During the last two weeks of school our Year 12 Chemistry, Biology and Physics students came into school to complete practical work in the laboratories. Completing practical assignments is an important skill as it allows students to apply the theory they have covered in class and I am certain that when the Year 12’s return next term they will complete many more such assignments.
Finally, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to every one of you. Thank you to every student, parent, and teacher for all the hard work and effort you put in this term. Without your dedication and hard work our program of online learning wouldn’t have been possible.
Please look after yourselves during this holiday and we look forward to welcoming you back next term.
Head of Academics High School
As one of the arguably most famous German authors said – You can only achieve success through doing. This term has proven this to me again.
Eight years ago I did a course in modern language learning methods using technology. We learned about blended learning, flipped classrooms and different websites to use. Since then a lot has changed and throughout the years I always wanted to implement more technology in teaching. Unfortunately, it never came to fruition since teaching the traditional way was just easier and more accessible to students. This lockdown has forced us as teachers and students to finally use all those technological tools out there.
Learning German with online tools has never been easier. The German government has supported the teaching of German in other countries for years now and therefore we have many different online platforms to choose from. Sites such as Deutsche Welle and Lingoni offer great Video learning tools. Duo Lingo is a fun way to support what is learnt in class with fun activities. Additional to this it has become a lot easier to create your own online Quizzes or videos to share with students.
Even though this time has been trying and difficult it was a great step forward. Practicing a language does work better in a classroom setting, and will never become unnecessary, but the past couple of months have shown me how language learning can also be successful through other means. If you never try you will never learn.
By the time you read this we will have been under lockdown for 49 days… who would’ve thought? Two weeks became 3 weeks then it was extended again or was it the other way around?
When we started online teaching most of us felt lost and must have watched the various “how to” videos at least 50 times. Now however, 49 days in, it’s old hat. Teaching Design and Technology has made me realise that things are always changing, and people are always looking for innovative ways to produce new products.
When reflecting on the situation in which we find ourselves today, I cannot help but think that Design and Technology will play a huge role in the future. For example, think about all those Zoom meetings you have attended. Now, as you know, you can change the background, but how professional is that Eiffel Tower in the background? Is that the look you want when hosting that all important board-meeting? I see that there is a South African company that sells professional-looking office and boardroom backgrounds. They can even recreate your actual office so you and your staff can feel right at home. Isn’t it amazing what Design and Technology software can do?
In Design and Technology, students are taught to improve the design of an existing product or design a something completely new altogether- the aim being to create something which will make our daily lives that little bit easier. My students are busy designing health care facilities made from shipping containers, vertical farming installations, fold-away study tables and an eco-friendly school, to name just a few of the exciting projects we have underway.
I am sure that we are all looking forward to seeing their final designs.
Design and Technology Teacher
I will be one of the first to admit that online teaching and learning certainly took some adapting to. My students and I rose to the challenge and I’m proud of what they have achieved.
Once more traditional expectations regarding the teaching of History have been removed, one discovers that the subject rather lends itself to the online environment. While history may have been taught to many as a long (and very boring) list of dates, the best way to learn history is to study historical sources. This is where online learning comes into its own as students have more time and room to explore than they would in a conventional classroom setting. Many activities can be easily adapted to the online environment and even the shy students can make their opinions heard.
I’ll admit to being especially proud of my senior students. Their dedication and passion for the subject is extremely encouraging, as is their continued academic excellence. They are true Cambridge students in every regard. The world needs more diligent, creative and passionate individuals like them.
- Pace yourself and use your time effectively
- Remove distractions from your work environment (put the phone away)
- Plan your essays – it actually helps you to write faster
- Speak to the teacher if you are uncertain or experiencing problems – we are here to help
- Collaborate with your peers – online learning does not mean that you have to learn alone
- Shortcuts lead to long delays – complete that classwork task!
The Coronavirus has led me to think that it is likely more fun to read about history than to create it (the parts that make the History books at any rate). Will we study this in years to come?
High School History Teacher
What Shakespeare can teach us about surviving online learning.
