COVID-19 Lockdown Learning Response and Reflections
From The Desk Of: Anco Booysen
With Spring arriving and the last grades having returned to school, we are starting to move back to more familiar territory – albeit with social distancing timetables and masks. The last five months have been some of the most difficult to navigate since our inception, but on reflection, we have been humbled and gratified by the dedication, agility and resilience of our Acorn Education team, our School Leadership Teams, our teachers, parents and learners during this pandemic.
Teachers at Apex High, Forest Village Leadership Academy and Apex Primary Schools have had to transition from normal teaching practice to online learning, setting up new lesson plans, devising and recording instructional videos, preparing materials, and finding new ways to connect with their learners. All of this while juggling the impact of COVID-19 on their families and personal lives as well. Many of our teachers had to bargain time away from their own children that were now at home as well as regularly recording lessons or virtually meeting with an Acorn Education Instructional Teacher Coach. Our learners have had to dig deep and keep themselves motivated and disciplined to keep learning remotely and -sometimes completely alone – despite often challenging home environments. Some of their struggles have been included in Dr Jansen and Emily O’ Ryan’s new book Learning Under Lockdown. Parents were willing and eager to learn and adapt to new technology and ways of learning to support their children to continue learning during lockdown.
Our Acorn Education team had to pivot from face to face coaching and other operational support to countless Zoom meetings as seamlessly as possible. In a matter of a few short weeks, we were tasked with sourcing and delivering food parcels during lockdown to households in need, recruiting an assistant social worker to assist Community Keepers with emotional support for learners, removing barriers to learning by developing our own Learner Management System, and solving complex data and device challenges. We did our best to meet these challenges head-on with our schools and solve them as quickly as possible.
Throughout all of these challenges, our funders stood with us. We are deeply thankful for the additional support and funding provided by our funders at the Public Schools Partnership Programme; the DG Murray Trust, Millennium Trust, First Rand Empowerment Fund, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. However, we are by no means out of the woods yet.
Our values at Acorn Education are: Agility, Can-do attitude, Optimism, Resilience, and Nurturing. We will need to draw on all of these values in the coming months. We still have much work to do to continue online learning through the remainder of the pandemic. We also need to provide the ongoing counselling and academic support learners will need during the recovery – which is likely to continue into 2021 and beyond. But the lessons we have learned, and the innovations we have pioneered, will not soon leave us. We are building new practices that will last beyond COVID-19, and will benefit our learners for many years to come. Teaming together to transform the lives of our learners by providing them with a high-quality education.
Chief Executive Officer, Acorn Education.