“Every great man, every successful man, no matter what the field of endeavor, has known the magic that lies in these words: every adversity has the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.” – W. Clement Stone
Many people I have spoken to over the past couple of weeks have told me that this is what it must feel like in wartime. Indeed, it does feel like the world is at war, albeit with an invisible enemy. So reflecting on Mr Stone’s words, sometimes it is necessary to look adversity in the eye to find the seeds that can bear fruit and benefit us.
When it became apparent that we would have to shut down our schools, our professional staff jumped into action immediately. For the past few years we have been researching and developing our IT vision and looking at online teaching and learning as a means to assist our children in their educational process. The shutting down of our schools created the opportunity of implementing what we have been developing and creating.
Without any delay, our teachers and support staff started working on online platforms. We have been operating as a Google School for some years now, and our teachers and pupils are used to working on a Google platform, using Google Classroom, Google Hangout and Google Hangout Meet.
Our primary schools have been using a number of exciting online programmes such as Purple Mash, Matholia and a host of other online programmes. Almost immediately our pupils, including those from Pre-School, were able to work from home. Our teachers and support staff have been truly amazing in extending the educational process into the home environment enabling our pupils to benefit from a Herzlia education while confined to their homes.
Like most schools across the world, we are at the embryonic stage of online teaching and learning and in this vein; we have surveyed our parent body to tell us what has worked and what needs more attention. The learning curve for all of us is steep but we are willing to do everything in our power to ensure that teaching and learning can continue while our children are stuck in their homes.
The following are some of the successful online educational interventions that have taken place:
• Our pupils at Pre-School have been able to listen to stories read by various members of the Herzlia community and posted on Facebook.
• Luvo our Xhosa teacher presented a 15 minute Xhosa lesson online for all our pre-schoolers.
• Music teachers were able to teach individual pupils using a variety of online platforms.
• The Sports Department has been very active, posting videos on improving ball skills for polo and netball and we have sourced exercise videos for our pupils to exercise at home during lockdown.
• Teachers across the phases are teaching groups of pupils on Google Hangout and I have watched in amazement the focus, dedication and commitment of both our teachers and our pupils.
• Shabbat songs and prayers have been created in order to help our pupils and their families enjoy Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and other Jewish festivities. The Herzlia ‘Great Big Virtual Challah Bake’ saw over 1600 people engaging with us online.
For the first time in the history of the school we did not run our Pesach seders. However, all was not lost as we had been hard at work with all our teachers and JLL staff producing videos and learning materials for parents to go through at home with their children. We filmed our Pre-Primary teachers leading a seder and singing all the Pesach songs. A Haggadah activity workbook was sent to all our young ones to complete at home. Songs were posted on Facebook for the children to practice at home.
It is almost impossible to describe the past few weeks in this short article but I hope that some of the pictures will help give you an understanding of how we have managed the process of online teaching.
By Geoff Cohen
Director of Education, United Herzlia Schools
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