21 Jan 2022

Lessons from Lockdown: Dundalk schools welcome back students

Lessons from Lockdown: Dundalk schools welcome back students

Coláiste Chú Chulainn pupils back in class

Coláiste Chú Chulainn reflects  on lessons learned during lockdown and welcomes its students back.  
Coláiste Chú Chulainn secondary school principal, Thomas Sharkey, was happy that it found a ‘balanced model of teaching and learning’ during long periods of lockdowns.

But noted the staff are uniformly looking forward to welcoming all students back over the coming weeks.  

"It was a period of learning for everyone, we all had to learn new ways of doing things, students and teachers.

"But we were fortunate that we have always had access to powerful collaboration tools since the get-go in our school. 

"Our students are familiar with logging into their school accounts and Teams pages, this is something we’ve been focusing on in our new ICT labs.’

"Ultimately that made for a fluid transition into remote learning.

"Live Teams lessons as per the timetable, flexible assignments and self-directed work combined with video lessons uploaded onto our private video hosting site, gave students ample chances to learn with others, interact with instructors and progress their own pace."

It was a model inspired by other successful remote educational providers like the Open University and Hibernia College. 

Students were given their schedule at the start of the week; their aims and tasks and they work towards them with teacher help.  

Mr Sharkey noted that, given the circumstances, "I think we remained true to our vision to plan, model and deliver success." 

Teachers have found it testing too. Teachers up and down the country have had to re-skill and adjust.

In Coláiste Chú Chulainn it was a testament to the nimbleness of staff that events like cross-border collaborative projects, guest speakers, remote experiments, and fitness challenges, complimented other remote learning, Mr Sharkey said.

Dates are also scheduled to welcome incoming students starting in first year, later this year. 

He added that there were positives to be taken from the experience of working remotely, while expressing a strong belief that being back in a ‘bricks and mortar setting’ was something staff and students were looking forward to.

"As a school community, we adapted.

"We’ve been pro-active with contacting parents; with regular reports, letters, curriculum plans, online information webinars and text messages.

"Year-heads have been able to use our software suite, to quickly gather information on a student’s engagement and progress week-to-week, from all their teachers, to generate graphs of performance and to update parents on this.

"This information is valuable and it’s something we’re going to keep doing beyond lockdown to keep parents more informed and involved."

Mr Sharkey, and their Year-Head, Maria Nic Eochaidh, have had the sixth-year students back for two weeks now and spoke of the relief of seeing others and getting a degree of normality back, as being ‘palpable’.

It was felt that sixth years have been through the mill but rose to the occasion.  

"They have shown great guile and bouncebackability, essentials for the next step in their education and the modern workplace."

"It’s hoped that teaching and learning will continue right up until the end of May."

Mr Sharkey concluded that the staff were "looking forward to supporting our students over the next few months and doing what we do best". 

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