What do we English teachers do when times are tough? We look to the Bard of course! Who better to guide us through the online educational space than a writer who has been dead for over 400 years! Now before you scoff “nonsense” over the rim of your coffee mug and scroll to the next page, let’s consider this in a little more depth. The transition to online learning has been challenging for students and teachers alike and we have all been plagued by fears and doubts. First Language English is a subject which you may consider one of the easier subjects to study online and perhaps you have a point. I can email you a poem- you can read it- you can write me an essay about it. Bob’s your uncle, done and dusted. Bring on the next one… Well, not quite.
Why does an author write a book? Obviously they want people to read it, but more than that, they want people to talk about it; it’s the hushed conversation in smoky cafes, the heated discussions over a plate of Thai chicken niblets at an annual Book Club meeting and the dog-eared, coffee stained pages of a favourite book passed from parent to child. Literature provokes dialogue and debate and as I always say to my students “It’s okay to hate the story you’ve just read, but you must be able to tell me why”. Stories, poems, plays- they are meant to be read and shared and isn’t it a truism that it is just as satisfying to discuss something you love as something you hate?
This is why I want to be back in my classroom! Not just for my view of the mountain, but for the interaction; the back and forth across the classroom, the heated opinions and different perspectives which mingle and lap the edges of the room like a gentle wave on a summer’s day.
Simply put, it’s a lot more difficult to discuss a work of literature isolated from each other as we currently are. You can read the play yourself, sure, but where’s the fun in that? A play isn’t meant to be performed by one person, now is it? My belabored point is that teaching First Language English online is a challenge and no Zoom meeting or Google Hangout Meet can replicate the wonderful disorder of a good class discussion.
Back to my original point. So, what do we do when we feel the pressure, the stalking fear and self-doubt that comes with being chucked in the deep end of the pool and having to paddle like a crazed duck to stay afloat? To whom do we turn when the challenges of online learning become all too real? Why, to Shakespeare of course! As usual, our dear Bard has a few life lessons up his sleeve to help us cope.
- “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” We have all suffered the pangs of fear and self-doubt in navigating online learning and adapting to different methods of teaching. We should not doubt our abilities, for nothing ventured is nothing gained, and I am fairly sure our students are prey to the very same emotions which trouble us. We are capable of a lot more than we think- from teachers, to students and parents and self-doubt is the enemy of success.
- “Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.” Learn to listen. Perhaps the most valuable exercise I have done during online learning is to have my students to talk to me, rather than I to them. “Tell me the truth”, I say to them. “How is it really going?” I have spent many minutes at the beginning of online sessions just listening… listening to the complaints, the fears, the excuses and you know what? I really have learnt a lot. I am learning what is working and what isn’t. Online learning is a collaborative process and if both sides are honest about their expectations and progress, then the game is half won.
- “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.” Don’t be late. Shall we leave it at that and move on?
- “Pleasure and action make the hours seem short.” Keep busy and keep your mind active. I always imagined myself as the perfect lounge lizard, but to be honest, if I wasn’t working, I would’ve gone mad on Day 3 (Day 4 if Netflix released Outlander season 4). It’s important to keep ourselves busy and I don’t just mean with hours of admin and slog in front of the computer; I mean busy with activities which stimulate the mind. This goes for our students as well- research tasks which require them to think and engage with material. I enjoy setting argumentative and discursive topics for my students; topics which require them to have a good think and do a bit of research to support their opinions. They had to write a magazine article on the topic of cosmetic surgery and boy, the opinions flooded the room like bees after Pooh’s spilt honey pot. But they were engaged, I can promise you that.
- “The miserable have no other medicine, but only hope.” I’m sure we’ve all felt the cold tickling of misery at least once during lockdown but on the bright side, as the saying goes, there’s no way but up from here. Shakespeare reminds us that the doldrums only increase our focus on the horizon and the calm flats which lie ahead. Let us remain positive and instill this positivity in the students. Complaining may be temporarily cathartic but does little good. We are learning new skills, finding hidden talents and drawing on resources we never knew we had. It’s an adventure and like all good tales, it starts out filled with peril and looming disaster, but by the end we’re all safe at home with a nice cup of tea. Or more aptly for our context, by the end we’re all in each other’s homes sharing a nice pot of tea.
Take the Bard’s words to heart. Enjoy a good book and don’t try and argue with me that Shakespeare is no longer relevant! Stay safe everyone.
