Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta
I’m writing this from home on my balcony, and remembering those moving scenes of neighbours singing from their balconies during the COVID-19 lockdown in Italy. Music can be an incredible way to bring people together, as we’ve seen in the new ways artists shared their work even when COVID-19 kept us apart: livestream loungeroom jam sessions, frontyard performances, drive-in concerts and more.
While students were learning from home, creative teachers really made the most of technology to stay connected with their students. Many continued to deliver online learning in real time, including dance lessons and musical instruction. There were also art ideas shared by video featuring projects based on materials students could easily find at home that will continue to be a useful resource for learning long-term.
There’s been a real focus on ‘the basics’ as we start to return to the classroom. This means numeracy and literacy, a sensible approach for starters. I’m a bit wary when I hear the phrase ‘back to basics’ in education: it can sometimes lead to the baby being thrown out with the bathwater. So what does this mean for some of the other disciplines like the arts that might be seen as ‘nice’ rather than ‘necessary’?
For some students, creative and performing arts opportunities are the best thing about school. For these kids, the chance to play an instrument or join a choir, paint a masterpiece or direct a film is everything. It can even be what keeps them coming along: not just the icing on the cake, but the cake itself. Teachers know this, and that’s why you’re still seeing really great opportunities for students to participate in a range of creative activities.
Of course there will be changes as a result of COVID-19. It’s no longer appropriate to share some musical instruments for example and this has seen some orchestral programs invest in additional resources. It has also seen a stop on some of the large-scale performances that we’re used to. There’ll be a need to find new ways to celebrate the skills we have in our school communities.
A big thank you to families who have been a captive audience for some young creatives during this time. For those hoping this might be the end of school music class recorder lessons you’re out of luck. Despite the shrill tones, there’s a resonant beauty in the joy that youngsters take in being able to trill a few bars of ‘jingle bells’ or ‘hot cross buns’ on this humble instrument on high rotation. I’ve heard balconies are a great place to practise (sorry neighbours)!
Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta