It has now been four (term-time) weeks since the schools closed. This week, I took some time to reflect on how I would have managed if I had been forced into a world of online learning while I was a student at school myself.
Unsurprisingly for anyone who knows me, I know that I would have thrown myself into this opportunity and my days at home would be dictated by a strict timetable which I would follow religiously. I would revel in the chance to utilise the excessive quantities of stationery in our house, and my notes would be highlighted, corrected in different colour pens and filed away in binders and plastic wallets.
But I also know that this was only possible because of the privilege I had growing up, which I used to take for granted. I had a laptop and desk in my own room to work at, a whole cupboard full of stationery, and well educated siblings and parents to help explain any concepts I couldn’t figure out myself.
Although I know that many children I teach won’t have these luxuries, one positive is that our school provides all students with their own Chromebook, which at least removes one barrier to learning.
In terms of how children are coping as a whole, the general consensus from them (even the hard working ones in class) is that they are feeling overwhelmed with the work given, finding it hard to find the motivation to work and are struggling to keep up. As a school, we are doing everything we can to try to minimise this pressure they are feeling: not chasing them up for work, lots of praise, awarding positive points etc., but any suggestions for how to increase engagement and minimise their stress would be welcomed.
Since the school closed, I have also realised that a lot of my job has become about providing IT support; resetting and reminding of passwords, explaining how to submit work online and helping them to get onto websites. Although, saying that, I don’t think one year 7 girl was impressed with my skills when I was in school and trying to help her edit the document she was working on. I took her Chromebook while confidently explaining that to write on the diagram, she would have to insert a text box on top of it. As the text box appeared, I scrolled through the document asking which part it was exactly she had been trying to edit and she, quite understandably annoyed with me, told me that it had vanished. Still, it was nothing a little ‘Ctrl Z’ couldn’t undo and I did then realise actually all she had to do was double click the diagram to write in it directly.
Other new teaching experiences I have had the past two weeks include:
- The disappointment of posting a quiz code onto the year 10 Google Classroom instructing them to join so they could play a live quiz against each other, only to have to edit the post 20 minutes later saying that nobody had joined and I would try again at the same time next week.
- Recording voice overs for my slides and having that “wow my voice is so annoying” moment of realisation when listening to it back.
- Trying to mark work from photos students have taken of their work on paper and admitting defeat when it is just impossibly blurry. Followed by wondering that maybe I would have been able to read their writing if they had just taken a photo of their book and not tried to get themselves in the photo too. I’m more interested in their work than their “sorry for the poor camera quality” warning and their face next to it.
- Receiving weekly emails from my year 7 form, or in the case of one girl, emails every couple of days that say “Just to let you know that I’m fine :)”, despite me assuring her I only need her to reply each Monday.
I am just glad that even with the school closed, no two days are turning out the same and I am still managing to keep busy and make myself feel useful. Even if some days that usefulness is simply reminding someone of their username and password.