Interviews with members of the Alia community from Junior English
by Claudine (Yr 8), Hagan (english teacher), Kelly (Yr 8) and Sylvie (Yr 7)
“I know writing it down is important to us… It’s terribly, terribly important. Recording what we’ve done in words, on paper, it’s got to be our way of telling ourselves that we mean something, that we matter. That the things we’ve done have made a difference.”
— p. 2, Tomorrow When The War Began, John Marsden
What a time to be studying something like Tomorrow When The War Began! A story about Australia’s invasion by an unnamed foreign power and the struggles of a hardy group of teenagers fighting back, replete with philosophical reflections about memory and keeping records and dying for a cause, seems just removed enough from our reality to be a great read, and to make you think. Lucky for the 7 & 8 English class, (although some still don’t seem to appreciate it), their ever in-touch teacher savvily selected TWTWB as the text for Term III.
We discussed questions like “What is a Teenager?” and “What is courage?” and thought about how we might capture our own historic moment. The beginning of Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl prompted a lot of discussion about how great it was to hear her quotidian insights into the characteristics of her classmates (“Maurice Coster is one of my many admirers, but pretty much of a pest… Rob Cohen used to be in love with me too, but I can’t stand him anymore. He’s an obnoxious, two-faced, lying, sniveling little goof who has an awfully high opinion of himself.”) juxtaposed with broader social and historical context about her family’s situation (“Our lives were not without anxiety, since our relatives in Germany were suffering… after May 1940 the good times were few and far between”).
One of the tasks we set ourselves was to interview different members of the Alia community and find out how they have been coping with the lockdown. The following interviews have been conducted via Google Meet or email, and presented by the students. I haven’t edited the interviews (except the one I conducted), and aside from formatting them to fit the website, they are pretty much as the students presented them to me.
COVID Interview with Bob
Kelly (Yr 8) – Do you find students are more or less engaged learning online rather than in person?
Bob (Principal) – Some are more engaged, some are less.
Kelly – What is it like being on campus with the majority of people not there?
Bob – It’s kind of cool, like in more ways than one. 1. It is actually colder because when there are lots of warm bodies around it is warmer. 2. It is kind of intriguing because I have such a messy desk and stuff spread everywhere normally and it’s forcing me to get organised.
*2 minutes of talking about cats shedding*
Kelly – What is your favourite element of the Alia community and how had COVID impacted that?
Bob – Oh my god why don’t you ask me a hard question?
Kelly – Because my brain is fried in english
Bob – It’s like what’s my favourite part of something, like give me a break. My favourite part changes like every 5 minutes when the next thing happens in the school and I decide that I really really like that or really really don’t like something….It changes too much.
Kelly – What’s something that hasn’t changed?
Bob – Somehow I still get interrupted just as much as I always did, that’s weird you know you’d think there’d be a bit of peace on this end but it’s still “What do we do about this? What do we do about that?”
Kelly – Do you feel as though COVID-19 has affected the morale around Alia?
Bob – I thought it would but I’m not sure if it has, but you’d be a better person to ask that. Do you think it has or not?
Kelly – I’m not sure but I think I talk more because I can’t read the room even though I kind of already know everyone wants me to shut up but I just keep going even though no-one cares about my uncle’s cousin’s mother’s daughter in law’s child’s best friend’s lizard.
Bob – I don’t agree with that, I think people are very happy about your talkativeness and I think that they feel when you’re not around and there’s hardly anyone saying anything it is kind of like well where is Kelly?
Kelly – What has changed since the beginning of remote learning to now?
Bob – It’s weird I have now started enrolling kids into the school without ever having met them.
Interview with Giselle
Last week I [Sylvie (Yr 7)— ed.] interviewed Giselle, a latin teacher and great friend at Alia; here are the results.
How has your quarantine been so far?
Quarantine feels like the new norm after all these weeks! Although it can be pretty challenging, and I do miss my friends and family, there are definitely benefits. I really enjoy having more time on the weekends now that they are not filled with social engagements. I have more time to relax, plan my classes, and work on my uni assignments. I am a bit of a homebody so all in all Ii think I’ve been coping quite well during lockdown. It also helps that I have some company, as I live with Francesca, Tomer and my husband, Charlie. [for context, Francesca is Giselle’s sister, and she also works at Alia. Tomer is Francesca’s husband, who worked at Alia until earlier this year. — ed.]
What was it like producing a song during quarantine?
We actually produced Let the River Flow way before lockdown, so instead I’ll let you know how it was releasing a song in lock down! It’s always nerve wracking sharing your art with the world, but also a very rewarding experience. Being in lock down has given us a chance to really soak it all in and stay on top of our various social media platforms. It has also been a great distraction from the monotony of lockdown!
Have you been in touch with your family and friends during lockdown?
I speak to my dad, stepmom and brothers every Saturday morning which is always great. I speak to my mum every now and then, and also call my grandma every few weeks. In terms of my friends, I keep in touch in a variety of ways: sometimes through text, sometimes a phone call, and every now and then a video chat.
What is it like teaching at alia in lockdown?
I think it’s pretty amazing. I love that we have online classes that mimic the on-campus timetable and I feel like the school community is still pretty connected. It’s definitely tricky not being able to gauge students’ reactions and engagement in the class, but I think we have all adapted really well and are making it work as best we can!
What are you most excited to do once COVID-19 is cured and quarantine is over?
