In the face of a global pandemic, or as we all refer to it as COVID19, the world has suddenly realised a great deal of important things about teachers and the realities of our profession. The most common realities I have come across from non-teachers include the surprise in our adaptability to sudden changes, that we put others before ourselves (including our personal health), we deserve to be paid a lot more, and we should be respected for what we do. The actual process of teaching is much more complicated than simply transitioning to learning a thome and providing parents/carers with our weekly lesson plans. We've all read the stories, seen the memes and gifs going around that depict home learning as super hard, exhausting and almost impossible for parents with parents turning to alcohol and taking out the bin in silly costumes as distractions.
Why then do we expect teachers to be able to achieve all of this and more with up to thirty little people in front of them?
All of a sudden I was seeing comments and Facebook support groups popping up left, right and centre about remote learning, teaching at home, online/virtual learning etc. I have never seen our profession and other relevant education companies band together in the way they have been in the last month or so. There were free resources to assist teachers and free subscriptions to paid sites, the sharing and nervous energy was unstoppable. Teachers are flexible, resourceful and adaptable at the best of times. Perhaps though this last few months have been where we have needed it most and what has saved us.
First of all online learning and teaching is simply not the same as learning inside the classroom setting. As an experienced teacher I am telling you now for young children to learn effectively online, the lessons have to be designed quite differently. We can't simply take a face-to-face lesson and put it online and expect great learning to occur (even with my level of OCD this is hard enough to consider let alone happen). Not everyone is a teacher and has spent the hard yards learning and trying to master the skills of teaching - we have to think differently about what we are going to offer and be completely realistic about our student's home situations and the world around them.
After watching the world over, anxiously waiting as other teachers made the difficult (but not impossible) transition to remote learning options it was finally announced that we would follow suit in my school community. We were informed that we had to prepare two weeks worth of remote learning - and fortunately we were given a pupil free week to do so. Last week was quite possibly one of the most productive, stressful, intense weeks of planning in my teaching career to have occured so far, and yet I feel that we are more prepared than ever before.
I wonder could this way of teaching be the change I've been looking for lately?
We absolutely needed that entire week to organise the nine key learning areas of assessments, units, learning and teaching activities and resources into a fluid and age-appropriate manner that would allow our young students to learn either from home or at school depending on their individual situations. All I could think was thank goodness I had decent technology skills, and that our school has been engaged with programs since we opened that allowed a certain flow of our learning and teaching to occur. I also started thinking how valuable my online journey with SFM would soon become as the the rest of this unusual and crazy year continues.
I am currently typing this blog post whilst sitting in isolation on my school holidays. It would have been the Easter long weekend - and no I 'm not being a debbie downer about it too much, however, I actually want to draw attention to the fact that with that pupil free planning week last week I now have an entire two weeks of school holidays ACTUALLY FREE. This is unheard of, normally I'd still be lesson planning, retyping units, creating resources and generally just trying to get in front. This forced stand still has been an incredible way of just stopping and taking note of myself and my surroundings. Don't get me wrong I have all the typical isolation things to keep me busy from lego, Netflix, board games and cards, to puzzles, tik tok, books for reading and alcohol etc.
I have done what I can do. I have switched off from my school work and I am happy with that.
Will it all go to crap and completely backfire - who knows? Will it pan out smoothly abnd we re-discover ways of teaching and open up new doors of possibilities - it might? For now though I have certainly enjoyed my sleep-ins, shopping for groceries that I actually only need and not all the other stuff that ends up in the trolley! I have embraced any social interactions I can whether that are through my phone apps or across the fence, I've soaked in every second of sunshine when I'm out exercising or in my quick ocean dip to cool down. I have cried hard and laughed just as hard at social media platforms, books and cultural movies (not just Netflix) that I wouldn't normally have time for. I have stood back calmly and watched as my friends and colleagues panic or vent and genuinely listen to them before replying. If anything I have been forced to see just how grateful I am for my life and the things that I have.
Thsi unknown has also provided me insight into what life should be more like. It is disappointing that such a mass scale crisis had to occur for us to realise that all of those little things are actually the biggest things. Am I thankful that I am a teacher and I have a job - absolutely! Am I going to stay in teaching and drop what I have started - no way! SFM has created the opportunities for me to be right here now sharing my stories and experiences with you. There is no better understanding than that of teaching someone else. You only have to start, sometimes that is the biggest step of all. Look at the millions of families who have had to become teachers overnight, or the teachers who have to become virtual and online mentors!
For me this is only the beginning of something more, what exactly that is or looks like, well that's the unknown now isn't it.
Yours in learning,