Headmaster Dr Chris Hayes recently said: “Joeys is more than bricks and mortar, it exists well beyond the College gates and the Park. It exists through a community that stretches from Sydney to Dubbo, Mildura to Mungindi, and far and beyond our little patch in Hunters Hill. Now, across NSW and abroad, there are 1100 boys from Year 7 to 12 who continue to exemplify the Joeys spirit at home. Lounge rooms, studies and living rooms have been converted into makeshift classrooms, whilst kitchen and dining room tables are now places where our teachers, support staff and co-ordinators continue to provide the very best possible learning experience for our boys.”
It is 10am on Friday, and St Joseph’s College teacher Mrs Gemma Glynn is in the middle of her Year 11 Legal Studies class. Beyond her laptop and visible through the windows around her is the backyard pool, the neighbour’s fence and the pathway that leads to the street. Her classroom today is filled with brightly coloured children’s toys, neatly packed away around her. Across the desk in front of her are all the necessary resources needed to continue to guide and educate her students. The only thing not available to Mrs Glynn in her classroom at home is the whiteboard.
Like many of the teachers at Joeys, the lack of certain classroom fixtures and resources hasn’t deterred or restricted the way in which Mrs Glynn engages with her students.
“In the classroom a lot of our collaboration happens on the whiteboard, and we have been incredibly fortunate to have access to resources that can facilitate similar learning experiences for the boys at home,” she says.
“Google Docs have become almost an online whiteboard, with the additional benefit of being able to take the whiteboard with them once the class is over. The Google Docs also develop a greater sense of accountability for the boys. Through collaborative learning the document grows, and they can see who is contributing to the class document.
“There have been so many benefits through being able to work with the boys in a live document. They are actually able to work with me and each other, and see each other’s contributions to documents and contributions to discussions. The boys have always been incredibly collaborative, but this is yet another form in which they can collaborate in their learning. I can definitely see a further use of the Google Docs when face-to-face teaching resumes, and I am looking forward to implementing it in my lessons.”
“The boys have always been incredibly collaborative, but this is yet another form in which they can collaborate in their learning”Mrs GLYNN
Apart from the additional resources and the benefits of technology in this learning space, Mrs Glynn is learning more about the individual learner, and the personal growth of her students throughout this time of off-site learning.
She also sees a great desire amongst her Year 9 and 11 students to get back into the physical classroom. “I think I am learning more about what motivates an individual student. You learn about their own sense of accountability, and what drives them. Some students thrive in this environment because they are submitting things on a live basis and feel a greater need of accountability and therefore are more motivated in some respects. For those boys who are quieter or more reserved, this time of off-site learning has seen them come out of their shells and shine in class.”
Communication is key when learning through a camera lens, and for Mrs Glynn, the contribution of all students has been incredibly important to ensure that the energy that is created in a classroom setting continues. “I think the isolation for boys in particular, they tend to communicate through activity and energy. They thrive on one another, and I can see that they are really missing that. A lot of the boys will re-adjust and look back on this period as a distant memory. Others I think will have a higher level of appreciation for their families, for their teachers, and for school itself.”
To some, the idea that you would have boys so eager to be back behind their desks at school would be the furthest thing imaginable. But to the surprise of many, most of the boys want nothing more than to be back learning at school.
“I have two Year 9 classes, and I can’t tell you how many of them, along with my Year 11 boys, just want to be back at school; they want to be back in class, they want to be back playing their sport, and they want to be back with their mates. At the same time the level of appreciation they have for us as educators has really moved me. The boys can see how much work has gone into continuing to provide the classes and they are so grateful for our ongoing support.”
‘In a classroom you can really get to know a young person and what their needs are and how they are feeling. I think that is something that I desperately miss’MRs Glynn
The appreciation that Mrs Glynn is receiving from so many of her students appears to resonate with many of the Joeys teachers and staff. The Marist attributes of love of work, presence and family spirit have been on display daily, by the boys, teachers, support staff and parents of the College. But there is one other attribute that Mrs Glynn sees in bucket loads: “The boys have a real sense of grace. I’ve had a number of emails of thanks from my students. The boys have wonderful determination, and an unfathomable sense of not giving up. Very few students come up with an excuse for not doing as required, and that says a lot about not only the class, but Joeys boys as a whole.”
Mrs Glynn is a passionate teacher, who sees her role as being far more than an educator. When asked what she has missed about being on site, in the classroom with her students, she is quick to respond: “The thing I have missed most is the interaction with the students, the energy in the classroom, and being able to read a classroom. It is very difficult to read a classroom online.
“When I talk about ‘reading’, I mean how a student may be feeling. For students this period has been a significant period of struggle for many, and that’s difficult to determine over a screen. Empathy is such an important virtue for teachers to have in their classroom, and providing that empathy to those boys in need is very difficult to do through a screen. In a classroom you can really get to know a young person and what their needs are and how they are feeling. I think that is something that I desperately miss.”
Knowing that we are on the cusp of students beginning to return to their classrooms in Hunters Hill is something that Mrs Glynn is thrilled about, but there is one thing that she wishes she could bring back with her to the College. “I’m really going to miss my husband and children bringing me coffee! I love having my family around! I absolutely love it! I’m very family oriented, so having them here and seeing my own children learn has been quite magical. I really will miss having this time with my family to be honest.”