WORKING ONLINE: Useful lessons for the Online Classroom. Malta, Helen O'Grady Drama Academy Malta

WORKING ONLINE: Useful lessons for the Online Classroom.

03rd May 2020


The Coronavirus pandemic has shaken the world. Schools were forced to close abruptly, international conferences cancelled, important traditional and religious gatherings banned, and travel itineraries disrupted. All of a sudden, we cannot shake hands, accept visitors into our countries, let alone homes, or even just go into the shopping mall at will. We need authorization from authorities to be able to move from one point to the next, and in order to actually secure this authorization; one would need to have a very good reason for doing so. It has to be an absolutely important errand; a rescue mission, or for an important meeting such as an emergency check up at the doctors’ rooms. 

The flipside however is that we have been pushed out of the box. This has been an opportune moment for self-reflection, priority setting, acquiring new skills and exploring new possibilities.

We have had to embrace the idea that things can be done differently. My team and I have had to set up and operationalise a virtual office. We realise that in the absence of day to day contact in the physical office at 22 Suffolk, we can tap into the tools that are available to us. Our mobile phones and laptops have become the communication channels. We have embraced the new way and can switch on our cameras to greet, and off when the discussion starts so that our bandwidth is not strained. We get results. In fact, we are getting a much richer creativity flow. The fact that people can self-regulate, find inspiration and deliver is just wonderful. I really suspect that many work assignments are being done in while clad in pyjamas and tucked in bed.  

On the other hand, we are happy that the disruption has meant that our children have found time to just connect more with nature, and to clear their heads. But then, one cannot deny the need for a structured instruction, and education. In any case, they miss school. They miss their friends, they miss competitive sport, and they miss the playground. They miss their Friday pizza treat too, perhaps the most. There are a few things they certainly do not miss; like the pressure that school rush brings, the traffic jam, and experiences of the dog eating their homework. But of course these issues are rather insignificant given all the compelling reasons for ensuring this generation can access good quality education to prepare them for the now, and the future.

Our challenge as parents, and teachers is to re-create the connection and introduce platforms that facilitate learning. Our children need their teachers’ guidance through the prescribed school curriculum, and adjustments should be done to bring them into their learning rhythm within the home setting. The lockdown should not by any means lead to deprivation when it comes to elements that are nurturing for the young minds. 

Many Private Schools have already conducted surveys and established possibilities to continue with online classes. Parents are really anxious to have their kids participate and not have to miss out on these learning opportunities. The focus is likely to be on key subjects such as Maths, Science and English. Sport and other extracurricular learning opportunities are not often-not included.

Lessons from my virtual workplace are clear that online work can be rather draining as long periods are spent sitting and listening. Hence, my team has introduced wellness Fridays where our teammates take a day off the normal work schedule and just appear online to come and ‘play’. We take turns to host dance - virtual parties. Watch parties are created just for the laughs. This space to connect, unwind is critical for wellness and staff development. 

The move from face to face classes to online learning is a big leap and schools should ensure that this experience is enjoyable. The Helen O’Grady Drama Academy in Harare is offering to partner with schools on our Developmental Drama program, in order to facilitate and bring a wholesome learning experience for the learner. The Academy offers 30minute-1hour age appropriate developmental drama and speech training sessions that are offered by qualified teachers from across the world. 

This is a space to unwind and acquire 21st Century Skills for our children. Taught through music, movement, and play; the drama, dance, public speaking sessions are now available online; something our children can absolutely look forward to. We will hand hold the learner through a highly stimulating, creative, theatre arts programme.

The Helen O’Grady Drama Academy is an international programme with a vibrant set curriculum designed to develop the following critical skills: enthusiasm and a positive approach to life, ongoing confidence., self-esteem, skill in verbal communication: public speaking; presentation skills & English language skills, effective social interaction, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and performance arts skills.

TALENT JUMO a Zimbabwean teacher, and a co-founder and director of the Katswe Sistahood. She has promoted women's rights and health, including family planning. She is also Helen O'Grady principal in Zimbabwe.

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