Covid 19 has impacted teachers, students and parents the world over. Our school was subject to the laws and regulations of the Saudi government, which required students to learn online for literally 15 months at the MSHS level. We did it.
Year One – Genius Projects and Online Play Fest
Year One, my students produced Genius Projects of their choosing, tracked by themselves, me and their peers. We were one of the first schools in the world to publish an online drama festival – in WordPress format, of course – and I’m amazed by the commitment of the student team I had to collate all that material with me and still help me issue the Academy Awards for the best play, actors, etc…a rite of passage that was instituted for the high school drama students some years ago after my arrival at the current school where I am. I’m a stickler for letting things go – don’t seem to want to. So, we emulated what we could in the first year of lockdowns.
Year Two – A Whole Lotta Zoom and Live-Streamed Performances
Year two, last year…somehow, we literally taught and learned together online all year, building on the rapid changes and learning that happened in Year One. The biggest challenge was actually not delivering the curriculum, as one simply had to adapt to teaching on Zoom and making plays in that capacity. Thank goodness for Zoom! It, by far, superseded Google Meet as a platform, except for the Drama 6 class who had internet issues as well as organizational issues. However, in the end they, too, got there, and the triumph last year was having live audiences with parents attending and families live streaming in from all over the world…from their very own homes. Mission accomplished.
Professional Development / the Professional Learning Community in Dubai…Dried Up
The most excellent and very affordable professional development trainings for drama educators able to get to Dubai (convenient for me, and I developed a sound professional learning network there) dried up thanks to the spread of Covid, closed borders, governments getting to grips with what was happening and the purchase and distribution of vaccines plus the making of vaccine passports for travel, not to mention the sway of rules and scenarios for international travelers. International educators were hit hard over the past year as schools’ budgets were, too, for families were heading home, too, for online learning and tuition income had dropped.
Book Clubs Ramped Up
How did our district handle this? I’m pleased to say, book clubs have been part of my professional learning since I began working at Qatar Academy in 2010. This district provided books for teachers who would lead groups, and I read two last year, which I want to re-read this year along with the current offering.
My Focus: Beautiful Questions and Permission to Feel In Alignment with My Work as a Compassion Leader and Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher
So, watch this space. I intend to make a bit of time throughout my week to read the books which mainly have focused on the pedagogy of asking ‘beautiful questions’ and giving ‘permission to feel’ – last year’s book studies. This year, I’m diving deeper into a text that ‘explores the educational implications of affective neuroscience’.
Why? Impacts upon…
What does all this mean? Well, I am a compassion leader in our school, and I have been running the Global Compassion Summit Leadership Team for a few years now, taking ten students to a summit of international school student leaders, to help our MSHS shape the focus of compassion in school and, as of this year, liaise better with other MSHS student-led clubs/organization including the pre-IB service learning projects of Grades 9/10 and the IB CAS Program – Creativity/Action/Service.
Last year, the student leaders from our Compassion Leadership Team developed Peer Support under the leadership of myself and my colleague who also ran that team. Together, we build a person-centred listening program that ran online much like the UK/US/Ireland-based Samaritans suicide prevention charity runs. Of course, we made the necessary adaptations for the school and our students. It launched and ran in the spring when students experienced exam stress, and this is when we observed the program’s effectiveness.
Over the past few years, also, because of my commitment to increasing the emphasis on mental health dialogue in our school, I have been teaching Mindful Self-Compassion in the school and across the district on multiple occasions – staff training, summer school, in-school year group trainings, class sessions, etc. This year, I have expanded my offerings on a private front to include training in MSC and creativity. I am starting to offer MSC to staff and will soon offer drop-ins for students, too, in our school.
Good Timing for a Book Club
As we continue to feel the effects of having to be mindful of where we go, who we are with, how we do things, the good old book club fills a need, I guess. Good to cocoon for the winter and dive into some deep thoughts of others. The district has mandated three sessions for the book clubs. That feels very reasonable to me.
Read on in the blog to follow my notes and reflections.