Zoom presentations have become a normal part of the day following pandemic lockdowns. But imagine cooking up some popcorn and sitting down with your family to a polished Shakespearean performance via Zoom, starring your child and their talented classmates…
A Virtual Shakespeare Festival via Zoom is just one of the many innovative ways John Colet School (JCS) has continued to provide exceptional education, and ensure their upper primary students are instilled with the skills and confidence they need in preparation for high school.
Headmaster Julian Wilcock said students often tell him that the Shakespeare component is one of their favourite parts about JCS.
“Learning about Shakespeare and immersing themselves in that world is something that extends and excites students. Often they have to wait until they reach high school to get to do a play,” said Mr Wilcock.
Drama Teacher Zoe Emanuel has worked closely with the children in this new way of learning, to bring out the language and expression of the bard via camera.
“Instead of treading the boards, the students at John Colet are learning the art of performing to camera,” said Ms Emanuel.
“Instead of a set, they are using virtual backgrounds. Instead of makeup they are using virtual filters to create things like beards and darker eyebrows (think Macbeth or Henry V) and lipstick and hair accessories (think Titania and Hero)!”
“It’s definitely had more than its fair share of challenges. But the children have risen to the occasion and become quite creative with their solutions. I’ve had one student who was unable to use a virtual background due to the age of his device, so he hung a sheet behind him, then used the ‘green screen option’ to colour the sheet black, perfectly matching the screens of his classmates.”
The students are very excited to bring their virtual performances into their family homes, giving their siblings and care-givers a taste of what they’ve been working so hard on.
For the parents, this is another example of how the close-knit JCS community gives them better access to teachers, and the support staff who really know their children on an individual level. Everybody knows each other, creating a family atmosphere within each classroom.
Mr Wilcock said the best feedback the school consistently receives from graduating parents is that their children are confident, independent, self-aware of their strengths, and that they’re academically ready for high school.
“While we were always happy with his schooling at John Colet, it is now that we can fully appreciate just how well he has been prepared for High School,” said a parent of a recent graduate.
“Our son’s enjoyment, confidence and his ability to adjust to High School, is a wonderful testament to the amazing learning environment at John Colet. It has put my mind to rest that his little brother and sister will also be able to make this leap with confidence.”
John Colet School offers an extensive Arts curriculum in addition to participation in Shakespeare, where children learn philosophy, Sanskrit, and take specialised art and music classes like ceramics and percussion.
Students at John Colet School learn and perform at least six months ahead of their state school counterparts, but the school’s focus always remains on individual learning. Teachers stay with the same class for a number of years, meaning children form deeper bonds, through consistency and routine.
And perhaps one of the biggest contributing factors to the children’s readiness for high school is the practice of The Pause – intentional pauses throughout their day to stop, reflect and make sure they are present in their environment. The result? A more grounded, more present and more attentive approach to their learnings, and life.