One thing we know about LSS readers, they all lead busy lives. So what’s it been like in lockdown for this elite sliver of the population? In this first of our series we talk to Heather, a teacher from London, who teaches maths at a private junior school.
How long have you been doing your job in lockdown?
Lockdown #1 was March to July 2020; Lockdown #2 started in January this year and looks like continuing until 8 March 2021
Does it feel different?
Very different to ‘normal’ school teaching obviously, but there are differences between lockdowns. During Lockdown #1, I taught a couple of live lessons a day, and set tasks .In Lockdown #2, we follow the same timetable as in school but online. It feels a little more relentless.
Is your day longer or shorter?
Live lesson time is the same as in school but preparation and marking makes the working hours longer
Do you miss the commuting?
No, and I even get an extra half hour in bed in the morning!
How long did it take to set up the new technology at home?
Easy. My school provided staff with laptops to deliver online teaching. We use Microsoft Teams and Zoom for lessons and I learned ‘on the job’. Also, you should never be afraid to ask the children the shortcuts as they know them all! Half the battle is staying one technological step ahead of them!
How did the kids react when the school went to lockdown?
Generally, they were OK with lockdown although some find it hard. The biggest issue is that they miss meeting up and chatting with their friends. School is about so much more than imparting knowledge and academic achievement.
Do you feel it’s more difficult to teach some things in lockdown?
The big difference is that instead of writing on the board, you have to create a shareable PowerPoint presentation for the methodology. Some practical things are more difficult to teach, like using protractors or handling 3D shapes. But there are websites and tools where children can manipulate an online protractor or sort shapes. You have to be creative, and think of alternatives or be ready to abandon your plan altogether if necessary. Often the children themselves surprise you by coming up with good alternative ideas!
Have any children or their families struggled with the technology?
Generally they’ve coped well. Problems are with things like patchy internet connections, accessibility issues with file formats and printers. Parents are often working from home so sometimes there is little support for the children to sort problems out during the day. Turning off and on again is still the best advice!
What’s it like with a whole class on zoom?
It is lovely to see the children. Younger children mostly keep their cameras on, which apparently seniors don’t. It is a little soulless teaching to a bank of circular images rather than real faces.
It still makes me smile if they put their hand up and ask if they can go to the toilet during the lesson since if they got up and walked away there is little I can do!
Do you still have staff meetings?
Yes – a weekly meeting on Friday afternoon it’s important to see other staff members- we miss chatting to each other too. Just like the children.
What do you do when the internet crashes in the middle of a lesson?
Luckily it hasn’t happened to me-yet.
Does the relationship between you and the kids change?
Not really. We already knew each other well from spending the Autumn term in school so you build on that. You get to see their pets or toys which is different to school but it’s sweet to share that with them.
Has lockdown given you any brainwaves for new teaching methods?
It has made me more confident with technology and more aware of video and slide presentations. I have been impressed with 3D tours of various art galleries you find online.
When the pandemic ends, do you think we could continue with some zoom classes, and maybe just bring the kids into school three days a week?
No I think this would be awful. Children need to socialise and nurture the feeling of belonging to a broader school community
Have you heard of anyone teaching in their pyjamas?
Not exactly, however there have been ‘wear a hat Wednesdays’ and ‘fancy dress Fridays’ when everyone looks forward to something a little different and a few onesies may have been worn!
Has lockdown given you any other insights?
Lockdown can be hardest on those children who struggle with friendship or confidence issues. It is important to be able to really watch out for visual clues and listen to them and check that they are feeling ok.
Speaking generally, I feel the children at my school are not a ‘lost generation’ nor that their education is irretrievably weakened. We should not underestimate what children are capable of with incentive, encouragement and a bit of hard work. Have faith!
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