High School English Language and Literature Teacher
During this period of e-learning, the question in all our minds is: “Are the students coping?” This new method of teaching and learning is new to all of us and a shade of insecurity here and there is normal.
After observing my own daughter’s work habits, I have come to realise that the connection between students is incredibly important. Often after a lesson she will catch up with her peers as this is an opportunity for them to clear up any uncertainties about the lesson’s content or exchange information about pending assignments.
Collaboration is the key to success. This is not just true for the students, but also for teachers and parents. The support structure which exists between parents, teachers and students has never been more important in the goal of furthering and improving the e-learning experience. Let us not neglect student interaction during this time, as this sharing of information and collaboration would otherwise be a normal part of the school day.
In this theme of collaboration, we will be having our first online assemblies next week. A link will be sent to you via the Engage platform.
Monday, 27th of April, is a public holiday and we will thus continue our online lessons on Tuesday 28 April.
Don’t forget to have fun with your children during this time and I have therefore included a link to indoor activities for our children.
Teenagers are at high risk for depression and anxiety. They know what we want to hear, and that is what they often give us. Teens know the buzzwords, and talking about their emotions can be wrongly impacted by their preconceived ideas about what they think we want to hear.
Teens who are good with words can use them as a disguise rather than a method of self-discovery. Furthermore, for other adolescents, discussing feelings may be frightening or uncomfortable. The creative process does not allow for that kind of manipulation to happen. Creative arts get teens out of their heads and into their bodies. The teen brain is wired for creativity. Consequently, creative expression is a natural fit to support thriving in adolescents. Creativity is part of building one’s identity. In addition, it supports brain development. Being creative even reduces anxiety. It makes us happier. Creativity and teen mental health go hand in hand.
The act of doing something creative employs various parts of the brain. That is why being creative enhances connectivity in the brain. Connectivity refers to the relationships between different areas of the brain. A study published in 2014 suggests that people with artistic training have improved connectivity between the two hemispheres of their brains. Creative arts, including music and visual art go beyond the rational mind, tapping into our most authentic self. Adolescents, in particular, are attracted to making symbols and graphic depictions. Therefore, they are more attracted to using art as language than to verbal questioning.”
Creativity help teens develop what is known as divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is a process of generating creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. The creative experience produces a natural “high”. Simply viewing art and listening to music stimulates the brain to release dopamine, the “pleasure chemical”. This is the same chemical that is triggered when we fall in love.
Actively making art or music has a similar effect. In addition, it induces a state of flow, a term coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. This flow describes the experience of being completely absorbed in an activity. It means participating in a reality that is different from that of everyday life. As a result, experiences of flow are the key to sustainable happiness. Teenagers ascribe ‘happiness’ to their moods when they are able to engage in flow activities that stretch their skills and makes them feel alive and proud. Creativity, in particular, produces flow. Moreover, unplugged creative activities for teenagers offer both flow and a mini digital detox.
Creative arts prepares teens to be creative in other areas of life. It comes into play as teens learn new ways of relating to their past, present and new approaches to dealing with pain, trauma, or difficult relationships.
High School Art and Design Teacher
On the 1st of April, teachers and students alike embarked on a new and unfamiliar journey – the world of online teaching and learning. As a biology teacher it took some thought and much planning to adjust to the challenges of moving my subject onto a virtual platform. Getting to grips with the technological side of online teaching seemed like a daunting task at first.
I found myself being a student again, having to learn how to use Google Classroom in much greater depth than I ever thought I would have to. After a few days of trial and error, however, the sailing went much smoother and I realised just how adaptable a person can be when the situation requires it. Soon I was uploading videos of myself teaching content, having live Google Meet sessions to check in with my students, scheduling lesson content and doing online registers as though this is the way its always been done.
Navigating classes from a distance has been made easier by the many dedicated students that work to their full capacity at home and provide valuable feedback on their Biology online experience. This feedback is helpful in adjusting the system to ensure that the learning process continues even though we are not at school. I have been astounded by the resilience of many students who have also had to figure out how to approach online classes and manage their time independently from a typical school environment.
The following tips for working from home have been very helpful the past two weeks:
- Have a set routine: This is important as it brings some structure to your day in these uncertain times.
