21st Century Teaching in a Time of Pandemic
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Sherrierose Garcia Gonzales
Middle-High School Principal

This week’s School Voice belongs to Sherrierose Garcia Gonzales, Middle-High School Principal at BINUS School – Serpong. Located near Jakarta, BINUS School – Serpong is a Cambridge International School with 1,100 students. This week’s post is part two in a series. 

Intelligence is a Given

If you meet someone, you don’t say “I like you because your IQ is 120.” You’ll never hear somebody say that. But they will say “I like so-and-so who is friendly, kind, or funny.” Academics will always be at the backbone of every school. But in this day and age, intelligence is a given. With how the times and technology are changing, we need more good people to manage all these changes. We are a school that nurtures and empowers good people, and that compassion and ability to do things for others is going to be what’s important for all schools, not just ours. 

School Mission Meets Pandemic 

As a school, there are three things we focus on. First is character building. I think the pandemic has shown us how resilient people can be. At first it was a shock, but after a few months of trying to get over what happened, we said “OK, let’s get up, let’s move forward.” For people who have needs, we said “let’s help them.” For people who are able to support that need, we said “let’s go out there.” One of the things we’re most proud of as a school is the kids’ ability to go out there and to serve in the community. One thing we always highlight to the students is for those who have much, there is a responsibility to give back. 

Second is innovative learning. “Innovative” right now is the operative word because everyone is on home learning. I think for the kids it’s a lot of shock. Of course, they liked to stay home for one day, two days, or three days; that was perfectly fine. But right now they’ve been cooped up at home since March. It takes a lot of effort for teachers to get them engaged, ensuring that they’re not sleeping, that they’re not doodling, and that they find value in their learning even though they’re at home. One thing we had to make all of the stakeholders — teachers, students, parents — realize is that home learning is not supposed to replicate face-to-face learning. It doesn’t happen because the conditions are very different. Home learning, or online learning, is supposed to provide an alternative means for kids to continue their education.  

Third is compassionate leadership. At the end of the day we want the kids to go beyond sympathizing and empathizing. We want kids, even at this age, to act on their sympathy and empathy. We want them to go out and give back, to help their peers who have less than they do. We want them to go out in society and be empowered to help other people outside of their family, outside of their immediate community. The pandemic has clearly shown us that we all need to help each other. We don’t know what’s going to happen after the pandemic, and we don’t know when it’s going to end. If we just say cooped up in our little corner of the world, if we keep doing things the old way, we’re not going to survive. 


Back to School Has Changed 

As educators, we all need to share best practices about what’s working during these times so we can all do our best in our own respective schools. Last year, when the pandemic first hit in Indonesia, we felt the priority was to manage the curriculum first. We had to be sure that what the kids were learning in the fourth term would be enough for them to close up the year and take the A Levels. And thank God, Cambridge found that the results were very good.   

For us, because of the uncertainty of the whole situation and how it’s going to affect the health and safety of the kids, we have already been more proactive in running the academic year this time around. Now we are preparing for a full academic year, and what we’re trying to do is phase in the year.  

Scheduling has been very interesting. Some of our students take 14 different subjects a week, so we had to figure out how to manage their virtual movement among classes while we’re on home learning. It’s a lot easier for them to move from one class to another if we are all on one platform. Right now our school platform is Microsoft Teams. All our students have a full license for Microsoft applications at home. We spent time training the kids on MS Teams. Although they already knew how to navigate media, they still needed to learn the Teams ecosystem. We trained our teachers the same way.  

Of course, we’ve also had to beef up our IT infrastructure. We had to bring in a lot of utilities to make sure the Internet was running well. And right now, we’re preparing to buy new graphic pads to help the teachers with sciences and math, to make it easier for them to write out equations. We’re just like other schools around the world, trying to fulfill the commitment we made to parents and students at the end of the year, pandemic or no pandemic. 

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