building communities – schooling in the time of covid-19

A look at how people are coping with schooling and education in this global pandemic, and how it has affected students, parents and teachers around the world. 


Carlie is a teacher aide at Brisbane Independent School, in the state capital’s western suburbs, which was attended by both her children, now 19 and 15. She says it is an “integral school,” which “focuses on supporting understanding and development of each learner – students, parents and educators – in social, emotional, physical and academic learning, using a developmental model.”

She recalls news about coronavirus popping up before January when it really came to prominence for her, but it was overshadowed by Australia’s bushfire crisis and its fallout. (Author’s note: Many people in Australia were still struggling to recover after the devastating bushfires in summer, and now have to deal with this new crisis also.)

Since mid-March, Carlie has been working from home and her children studying remotely. Her school has been “incredibly proactive” with processes and procedures in development, which have been implemented since the start of the year.

She says there was a mixed reaction to being locked down and staying at home in the general community, but people seem to be taking the situation more seriously now.

“As our processes rolled out at school, we had many school-wide community conversations,” she says. “Fortunately, we have several parents who are in the medical field, able to add weight to the implementation of measures the school was taking. We offered the option of voluntary learning from home from the middle of March, with take-home packs collected by parents and our learning at home up and running, while maintaining on-site classes for students who remained at school.”

Her school is adding to how its Emergency Home Learning will work, looking towards next term. It plans to maintain academic learning, but not at the expense of social and emotional learning.

“Our focus as we look towards term two is on supporting our children and their families in developing skills and strategies for managing their emotional and physical selves during the current health crisis. With our community, we are looking to understand how our children’s learning journeys will shift and what opportunities this presents for them as learners and for us as educators.”

She says it is incredibly distressing to me to hear children, particularly in senior high school so anxious about what this unprecedented situation will mean for their futures.

“My youngest, in grade 10, is no exception. Learning is a lifelong process to engage in. I’m hopeful that this current crisis will provoke some much-needed shift in state and national education policies, with the focus of education being brought back to the needs of the children as whole people, rather than the current mainstream system which seems to be based on the belief that children are empty vessels for us to pour facts into.”

Carlie says for her and her family, as well as her work, the important lesson from this crisis is about community, connection and going slow.

“Being together. Enjoying each other’s company and making the most of what we have got. Watching plants grow. Listening to the birds. Engaging in all of the half-finished projects and hobbies we usually ‘don’t have time for’,” she says.

“I have time now, so I’m going to use it well.”