Mrs Michelle Carroll
At various times this year, we were burdened by significant confusion, fear and change. However, it was often the ‘routine’ of the School day, the familiarity of a timetable, a teacher’s reassuring voice and the connection with subject matter that so often settled and calmed children and teenagers in our care.
Across this year, I have witnessed firsthand a genuine sense of care, commitment and support towards our generous and spirited School community. The strength of the St Catherine’s School community has been built over many years on strong, enduring relationships, and at this time of unprecedented global upheaval in 2020, I write with my sincere appreciation and gratitude for the strength our community provides to many people connected to the School.
Over this past year, our students of all ages engaged wholeheartedly in their Learn@Home programs with the support and encouragement of family members. I also enjoyed reading numerous emails from kind and generous parents asking me to forward their appreciation to our dedicated staff. A teacher reflected that they felt like they had undertaken years of professional learning in the space of two short weeks just prior to the first lockdown in March. Their commitment and very genuine care for the learning journey of every student was palpable, profound and visible in my many conversations with teachers.
In my thirty years of working in education, and presented with no other alternative, I have never seen such dedication, commitment and willingness than from the St Catherine’s staff this past year as they adapted continually for teaching in a new landscape. At various times this year, we were burdened by significant confusion, fear and change. However, it was often the ‘routine’ of the School day, the familiarity of a timetable, a teacher’s reassuring voice and the connection with subject matter that so often settled and calmed children and teenagers in our care. Over the past year, our teachers learned to re-create a new rhythm for each lesson, most notably in an attempt to address the fatigue of lengthy screen time and increased periods of time requiring intense concentration. As a School, we enjoyed regularly collecting feedback from the girls about their online experiences in addition to the teachers’ reflections specific to each Faculty and age group in the Junior School. We constantly looked to distil this information to devise strategies to enable and ensure the sustainability of the Learn@Home program throughout Terms 2 and 3.
In Term 4 of every year, I reflect on the joy of celebrating with the Year 12 graduating class on their last day of School as they undertake a rite of passage walking through the wrought iron gates of Heyington Place for their final time as schoolgirls. Together, teachers and younger students line the driveway, forming a guard of honour to cheer on the girls. It is a colourful dash for the girls with laughter, singing and smiles. At times this year, I glanced down the driveway, barely able to look at our beautiful gates, standing strong but closed and wondered if the COVID-19 pandemic stronghold on Melbourne would ease enough to allow the girls to make their dash through the gates.
It was with much celebration that we reached that day in Term 4, a School again filled with girls and the gates did re-open, the roses bloomed and we laughed together about the extraordinary time we had all experienced. And the Year 12 girls, the Class of 2020, did make that colourful dash through the Heyington Gates.
This year will be remembered as a unique time for our School and community. As I reflected on the year 2020, it is pleasing to see how the School community responded, embraced the challenges and adapted to the ever changing circumstances. This strength, diversity and flexibility has enabled us to discover so much about the capacity of the St Catherine’s School community, and in particular our students.
I remain inspired by their persistence, positivity and their ability to continuously adapt. They shape the rich fabric of our history, and form part of the thread that binds us.