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International School of Hyderabad and Continuous Learning in COVID time

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Dr Oli Tooher-Hancock

The clear message was to keep it simple, especially as we began to ensure everyone was learning, says Dr Oli Tooher-Hancock, Head of School, International School of Hyderabad in a conversation with Elets News Network (ENN).

Our Story?

On Saturday March 14, International School of Hyderabad (ISH), held a mini closure-tournament for our Varsity Boys’ Cricket and Varsity Girls’ Volleyball Teams. All were disappointed as the girls were supposed to be traveling to Mahindra International School in Pune and ISH was to host the Cricket with the British School, Delhi, Mahindra IS and Stonehill, Bangalore, all part of a well-established activities league known as ISACI. We ended the morning of sports with the students, faculty and parents in a small gathering as we enjoyed Burger and Fries. The last thing I said was – See you all on Monday. At 4.00 pm that afternoon, we got the news that schools had to close down.

We sprang into action with a highly supportive Board and UK and US Consulate help as well as guidance from our trustee, ICRISAT (an international crop research institute, a not-for-profit organization under the umbrella of the UN and in whose grounds we are nestled). The Board agreed to teachers having two full days to prepare for online, Continuous Learning.

Also read: COVID-19 Lockdown: Course of Rajasthan Polytechnic Colleges on YouTube with 4000 e-Lectures

Our New Normal

We were fortunate in that we already had two learning platforms established: Google Classroom and Seesaw for our younger learners, the challenge was certainly Zoom, but teachers quickly became adept and all our teachers rose to the occasion and on Wednesday, March 18 Continuous Learning began at ISH with a mixture of Synchronous and Asynchronous, depending on age and subject etc; and using zoom as a communication tool.

The clear message was to keep it simple, especially as we began to ensure everyone was learning. In secondary we realised after three weeks, that too much mirroring of a regular school day was simply exhausting, so we reviewed the structure and redesigned daily blocks, to optimise ongoing energy and engaging levels. We ensured ‘Office Hours” were built-in, enabling students to meet with their teachers individually or in small groups. We very quickly went to Zoom Pro which offered additional teaching and learning features and increased security.

As time went on, teachers became more sophisticated with Zoom.

Our Actions

• Regular surveys and checks to students and teachers asking input into the schedule and Learning Day.
• Thrice weekly communication from the Head of School to the Community
• Regular Board meetings and Board Communication to the Community
• Mindfulness exercises and an emphasis on staying fit and healthy
• Provided forums for students faculty and parents to ask questions and provide feedback.
• Changed the nature of assessments to what we believe to be more authentic and meaningful.
• Support for faculty acknowledging their work and efforts
• Modified Calendar. Gave up April break and had five, four day weeks in May to sustain energy and pacing to the end of the school year.
• Virtual events – IB Art Exhibition, Three-Way Conferences, IB and IGCSE Orientations and Grade 12 final assembly etc

As our school year finishes on June 12

Our Tagline is ‘Leading our own Learning’ and has certainly come through loud and clear in every aspect of learning at ISH. Gooooooooooo Vipers!

Our Future

Of course, we are not sure what learning and schooling will look like exactly come August. But one thing is for sure, it will look different. We are excited by the change in approach and attitude to What is worth learning… and Why? The time is here and we embrace the change.

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