NSW students receive a warm welcome back to the classroom

By Greg Whitby, 22 May 2020
Greg Whitby AM is Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta.


Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

Most NSW students began their gradual return to the classroom this week. Their teachers have been missing them so much, in many cases waiting to welcome them back at the school gates. Though students were busting to catch up with their mates, I reckon that many of them really missed their teachers too!

During what felt like a long absence, I loved seeing the caring and creative ways that schools and teachers kept in contact with students and their families. They ‘Zoomed’ their classes, letterboxed birthday cards, shared their favourite stories on Facebook Live, posted pictures of their pets, wrote their students fun songs and made lots of calls to kids’ homes to check-in.

I know that this has been such a tough time for many families. The way that they have supported their children in continuing learning at home is heroic. There’s been a raging and rather silly debate on Twitter lately about whether these recent experiences are ‘home schooling’ or not.

As any parent or carer will tell you, teachers have a really significant role in the lives of children and young people. I think there’s so much value for students in the experience of getting to know teachers. It’s a chance to test what they know about life with grown-ups outside their family who share an interest in their growth and learning.

I still remember one of my teachers setting my mother straight after she joked about putting bricks on my head to halt my rapidly increasing height. “You’ll do no such thing to this lovely boy, Mrs Whitby,” she ordered. For so many students, school is a safe place to grow (and to learn that there are other ways to see things than we do at home).

It’s almost a cliché, the old expression ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Perhaps though, schools are a village for today, a place where community happens for many students and their families, and teachers too. After all, the flipside of being missed is belonging. Welcome back, you’ve been missed!

Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta


Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
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