‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ Hebrews 13:5(b) (NIV)
Well, it is actually three weeks since I wrote my last Bytes article and a great deal has happened in the world of education since that time. On that previous occasion, we had just completed Week 2 of this term and most students were still working off-site, participating in an online lesson delivery program. However, our HSC students had just returned to school to complete a three day week. I wrote a letter to parents and carers at this time, indicating that the transition back to on-site learning appeared to be underway as a result of announcements that had just been made by our NSW Premier.
This transition back to school for all NSW students certainly gained momentum very quickly. This week at NCS has seen all of our students from K-12 back at school and engaging in full-time teacher directed learning. What an amazing contrast we have witnessed across these first two terms of 2020 in relation to student attendance at school. At one stage during Term 1, at the height of the ‘lock-down’ phase, we had only 55 students in total actually on-site. On Monday of this past week, we had 403 students at school with only 22 away for a variety of reasons. As you can clearly see, 2020 has been a year of amazing contrasts and change.
Before I go any further, I would again wish to take this opportunity to sincerely thank every member of our Nowra Christian School community, whether you are a student, parent/carer or staff member, for the amazing way in which you have responded to these unprecedented times. Your support, flexibility and understanding, as our school has journeyed through this time of constant change, has been greatly appreciated. Our three key values at NCS are ‘care, community and character’ and I have seen these important qualities abundantly displayed time and time again as each one of you have made significant adjustments to your usual programs and routines.
Most mornings during these past weeks, I have aimed to be outside near the carpark area, along with other members of staff, in order to welcome students and parents/carers as you have been arriving at school. I have been greatly encouraged to see your smiling faces as you have delivered your children back to school. I have also been most appreciative of the way in which you have positively responded to our requests to promptly drop off and pick up your children without stopping to engage in extended conversations with others. You have clearly understood the important health and safety reasons that have prompted such requests.
I can assure you that schools can be strangely quiet and lonely places when most of our students are situated off-site. Our staff have been delighted to hear the sounds of happy children as they have engaged in conversations around our school grounds during recess and lunchtimes. In fact, just this Friday morning, I decided to visit every one of our classes from Kindergarten through to our Years 11 and 12 HSC students. What a pleasure it was to see all of our students productively engaged in a wide range of learning activities under the direction of their teachers. It was a powerful confirmation that our school is rapidly returning to the friendly and relational community that we all appreciate and value so much!
I was again reminded that learning takes place in a wide variety of ways as I have wandered around the school, observing our students participating in learning activities both within and beyond their classrooms. I thought that I would share just two diverse examples of these learning experiences with you. The first of these occurred when my curiosity was aroused when Mr Tasker, our ICT Manager, drove his car around to just outside the COLA shelter area near our Infants classrooms. He stopped and put the bonnet of his car up and then waited. I wondered what was happening – perhaps his car had broken down? However, he was then joined by groups of young students who I later learned had been studying the topic of ‘engines’. Inside the classroom they had drawn what they believed would lie beneath the bonnet of a car. They then came and looked closely at the real thing. After this they returned to their classrooms to draw a more accurate picture of the real engine that they had just observed.
The second example occurred on Friday afternoon when I received a request from Mrs Smith, one of our Stage 3 teachers. Her students had been working on a descriptive writing task. They were exploring the importance of using powerful descriptive words to help bring characters to life. Their task was to create an imaginary animal or character and then to use powerful words to describe its key features. Mrs Smith’s request was for one of her students, Tyla B, to come to my office. The plan was that he would read out his detailed description and I would use the clues to draw a picture of his amazing creation. Well, Tyla’s writing was certainly both powerful and imaginative. I am not a renowned artist but I will let you judge how well I went as I listened carefully to Tyla’s descriptive writing.
During this last week, I also had the privilege of, once again, visiting our new building site as we held another of our PCG (Project Control Group) meetings. I was greatly encouraged to see the further progress that has been made and this visit again vividly reminded me that, in many ways, this project represents a symbolic statement that our school is continuing to build for a bright and exciting future. I was reminded that NCS is ‘God’s school’ and that He has a plan and a purpose for our community that will not be thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
I have previously commented that I have been most grateful that, even though for a period of time most of our staff team were located off-site, technology allowed us to meet virtually together each morning for a devotional session. This has been a great encouragement to me personally and to all members of our staff. During the past few weeks, various staff members have brought devotional topics to our team that have reminded us of God’s goodness, of where we can locate true happiness and that we need not be paralysed by fear as a result of this COVID-19 pandemic.
Just this Friday morning, we were reminded of God’s amazing promises to His people. Mrs Baker, who was the staff member presenting this devotion, provided us with a list of 15 of these promises that are located in the Bible. My focus verse today is taken from this list and it can be found in Hebrews 13:5(b). It states, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ This is a great encouragement, especially as we have all been facing the dire challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. What a great reassurance it is to remember that our God has not deserted us during this time. Mrs Baker also provided us with a musical clip by Elevation Worship. The song was entitled ‘Do it again’ and I found it to be most encouraging. The lyrics reminded us that
‘Your promise still stands’
I’m still in Your hands –
Great is Your faithfulness.’
I have included a link to this song and I trust that you might find the time to listen to it with members of your family. May it remind you that we do serve a faithful God who wants to assure us that we can trust completely in His promises.