Can a culture of relationships help schools and students through pandemic-era schooling disruptions? In this second part of our three-part webinar series, Positive School Culture in the New Normal, we looked at the importance of schools’ relationships with stakeholders at multiple levels, and how a culture of relationships can be built. Three experienced educators in Southeast Asia shared just how developing strong relationships within and beyond the school community is crucial to surviving a crisis, and how the success of adapting to the new normal hinges on sustaining and even renewing relationships with students, school leaders, and the wider community.
Ms Sheryl Kalatting, Vice-Principal of Penabur Secondary Kelapa Gading in Indonesia, detailed the importance of building trusting relationships at the school level, as she relied upon a large number of newly-appointed Home Room teachers to facilitate morning routines during virtual learning. Mr Jean Francis V. Dela Cruz, Teacher-in-Charge at Santiago A. De Guzman Elementary School in the Philippines, elaborated upon the necessity of having a culture of support within the school, as exemplified by school leaders who supported their teachers through e-learning transitions by providing training in using ICT tools. Mr Tan Chor Pang, former Principal of Boon Lay Secondary School in Singapore, shared how the school’s unique non-academic based student groupings have created a close-knit school family, where a pre-existing culture of student ownership and mutual care made for a smooth transition to remote learning during the pandemic.
Beyond working within school communities, however, our speakers also emphasised the need to build a strong network of relationships with the school’s wider community. For Mr Dela Cruz, having frequently engaged and established strong relationships with the parents and families in his district, he was able to mobilise an impressive number of parent and civilian volunteers to donate and distribute basic supplies to many students in need. He was also able to tap on strong regional government support to provide tools and infrastructure for underprivileged students to ensure sustained virtual learning for them. Mr Tan similarly discussed how building a parent support group allows parents to be more involved in students’ learning; having students personally report their progress to parents during meet-the-parents sessions also enables families to develop a greater knowledge and understanding of their child’s educational needs, which proved particularly beneficial in home-based learning.
Building strong relationships within and beyond the school community can be difficult; even more so if you are beginning in the pandemic. Our school leaders shared their unique methods in cultivating trusting and lasting partnerships with all their stakeholders. Ms Kalatting smoothly reorganised and delegated new responsibilities amongst her staff, by forming clear principles and practices to adopt during remote learning, standardising teachers’ methods of adopting them, and having clear learning objectives and outcomes for the duration of virtual learning. Mr Tan fostered a strong environment of peer support and student ownership in his school by fostering a culture of senior-junior mentorship within student groups, and providing a large number of Modular Academic Programmes and Student Development Modules that supported character and skills development beyond traditional academic achievement.
Having strong and reliable relationships are essential to first coping with unprecedented change, and then implementing the necessary steps to adapt to it. When people are united and involved in the learning and well-being of students and families, crisis becomes an opportunity to strengthen and renew bonds, smoothening the transition to learning in the new normal.
But how do we teach students whilst in the midst of addressing a global crisis, and how does learning change as a result of new teaching modes or principles? How can we encourage mutual learning and mentorship amongst teachers, and explore new and unique avenues for collaboration as we adapt to new models of schooling?
In the last part of this three-part webinar series, we explore what it means to develop a culture of learning that empowers all members of the school community. Register here for Part 3: Building a Culture of Learning and watch Part 1: Building a Positive School Culture.