IT Bootcamps Uncover an Unexpected Reward

Last week I was reminded why I love working with young, developing minds in the education industry, and especially why St Catherine’s is a school like no other. I should know, as I have worked in many schools over my long and winding career, and visited many in my capacity as an IT Manager.

Academically, St Catherine’s tops the list as the number one girls school in Victoria. Woohoo! That is reward for so much effort, by so many people, and we deserve to celebrate. Equally important in my humble opinion, is that St Catherine’s has something even more special than merely academic success, something I can’t quite explain. American rock band Boston’s, More than a Feeling comes to mind. As corny as this may sound it is a feeling I get each day when I walk through the Heyington Gates. Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Okay, that opening paragraph should get me a few brownie points up the line. No harm in that! So, where was I, and what is my point? That’s right, I was recently reminded why I love working in education.

This is a copy of an email I received from a student last week. The subject of the email was simply ‘Thank You!’ and this is what it said;

Dear Mr Toulantas,

I hope you are doing well!

I just wanted to say thank you for everything you have done this year. I now know a lot more about my computer.

You also have been very supportive of me and made me feel very good about myself.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

I will suppress who this email is from to save her from mortified embarrassment, other than to say this was from a young Year 7 student.

If I needed reminding why I love working with young minds in education then this email hit the nail on the head. What other job would give you this kind of feedback? I can’t think of many, so you can imagine how this email made me feel.

Let me paint you a virtual picture leading up to last week’s events. As with so many people, the last 24-months have been a challenging and stressful time. I have to admit sometimes I say to myself ‘Johnno, you didn’t sign up for this!’ During lockdowns and the subsequent Learn@Home program, like all of us supporting our students, the IT department worked tirelessly. I couldn’t be prouder of my team. Unfortunately midway through last year, two of our staff left for differing reasons – leaving us stretched with our resources.

Recruiting quality staff was proving a challenge and it was only late last month that we finally filled the ICT Support role which had been vacant since late October. I could not be more relieved because each day was exhausting and I was losing my love for working in IT.

Therefore, you can imagine when I sat down at my desk one-afternoon last week to read this lovely email. It just melted all that stress away.

What prompted this nice gesture?

IT Bootcamp.

Huh’? I hear you ask. Let me put this in context. Myself, Ms Liv Cher, Head of Year 7 and a member of the eLearning team, initiated IT Bootcamp sessions in Term 1 for Year 7 students. This enables Ms Cher and me to spend Term 1 in classes teaching girls essential ICT skills in what we call Bootcamp sessions. It is also a wonderful opportunity for me to work in the classroom directly with students.

These sessions cover a variety of skills, including becoming an expert with the mystcatherines portal, checking due work, submitting online tasks, and navigating the calendar, class pages, and daily News Bulletins. Other skills we teach students is file management by creating subject folders, file naming conventions for saving work, the importance of OneDrive and sharing files, working on a collaborative document, and backing up work.

The final skill we teach the Year 7 girls is how to compose an email and what is appropriate email etiquette. Ms Cher demonstrates what a well-constructed email looks like, explaining it must contain a meaningful subject, a lovely greeting with the correct spelling of the teacher’s name, it should say something nice about the recipient, followed by a short sentence explaining the purpose of the message. Finally, it needs to be signed respectfully, such as ‘yours sincerely’ or ‘kind regards’. Never with ‘love from’ Ms Cher jokes, as this is not appropriate email etiquette.

The students are given a final task: to compose and send a thank you email to someone at School who has been helpful and kind. This is quite a difficult task as there are so many helpful and kind people at St Catherine’s (remember that culture thing I mentioned?). With energy and excitement, the girls begin to write their emails, carefully choosing their favourite teacher who has been helpful and kind as their recipient.

It never occurred to me that I would be one of these lucky recipients. Reminding me why working in education, and with young minds is richly rewarding, blending culture and success together in what we term ‘academic care’.

Mr John Toulantas

Director for ICT

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