- Take regular breaks: Working from home can be taxing and intense so take many short breaks if you can.
- Spend some time outside: Being cooped up indoors for long periods of time can have a negative impact on your mood and well being so try to spend at least 15 minutes a day outside (weather permitting).
- Cuddle with your pets: If you have pets at home it can lower your stress levels and blood pressure by stroking them for a while.
- Be kind to yourself: Do the best you can do but do not push yourself beyond your limits.
“You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to” – Robin Williams
High School Biology Teacher
The high school started various new clubs for students to join in 2020. Clubs play a big social role in a student’s school career. It fosters a great sense of school pride and responsibility. Joining a club also allows for students to form a stronger bond with their peers as well as discover new friendships.
We hope to see our clubs continue to grow from strength to strength.
The Service Club is a new society that was founded in the high school at the beginning of 2020. Over thirty five students from Years 7 to 11 have joined the group. The purpose of the Service Club is to assist with tasks pertaining to day-to-day school activities, as well as serving at school events.
Although the Service Club has only been in existence for a short time, its members have been quite busy. Students assisted the SRC during Open Day, acted as messengers and raked the long jump pits at ISA, helped to entertain children in the nursery at the Food Fair and helped to set up chairs and tables for the Food Fair.
Perhaps the group’s most prestigious task yet was assisting with the school’s Shakespeare production. Members of the service club assisted with various backstage duties at the Fugard Theatre and also assisted with backstage work, ticket sales and helping parents to their seats when the production was held at the school.
The members of the Service Club are extremely diligent and show great loyalty to their school. They are always looking for more ways in which to serve. Members will be happy to learn that their long-awaited badges will be delivered soon.
Service Club Coordinator
In Term 1 the Garden Club took on the Spekboom Challenge. This challenge was to propagate a 100 Spekboom and to plant them at school.
We gathered a lot of cuttings and received many generous plant donations from parents. To date we have propagated 118 Spekboom plants and all of them have been successful.
We are looking forward to going back to school so that we can plant them out in the gardens of the school.
Our project for Term 2 would have been to establish a sustainable herb garden, from which parents and teachers could gather lovely fresh herbs. As soon as we are able, we will get this project underway.
Garden Club Coordinator
Last term saw the official launch of the BIS Chess Club. The club began with only three students, but by the end of term we had more than doubled in size.Chess develops the students’ ability to think critically and fuels their competitive spirit, which has led to some highly entertaining matches! Special mention must be made of Nicholas Neethling in Year 7 who took it upon himself to coach new students who hadn’t played chess before.
This club has great potential and I am excited to see how the club expands as the year progresses and the difference it will make in these students’ lives.
Chess Club Coordinator
The after-school Walking Club had only a few keen participants during Term 1. There were some very hot, windy days and if that’s the reason why you have not joined, I encourage all the students who are not busy on a Wednesday afternoon to join in Term 2 when we have lovely cooler days to look forward to.
We leave the school campus at 15h10 and take a brisk walk down the green belt close to school and back. It is roughly 2.2 km. It is great to get some fresh air after a busy day in the classroom and we have so much fun, sharing jokes whilst getting fit. We are going to enter as a BIS team for various charity walks such as Blisters for Bread, as soon as we are able to.
It is also a great way to get to meet students from other grades.
I hope to see you sign up for Term 2.
Carmen de Villiers
Walking Club Coordinator
Here are a few ways to remain positive during this time:
- Set boundaries and take care of yourself, both mentally and physically.
- Take time away from the online world (internet, social media, emails etc.).
- Pursue a neglected hobby or take up a new one.
- Keep informed about the situation, but do not become burdened with negativity.
- Reach out to others (within the boundaries of social distancing) and be a blessing in someone’s life.
- Make time for family activities and value the time spent with loved ones.
There is a writer in you, in all of us! This is the perfect time to write that story which may prove to be the inspiration someone else so desperately seeks.
We are all looking forward to hearing our President say that our lives are going back to normal, but hopefully this experience will affect our perception of normal; hopefully it will have taught us new skills and offer us a different way of looking at life.
I wish you all a blessed Easter weekend and hope you enjoy some wonderful family time.