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Lessons from Lockdown.

July 15th| Heather Miller

Lessons from Lockdown

Well, it’s been a while… It seems like so long ago that this whole thing was just starting out and loo roll (or rather the lack of it) was a huge concern. Then came that gradual build-up, with lots of uncertainty; Would schools actually be closed? Would we have to stay indoors for weeks? Would we be able to see our friends and family? Will I ever be able to buy plain flour again? Then finally, being told we would be closing. Schools being closed… I mean, it’s totally unprecedented, shocking, almost unbelievable.

I remember talking to my class on the last day. They wanted to know when we would be coming back. Obviously, I didn’t know the answer, and told them so. But really, in my head, I suppose I was thinking maybe it would be a few weeks? Getting the Key Worker rota which covered 12 weeks came as a bit of a surprise. 12 weeks?! We can’t be closed that long…. Surely…. And here we are… Months down the line, with summer break only a week away.

Now I don’t know about anyone else, but Lockdown has not been a particularly inspirational time for me. Also, I had hoped not to write a blog post about Covid and lockdown, but it has gone on so long it seems hard to avoid! So I present you, my dear readers, with my ‘Lessons from Lockdown!’

Lesson 1) Teaching online is just not the same…

I am pretty certain we all knew this before, but now, I truly think our beliefs have been verified, and the importance of our actual, physical presence at the front of an actual, physical class, in front of actual kids is understood by all!

I suppose I am pretty lucky – my school did not expect us to do online lessons (either live or pre-recorded). I can only imagine the struggle for teachers who did. I for one am not particularly happy being filmed (or photographed), even more so with my extra few pounds (pounds, haha, more like stone) that I have gained during lockdown. And let’s face it, we have all learnt the hard way how horrific Zoom meetings with our colleagues can be. I can barely imagine how that would go with a bunch of 7 year olds.

One particular Zoom meeting I ended up sitting for the first 10 minutes waiting for the host to let me in… Only to then realise that my less than adequate laptop had actually frozen on that screen. By the time I had restarted the laptop and joined the meeting, it was in full swing and I couldn’t bare to explain that I had sat waiting unknowingly on a frozen screen. It is honestly on par with walking into a staff meeting or training late, but the other participants don’t even need to turn their heads to watch you shamefully shuffle to the closest available seat with an contrite look upon your face.

Lesson 2) Working from home sucks…

Honestly guys… I’m fine…

The subject of Zoom meetings brings me nicely to Lesson number 2 – working from home is far (like, proper far, miles away, different continent type of far) from ideal. I know school closures have been a particularly hard time for SLT, some have sat for weeks on end stewing that us teaching staff are all on full pay, whilst kicking back in our gardens, in the sun, on loungers or hammocks with overly large (and probably strong) pink gins in hand, topping up our tans…. But in actual fact, for some it has been an even more demanding juggling act then we have ever had to perform before.

Previous to lockdown, our different roles (teacher/parent) were separate. There was some overlap at times, but that separation, on reflection, made the roles more manageable. Now, for those of us with children at home we have now become 3 versions of ourselves, but now without any of the separation we were once blessed with;

  • our parental role – now pretty much full time, without the break we would normally get when we go to spend our days with our 30 school kids.
  • our professional teacher role – preparing home learning, setting online work, preparing resources for the year to come, and calling our pupils (much to their shock and sometimes embarrassment)!
  • And finally – our home teacher role (this final role is where we have to help our own children with the home learning that has been set by their own teacher, who we know are also probably struggling to juggle these 3 new roles themselves!)

I am going to be honest here, and some may agree, but I find it a darn sight easier to teach 30 7-8 year olds than to teach a single 11 (going on 18) year old who I am biologically related to. I am sure there is some deep psychological explanation for this phenomenon, but quite frankly, I am too fried from the experience itself to actually care!

The toddler has also posed his own challenges to my attempts at working from home. Mainly in the way that he will not actually let me work from home… He has sabotaged countless Zoom meetings, attempted to destroy my work laptop on numerous occasions, and has generally made it impossible to do any work at all (unless of course it is during his super brief midday nap).

Lesson 3 – Never before has the difference between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ been more apparent.

(This is a serious bit, which I generally try to avoid on my blogs, but I don’t think it can be ignored.)

