In the 1950s, the American philosopher J.L. Austin introduced the concept of performative utterances to describe the rare situations when words produce reality. For example when the President announces that the session is open, then, almost as if by magic, the session opens. Or when you say ‘I do’ at the town hall and next thing you know, you find yourself married.
Just a few weeks ago, we were wishing each other a healthy and happy 2020, but it seems that despite our best intentions, we have failed massively to make our utterances performative. We have not succeeded in averting calamity with our best wishes. Instead, we find ourselves faced with a global health emergency and our school, as you know only too well, has not escaped unscathed.
On Monday, the teachers started putting e-learning practices into place in order to lessen the impact of the school closure on children’s learning this term. I am extremely grateful to them for the flexibility they have shown in adapting their teaching methods to meet the demands of the current situation. It is a learning curve and we are refining our methods everyday, to try and make them as “user-friendly” as possible. I know that for some parents the first few days were a bit hit-and-miss, I’d like to thank them for their positive and constructive feedback and for their support and encouragement, all of which have helped us get a clearer idea of what the situation is like at home – on the other side of the computer.
Not all schools are as lucky as we are to have a committed teaching team and a wide range of quality digital teaching tools at their disposal. There are plenty of schools whose teachers and families haven’t been able to return from their Chinese New Year holidays and are stranded in their holiday destination, making it nigh on impossible to set up effective e-learning routines. We could (should seems too strong a word) consider ourselves lucky at the French Section to all be here in Taipei (and to be able to use Google Classroom – spare a thought for those who are in China and cannot do the same…)
The AEFE is keeping us regularly informed of the different decisions that are being made: all CPD seminars are cancelled for teaching staff, as are all school trips, which sadly means we have to cancel this year’s Nuit du c0de and that our students will not be able to take part in the final of the Budding Ambassadors debating competition.
The AEFE is also in conversation with the French Ministry of Education. We have been reassured that none of our Terminale students will be penalised if they don’t have the usual highly-detailed report card at the end of the second semester. We also know that they are discussing the organisation of the ongoing assessment in 1ère and are considering a change of date for the exams that were initially scheduled for March.
Every day, TES’s IT department and the AEFE pedagogical service sends us new ideas and tools to use in our communication with students. However, we are encouraging our teachers not to overdo the number of platforms they are using- they need to take the necessary time to familiarise themselves with all of the different methods and master them before they can roll them out to the students – it is an incredibly time consuming process.
We are going through a period of turbulence; it is anxiety-inducing and not very pleasant. However, the support from parents, the hard work from teachers, the enthusiasm from students, the commitment from our office staff at school daily making sure things continue to run smoothly – are all a source of reassurance to me. Our community may be a virtual one at the moment, but despite everything, it is clearly still a tight-knit one too.