This Friday should have been the matric dance for the Class of 2020… a night of fairy lights, sparkling dresses, slick suits and smart cars… a rite of passage they have looked forward to and planned for years. Their year should have been one that celebrated a list of events for them: the last basketball game, the last inter-house event, the last fundraiser for charity. Each of these should have been part of the letting go process for our Grade 12’s in a year that should have showcased their talents.
Along with so much else, that has been ruined by COVID-19. My heart breaks for every matriculant for the year that never was. I do not know what we will be able to salvage from the wreckage of 2020 but we will do all we can to give the matrics some kind of celebration.
It has also been a year that has tested me as a Head and has pushed my staff to breaking point. Yet, stress and disappointments aside, there are positives. We have been forced into a growth mindset and pushed out of comfort zones. I have spoken at length about the epic challenge of moving a school online during lockdown and this week, when we resorted to online teaching again, it was so much easier! At the start of lockdown, our grade 8s were children. They have morphed into young adults in a few months because they have had no choice but to assume accountability for their learning. As a school, we have had to re-evaluate our usual marketing strategies and held our first Zoom marketing session last week, attended by nearly 40 people. Instead of holding an assembly to celebrate Women’s Day, our grade 8s took the initiative to create a lovely video to commemorate the women in their lives. We have had to re-visit timetables and implement Saturday School to make up lost time and we have all taught smarter, drilling down to core skills. As a staff, we have had to stand by one another as never before because none of us were trained in how to teach during a pandemic. Lastly, we have realized the loss of that face to face connection with our pupils and the profound impact we have on the lives and well-being of our pupils
We talk a great deal about the well-being of our learners at Ridgeway. For me, it means that our pupils are all seen and recognized and valued. It means that their tutors know them and that when we have our staff meetings, their teachers can tell me about each child’s marks, work ethic, classroom behavior and level of engagement without looking at notes. We are using a local counselor and an excellent Educational Psychologist to work alongside us too because we recognize barriers to learning and like to find ways around those. Most importantly, we also see the profound impact this pandemic has had on the psyche of our pupils. They need to feel safe and secure and loved like never before because their known, predictable world has been rocked.
And so I find myself being grateful for so much as I also mourn all we have lost this year. I am grateful that this is an IEB school and that we were allowed to deviate and continue to teach; grateful that our academic year will still end in November; glad that my pupils are taking accountability for their learning; that my juniors are showing leadership and initiative; that my staff remain committed and motivated and that our parents are increasingly involved in the school.
I recently posted videos from some of our past pupils based our motto “Believe in yourself”. I posted this on National Women’s Day on our Facebook page and while it was meant for all the women of our school, I mean it too for our young men:
Believe in yourself. Be someone who knows your own mind… who knows your value and worth… who has an inner strength to rise above adversity… someone who has choices and self-determination and who is filled with courage and love.
Matrics of 2020, I celebrate you all (even if we cannot celebrate together and I have no wine to toast you!)
Yours in education
Mrs. Dionne Redfern