While the debate over whether or not schools should open in June rages on, one thing is clear: teachers across the country continue to deal with the most challenging circumstances in education for a generation.
We asked some of our teaching alumni to reflect on their current experience and for any tips or hints that they could share to help their colleagues.
“I’m finding it tough”, says Robert Gold (BA (Hons) Commercial Music and PGCE), echoing the sentiment expressed repeatedly by teaching alumni. His advice, particularly to Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) is “don’t reinvent the wheel. Use what there is and keep it simple for families to access without a teacher present.”
Jolande Lodge, a Year 6 teacher who graduated with a PGCE, and her colleagues have certainly been using all the tools available to them to keep their pupils quite busy during lock down. The children were provided with home learning packs as soon as the schools closed to take them up to Easter and then parents were surveyed to see how packs could be improved before producing new ones. Children without access to online facilities were loaned school Ipads, and home learning activities included a combination of paper-based and online tasks (mostly on My Rising Stars). The new packs contain an envelope for the parents with answer sheets, to use to support the children if they get stuck or to mark the work with them after they have completed it.
Jolande’s class use Purple Mash to communicate and the children can ask questions using this. As it has the facility to create blogs, posts and to comment on each other’s blogs it provides a means by which some level of class discussion can be continued. Jolande has also set up a registration blog where she creates a new post every morning and children comment on this to say hello before they start working on the tasks set for that day
Jolande has also created a Youtube channel for her class where she posts tutorials (and write prompts) for the children to access. She says: “I know the children probably find them funny, but they do get lots of views so I know they are watching them.”
Megan Snipp (BA Hons Primary Education 2018) reflects the real heartache that the lockdown has brought many teachers. “As a Reception teacher it’s hard not being able to give all of your little ones the answers to the uncertain times that they crave”, she says. “As stressful as this job can be at times, I miss my class so much and it is heart breaking not seeing all of their faces every day and hearing of the adventures that they got up to over the weekend.” She also demonstrates the resilience and determination that characterise so many in her profession to make the best of the situation for the benefit of her pupils. “For now, it is important to stay positive for our children” she says. “Not all their home lives are the same and their exposure to home learning will be varied. I ensure that I keep in contact with parents at all times, continue to update Tapestry and have set up a Facebook page where I read the kids their favourite stories. The comments from parents are so heartwarming it makes all this time apart seem worthwhile.”