I have a handful of children that have done every piece of home learning set (well done to their parent’s – they have done better they I have!) and have completed every book/task/challenge that I have set on each of the numerous online platforms that we use. Their parent’s have put up delightful pictures of their children doing Joe Wicks, onto the Facebook page for all to see. They have done baking and modelling and gardening; they have made posters and pictures and window displays to thank key workers; they have composed music and lyrics and probably even done some interpretive dance…

But I also have children that I have had no contact with, no home learning, no log-ins, no delightful pictures on the schools Facebook page. I hope these children are actually home, having a great time doing activities, having trips out (where possible and socially distanced), doing baking, art and craft and other activities that we know can be just as benefiticial as the work we have set, but for some children, we just know that is not the case…

The fact is, this horrible virus has emphasised divides.  While we know that all children have suffered in some way, there are those that have suffered more – those with lack of internet and computer facilities, those whose parent’s struggle to support their children academically, those who come from families with financial struggles, those who have struggled to access the support that was in place previously for their welfare or mental health. However much schools and other support networks have strived during this time, the divide between our most disadvantaged pupils and their peers will certainly have grown.

I don’t have a solution for this. But I do know that teachers and teaching staff will work even harder in the coming months, in a job where many are already struggling, to bridge the gap (or canyon in some cases)… Because we do this job for the kids. And the holiday… But mainly the kids…

To end on a less serious note – here are a few things I have learnt since returning to school, post closure…

Kids can be super gross…
  • Kids DO NOT understand social distancing. But we knew that before right…
  • Kids can be pretty gross. Again, we knew that before, but now we are hyper aware of every cough, sneeze and nose-pick!
  • Not being able to go into your fellow teachers’ classrooms (or pods, or bubbles) for a chat/moan/full-on emotional breakdown is just not great. And remember – there are just some conversations that you just cannot have standing mid-corridor with 2 meters between you!
  • In this new hyper-hygienic world we live in, just going to the loo has become very stressful… Enter the toilet, (opening the door with your elbow of course), lock the door (try to do this with your elbow, realise it is impossible, and just do it with one finger instead.) Sigh dramatically because the lid is down, attempt to lift it with foot. Narrowly avoid falling into toilet and realise that you are not as young and spritely as you used to be, and that the animal yoga you did with your class for most of the year clearly did you no good… Then pee… This is the easy part. Then flush – no option but to use a finger here. And now, the real fun begins… Wipe down the loo and flusher with the cleaning wipes provided. Now wonder what to do with said wipe while you wash your hands as the bin for the wipes is outside your cubicle. Decide to just put it on the floor. Now wash hands; ‘Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy birthday dear someone, Happy Birthday to you’ (repeat). Now, wipe down the sink, taps and soap dispenser. Pick up the toilet wipe from the floor with the sink wipe (sink wipe is clearly the cleaner of the two). Shake hands and wipe on your trousers because hand dryers take too darn long. Open lock, open door, dispose of wipes in bin provided. Realise you have just touched the lock, door and bin lid. And that to even get out of the loo means touching another door! Sigh loudly again. Realise this is taking way more then the 10 minutes you told your TA you would be. Return to class, avoiding getting a cuppa because it isn’t worth the possibility of having to pee again today.
  • Unlearn everything you have learnt so far about teaching and working with kids. Seating arrangements have reverted to the Victorian era. Seating arrangements are no longer fluid, peer support, group work and Talk Partners are banned. Sharing is no longer caring. And now, in another distinctly Victorian way, I must stay at the front of my classroom for most of the day! This has had a seriously negative effect on my daily steps!

And so, let us hope that we have learnt our lessons from Lockdown, and come the new academic year, may we return to some form of normality. We shall hope that when social distancing eases, things may improve, but realistically, we may find these restrictive measures in place for some time longer.

As always though, we will do our best to fulfil our roles as educators to the best of our ability, we will probably be even more creative in our approaches, spend more time out of the classroom, and who knows, maybe this could encourage steps towards changes that will,  eventually, be of benefit to the children we teach.

Take care all, stay safe and enjoy your well-deserved summer break!

View all posts by: Heather Miller
Categories: Classroom Environment, Teaching Ideas, Wellbeing

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