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Working from home and sharing the spirit of kindness - a teacher's perspective

“Everyone’s home situation is going to be different, so there is no way we can expect students to have certain capabilities right now and how they’re dealing with things is going to be different as well.”

The week before news broke that New Zealand would move to alert level 4 and go into rāhui (lockdown), Christchurch’s St Bede’s College had just wrapped up its first ever Kindness Week.

The week was timed to run following the commemorations around the March 15 terror attacks in Christchurch. Over the week, each day marked a new occasion, theme or event.

On Monday, the students were asked to consider doing five small acts of kindness through the week, or work towards one big thing.

Form classes watched videos on kindness, Tunes Tuesday saw music play out in the main outdoor space, on Wednesday students were tasked with connecting with each other in ways they wouldn’t normally. Thursday was a food collection day for St Vincent de Paul, before food truck Friday finished up the week.

St Bede’s College science and chemistry teacher and kindness coordinator, Robyn Warburton says it was by absolute chance that the week coincided with the COVID19 lockdown announcement – and for the students of St Bede’s college, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

“The students left the school on a real positive note, given the buzz of the previous week... I hope that has continued at home,” she says.

Robyn says it is really important we all continue to share the spirit of kindness – and we can all do it, be it by doing random acts of kindness or offering a helping hand.

“We need to keep it going within our communities, our families and our bubbles. It’s a weird and stressful time for everyone, so we just need to be understanding because people are going to cope with this in different ways. It’s important to keep positive and keep spirits up.”

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Robyn, like all those round the country, is now working from home, in her bedroom.

As a self-described ‘master procrastinator’, the science teacher says working from home is a real challenge, so she has set herself up to succeed, by having routines and realistic expectations in place.

“I’ve set myself up away from distractions, like the TV, and I hope my students think of that too. Most importantly, I’m just not going to put too much pressure on myself.”

With the guidance and support of the school, students aren’t expected to start working before 10am.

“Everyone’s home situation is going to be different, so there is no way we can expect students to have certain capabilities right now and how they’re dealing with things is going to be different as well.”

Robyn is making herself available to students online and giving those who want it, extra work. Some students have already taken up that offer – despite it being school holidays.

Once the holidays are over, students will be given their work on a Monday and will then have a week to do it in their own time and at their own pace.

“As long as we’re getting through what we need to, let’s not worry about the extra things. All I can ask is that they do their best,” says Robyn.

While the teachers of St Bede’s College are making sure their student’s wellbeing is taken care of, they’re also looking out for each other.

Staff have created a Facebook page to communicate and share a laugh. While it’s mostly taken up with memes and videos, it’s also proving to be a crucial tool in providing humour, tips on how to get through and connection.

In these uncertain times, Robyn’s message to fellow teachers is this:

“Make sure you’re considering your wellbeing and that of your students. If you’re doing five hours of marking and you’re really struggling, then can you expect students to be doing five hours in a similar way?”

“Let’s keep it simple. Don’t stress yourselves out and let’s just come out with a positive attitude and in a positive way and feeling good. Good luck.”

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