Headmaster's Message 
#27

Friday 22 May 2020

Times gone by …

Recently I was sent a photo of a time gone by – me shaking hands with James Charles Bartolo, from 4Z.

I don’t know about you but sometimes when I am watching a TV programme these days and I see two people approaching one another, in a café or business meeting, the thought shots across my mind, ‘Oh no, are they actually going to shake hands’. Or worse still, a kiss on the cheek, not a hug … People out shopping without gloves or face protection, did we actually live in such a dangerous world?

Shaking hands at the gates in the morning at St Edward’s was and will be again, one of the most rewarding times of the day for me. Perhaps the day before I have heard some comment from a staff member about a child, perhaps the way a child is walking as they approach college, suggests that the weight of the world is on his shoulders, perhaps I have heard of someone being naughty (rarely!)…

In each of these occasions I pull the child aside and have ‘a word in his ear’, something encouraging, sometimes to ask that he talks to me later, to a staff member, to a friend, but not to carry his worries all alone.

I also learn at the gate which classrooms I have to visit later in the day. Cupcakes, regular cakes, all sorts of goodies for a teacher or a boy’s birthday, all healthy, useful intel!

I inevitably leave the gates with a smile on my face, spirits lifted. Staff are all missing the interaction with our charges. Sometimes it is only when something is taken away that we realise its value. Common, ordinary, daily, events, interactions with the developing student, evolving into an adult, being able to influence this adult-to-be is an intrinsic part of the ‘hidden curriculum’ that is at least as valuable as the written curriculum, for teachers.

End of Year closure/end of year feedback.

Remember we are a college with students from Early Years to Sixth Form/IB. At SMT meetings, with eventual input from parents we are discussing our end of year. How can we give valid feedback to parents and students regarding learning in this third term? A formal examination is, for some/many students not likely to be valid. There was a great joke going around on the WhatsApp chats with a child doing an on-line exam at home. Eventually the teacher sends a mark/grade to a student. Student shows it to the parent and the parent replies, ‘Well, next time, we’ll have to do better!’

I did have one teacher approached by a 3rd year university student for some help with preparing for his end of year examinations. ‘When are the exams?’ asked the teacher. ‘In 10 days’, replied the student. ‘That does not give us much time, can you send me the topics you feel you most need help with’, suggested the teacher.

‘Sir, you don’t understand, it is an oral examination, I can have my phone beside me with my ear piece in, you’ll be able to hear the questions and you can give me the answers’.

This is a recent true story from a teacher at SEC, I won’t name the school that the student went to, it was not SEC!

There is copious debate and opinion on any form of end of year closure. Its practicality and its validity. At SMT we have taken on board the opinions of students and parents over the past 2 weeks. This coming week each section will let you know what form the feedback will take. You will receive feedback from the teacher, it will not take the form of the traditional end of year examination, some will be innovative, some will be forms of feedback we had wanted to do for years but were tied to the traditional.

Concerns have been raised by some parents that if there is not an exam at the end of the year students will not study. This is perhaps the case for some boys. Believe me that teachers will continue to ensure that the boys are engaged in learning, the core of education!

Reopening.

Now here is a topic that will get the blood boiling. When this pandemic broke out I, as a member of the Academy of International School Heads, was in touch with colleagues in the Far East. Again I am learning about the practical implications of reopening a school from Heads of School who have had to reopen with little or no practical plan – lots of academic advice from different organisations, much of it useful, but much without the hands-on issues that crop up during the implementation stages.

We are also looking at information from UNESCO and WHO.

I do not at the moment have a final draft of our plan, we will take, as a bottom line, all the precautions stipulated by the government and will have elements of what has been learned by other schools when opening. Schools who have reopened in countries where the pandemic is/was at an earlier stage than Malta.

We will also be sure to involve parents through SEPTA in the planning and dissemination of information.

Virtual Open day, live, May 27th.

This might be interesting for some. It will happen between 14.00 and 15.00. It will largely involve SMT, live, in college, answering questions mainly from prospective parents. This has not been done before by any school in Malta, it is fraught with potential difficulties and ‘things that can go wrong’!

But, we are still going to do it! SMT, SEC staff, are continuously looking for ways we can stretch our own limitations, face challenges, experiment and look for ways to improve.

Wishing you all a great weekend and many thanks for your understanding and cooperation over the past few days with Parent/Teacher Consultations!

Sincerely,
Mr Nollaig Mac an Bhaird
Headmaster