It’s August 2022. The masks are still on but it almost feels ‘normal’ again. Parents are allowed on campus, we can have student assemblies again, staff meetings have no limits on the number of staff allowed to attend, and many more of the things that we had taken for granted a few years ago have returned. As a sense of normality returns, it felt like the ideal moment to reflect on the last two years and my experience as a teacher adjusting to the challenges that Covid19 has had on my teaching, my communication and how the school community has responded as sanctions have eased.
At Seoul Foreign British School, we started the 2022/23 academic year with one very powerful statement: Let’s bring back community!
Of course, our community didn’t go away during the past two years. In fact, we strived to keep everyone together and I feel we were successful in doing this in many ways. But the beginning of term this year was different. It was unlike any other start of term that I have experienced in my twenty years of teaching. It was filled with so much hope, excitement and a refreshing feeling of freedom. Harnessing this energy, we set about planning the first few months and thought about all of the ways we could make our community feel fully connected and together again.
As an Early Years educator, the relationship I have with my children’s parents is one of the most important factors that influences the success of my student’s learning. I find that the more sharing we do with our parents and community, the better the connections between home, school and the child. Thanks to technology and applications such as Seesaw we were able to share learning experiences during Covid times but these can’t compare to live interactions where we can use all of our senses to fully engage with each experience and really feel human again.
We began with an in-person ‘Back to School Night’. We saw this as an opportunity to really focus on reuniting the community and building relationships. So, as in previous years, we made video and slide presentations to provide information about the learning expectations and logistical information that parents needed; the purpose being that families could watch these in their own time. This meant that when Back to School Night came around, our focus was on building those very important relationships. Teachers and parents spent the time chatting and connecting with each other.
The next amazing event was a playground party. Over the summer we had a very new and exciting playground built which had been a real community project, realised by the generous donations of everyone connected with our school. This definitely needed celebrating! Since it was an outside event, it meant we could all be together with no restrictions. In line with guidance, masks were optional, the warm weather was perfect and there was a brand new playground for everyone to explore and enjoy!
The term continued with so many more experiences that it was almost overwhelming. It was like we had planned all the lost moments from the past two years into the next two months! There were school trips to local museums, street fairs organised by our Key Stage 3 students, in-person workshops for parents, student-led learning walks, shared exit points, parent readers, whole school assemblies, parents coming in to decorate classrooms for Christmas, visitors coming to present at assemblies. You name it, if there was an opportunity for a member of our community to be involved, we did it! For me the magic was the end of term Christmas assembly when the whole school, all 300 students and staff, met in our hall and we celebrated being together by singing the 12 days of Christmas. Different classes each sang a section of the song for the different days. For our youngest students to be interacting with our oldest students is something so precious that needs to be captured and kept forever.
Our parents also had a lot to say about the importance of connections with their children’s learning:
“I appreciate how hard the school tries to be in touch with us parents and work with parents in each child's growth. To be able to know every week what they are learning about and to be able to finally do activities together at the school is so positive for my child.” - Natalia
“Throughout the year, Miss Katy always emphasises the open door policy. One of the most important things I noticed during Covid was the strong communication from Miss Katy. She kept the students and parents engaged. She is always open to feedback and adopted and improved the curriculum each day. Now that we can come to school it is so much easier for us as parents. We loved the learning walks and seeing the amount of detail invested in each child. From the wall of new phrases that each child said to the confidence they showed when sharing their learning. How nice to be back and to have these experiences together again.” - Rene
"As a parent of a child in Foundation, there have been so many ways the SFBS has invited us to be part of our son’s learning. The party at the end of the unit on identity was a great way to celebrate some of the things that make us unique and the learning walk was a wonderful opportunity to have a window into what happens in the classroom on a daily basis. Being part of these experiences have deepened our son’s learning and have allowed us to connect with him and the SFBS.” - Joshua
Now it’s January 2023 and a new term has begun. I have a lot to live up to from last term's community interaction but I would not change it for the world!