EDUCATION will look different when students return full time to Hunter classrooms next week, as teachers take advantage of new initiatives that proved effective during remote learning.
NSW Secondary Principals' Council Hunter president and Kotara High principal Mark Snedden said teachers' efforts over the past two months had been "absolutely astronomical - I can't overstate that enough" as they adapted in response to COVID-19 and moved from a face to face mode of delivery, to remote mode, to currently juggling both modes, ahead of a resumption of face to face from next Monday.
"They've worked hard and it's been quite stressful," Mr Snedden said.
"But there's a silver lining. We grew so much in education in such a short period of time.
"It's quite exciting, quite invigorating, to look at what our staff can achieve."
Mr Snedden said it could be hard for educators to shift pedagogy because they were confined to timelines of what they needed to teach each semester, reporting and meeting the needs of external examinations, but the pandemic had presented an "unprecedented opportunity".
"Did we waste this time? No, we didn't at all, it's a unit of work that would have been taught anyway," he said.
"There will be parts of that where I believe schools will go 'You know what, the way we delivered that solely online is better than chalk and talk, let's keep it'.
"The challenge for schools now is for them to assess, through this pandemic, what did we do differently that we would have never possibly done that we go, 'You know what, we value that and that needs to stay'.
"That will be the focus of a lot of professional learning between now and the end of the year.
"I'm interested to share with other principals what their staff saw as effective and valuable and I might grab some of that myself!
"Let's utilise the good things and keep them, let's not throw them out and go back to what we did before if there's something better that we have developed."
While the government has emphasised the singular mode of delivery going forward will be face to face, Mr Snedden said it would more likely resemble a "hybrid" mode.
"It will be really foolish to let go of some of the good things, because universities are moving towards the more remote modes of delivery," he said.
"We need to embrace that and our students live in that world all the time. We need to spend more time adopting that because students don't necessarily need a teacher to learn anymore, so where's the hybrid, where's the middle ground?"
Mr Snedden said despite short term upheaval, students would be "better off".
"There might be resources or activities, like the modes of delivery, that we had to do in this forum that now we've seen students complete them we might go 'Wow that's better than the way we've been doing it for the last five years, let's keep it."
NSW Primary Principals' Association Newcastle president and Kotara South Public principal Sue Maxworthy said teachers had "turned on a hairpin and produced some amazing outcomes for kids in a really short time in a global crisis".
"They adapt and innovate and overcome," she said.
"They will keep the best parts of that teaching that has been prepared, adapt it for what works well back in face to face classroom teaching and still take the best of what was happening with the online learning from home and adapt that for our school.
"It's not like we throw the baby out with the bathwater. It's a wonderful watershed moment in education that we have had a mass of information produced by people all over the state.
"In a career we will look at this COVID time as pre-COVID and post-COVID. It's exciting the changes we can make in our pedagogical approach... and really fit the needs of our students."
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