mr Mickey Viegas, has found the time to have a Zoom meeting with every class, every grade, every phase of teachers, individual teachers and management. His purpose is to listen, to be there and to ensure that this amazing family remains united.
This brings us to the end of our virtual tour. We hope you have managed to get a taste of what we are all about. We hope you are able to feel the vibrancy and the specialness of our school in Hoedspruit in the bushveld, communicated through these words.
Remember you are always welcome to join us for a real tour around our beautiful school when lockdown comes to an end. You will meet our super heroes, our phenomenal team and our amazing children. Come along and be amazed.
Southern Cross Schools … cultivating a confident future? … Absolutely!