Definitely excited to see my family and friends. I’m also looking forward to a camping trip, and going out for dinner and a movie!
Claudine (Yr 7) interviews her brother Gabe (Yr 8) — ed.
So i’m going to be interviewing you and asking you a few questions about corona and how its been for you during this pandemic.
Question 1: How has COVID-19 affected your education?
I found it a bit difficult though I’m getting use to it now because i’d much rather be in school learning with the teacher in front of me but I’m still grateful that I can be learning.
Question 2: How have you been coping, what are the things you’ve been doing to get you though?
Just keeping busy, keeping my mind distracted, doing things around the house, staying active, going for walks to the local park you know, just trying to have as much fun as I can.
Yeah, yep fully agree.
Question 3: Has not being able to see your friends had a big impact on you?
To be honest, nah because my mates are good, we’re always tight so it doesn’t matter where we are. We don’t have to be seeing each other all the time regardless. We’ve been FaceTiming and that to keep that “face to face” contact.
Question 4: have you learnt anything during this time? If so could you name a few?
Not really I think that now I’m definitely more grounded and learnt more about myself with all the down time because there hasn’t been that constant busy world running around me. If I’ve “learnt something” it’d be appreciating the little things and seeing how quickly things can change and that we would take advantage of before all this.
Question 5: How has this quarantine been different in comparison to the 1st in your opinion?
This one feels really long and you can’t do anything and it came out of the blue but to compare the two the first one we could still be going out and laws were less “lets knuckle down and get this thing over with” and more “what the hell is going on let’s just try this.”
Yeah really true, anyway that sums it up, thank you!
Hagan’s (English teacher) interview with Ash (accounts manager) for Junior English
Hagan: What’s it like being on campus without anyone else there?
Ash: Lonely. Very quiet. Very productive.
Hagan: You’re getting more work done?
Ash: Yep, but it feels weird not seeing the kids every day, and I don’t like it. Every now and then a student will pop in on Google Meet and I’m like, “I actually miss you!” It feels like every day is school holidays.
Hagan: Do you find people are more or less responsive to your communication? Is it easier to get information out to people or is it harder?
Ash: People are more responsive, I think. But no, because you can’t pull them up in the kitchen and say, “Hey, I had to ask you something.” You really have to put in the time to compose an email and send something off and hope they respond to that email.Like, with students, if you want to ask a student something, you see them in the foyer and you say, “Oh, hey!” It’s definitely more difficult.
Hagan: It’s not like, “Hey, have you moved house?” “Yes.”
Ash: Exactly. “Okay, write down your new address on this piece of paper for me. Here’s a pen.”
Hagan: What is something about the ALlia community that you like that’s been affectedeffected by Coronavirus.
Ash: Being able to see the students interact with each other. Which I think is something that, you don’t realise how great they are until they aren’t there to be able to see. Even just something as simple as looking through a classroom and, even walking through the Senior Homeroom in the middle of the class and seeing the students being with the teacher and with each other. Just appreciating the closeness of everyone. There’s none of that here anymore, it’s all just empty.
Hagan: You’re making me feel sad!
Ash: I’m sad!
Hagan: It’s a sad thing. I always loved standing in the foyer on a Friday afternoon in the foyer and seeing teachers, students, people from the office just standing around.
Ash: Just chatting.
Hagan: How do you think COVID-19 has affectedeffected the morale around the school?
Ash: I don’t know. I can’t really tell because I can’t see anyone, anywhere. I’m hoping when things go back to normal that what was there will still be there. But at the moment I haven’t even attended a Whole School Meeting for a while now, so I’m not even able to see how the students are interacting with each other now. In terms of staff, I actually think COVID has probably brought us closer, and has almost forced us to work as a team. Not that we never worked as a team, but because we’re apart so often, the communication is more frequent. But I don’t know.
Hagan: Do you think much has changed between the two lockdowns?
Ash: Personally, or for Alia? Personally I’m struggling so much more, but around Alia I actually think it’s probably a bit less hectic, because we know what we’re doing. We know how the classes are set up, and teachers are obviously a lot more confident with running their classes online, even if it’s not ideal. I think there’s just a lot of being over it. The first lockdown almost had a novelty about it, almost a weird excitement like, “Oh wow, this has never happened before!” But now that we have done it, and are doing it again, even more strictly, I think a lot of students and staff are more like aughoowahoohaugh… I don’t know how you’re going to write that in a transcript but, you know.
Hagan: I’ll have to look up the spelling. When do you think this will all end? In your expert opinion.
Ash: In my expert opinion as an accounts and VASS person, I think we will still be going through some form of restrictions for a while, I’m talking a year. But I’m hoping if people stop being idiots and start actually listening to what people are saying to do, and the restrictions aren’t likem, walls down, everyone run wild like it was last time. Hopefully we can have some normality by the end of the year.
Hagan: Have you found anything that is helping you get through the lockdown?
Ash: Coming in to work on Fridays, and actually getting out of the house. Probably just staying in touch with friends and not wallowing in the horribleness of everything at the moment. Trying to stay positive, which is really hard sometimes. Trying to think about what’s happening now, and not thinking about the what ifs. You know, “What if we’re stuck in lockdown forever?” or “What if a vaccine is never created?” You know, not thinking about the things we can’t control. And getting in touch with the people that make you feel good.
Hagan: Sounds simple but sage. The end.
Ash: Whoo! Felt like I was being interviewed. Well, I was being interviewed.