As I write this, it’s Sunday 7th March.
We’re all guns blazing back to school tomorrow. I have very mixed feelings about this, but this isn’t the time for this… I thought I’d spend today just listing 20 things I learned/enjoyed about home learning. This might spur you on to share some things with me you’ve learned/enjoyed about home learning (you can leave a comment, or tweet me!)
- The amount of things I learned:
Honestly, just learning a whole new platform and way of teaching was a big one for me. I hadn’t had reason to use Teams before (my bubble had never been ‘popped’) and being thrown into it at the deep end was definitely the way for me. I didn’t have time to think about how much I thought it would suck, or how much I hated it really because we went all guns blaring from pretty much day 2. Work set from the Tuesday and then a few days to find out feet before live lessons started on week 2. I needed to learn and I needed to adjust; I needed to just embrace it, and I’m at least the littlest bit grateful for that.
- It pushed me out of my comfort zone:
I’m very much a creature of habit, but this absolutely forced me out of that for a little while at least. Week 1 we were all in school; week 2 I was in school teaching AND had the key worker bubble; week 3 to week 5 I was at home teaching; week 6 I was in school. There was always change coming and I just had to accept it. I wasn’t particularly comfortable with it, but I just had to accept that this was the way of life for a while!
- I found I actually ENJOYED it after a while:
I KNOW. WILD STUFF. Did I enjoy the technology when it didn’t work? No. Did I enjoy it when kids didn’t submit work despite having 400 phone calls? No. But because I established a routine (as much as I could in an ever-changing world) I found that it worked. I’d get up, go for a run, have a shower, get a cup of tea, turn my laptop on and just crack on with my day. It wasn’t teaching how I knew it, but it was teaching how I was having to go through it and I let myself just enjoy that.
- It gave me time to do OTHER things:
I got the chance to do some CPD on my own terms and what I wanted (without having to worry that I was going to need time out of the classroom); I got to be on a podcast (with the NCETM. If you’re interested in listening, click here). I got to run at lunch time (which I’d NEVER get to do if I was at school). I could spend lunchtime reading, or working, or watching TV if I wanted. There was a certain level of freedom in it that you don’t necessarily get in school always.
- It taught me to prioritise myself:
Initially, I was RUBBISH at this. My first full week of remote learning (live lessons and everything) was with the key worker bubble and I worked LONG, TIRING days with having the bubble and my class at the same time (I was increidbly blessed to have my TA and my PGCE student too though). I was so focused on making everything perfect (if you know me, you’ll know this is a THING that I struggle with) that I was working stupid hours. Then the week after that, when working from home, I wasn’t stepping away from my laptop for break time and lunchtime… but I learned. I had to. I couldn’t have sustained what I was doing. So I MADE myself step away from my laptop, or at least, minimise Teams and my emails and watch an episode of Drag Race/listen to a podcast.
- Listening to music/the TV/a podcast as I worked:
I am SO BAD at working in silence. I like to have noise on. Now this might sound like a stupid thing to have enjoyed about working from home, but it helped keep me same as I went through the weeks of working from home.
- It put me at ease:
Honestly, I have suffered from some pretty bad COVID-related anxiety over the past year, and I’d say from September in particular, and being able to work from home/in my classroom by myself did put me at ease a little. Has it made me a little bit more reclusive? Maybe. I could go into my COVID anxieties, but now is not the time. You probably work with people who have COVID anxieties, or you might be someone (like me) who has suffered… so working from home helped.
- Working with the key worker bubble was a ray of light in an otherwise miserable situation:
As I said further up this post, we were on key worker duty for a week. It was a STRESSFUL and HECTIC week, but being around kids and laughing and learning with them was an absolute delight. Managing my class and the key worker bubble at the same time brought out some logistical nightmares, but it was totally worth it. I think as a teacher who is a total introvert, I get a lot of my energy from the energy of the kids in my care, so just having them around made my stressful, hectic week all that more bearable.
- Having an extra half an hour in bed:
Yep, selfishly because I only had to walk from my bedroom to the spare room, I’d have a lie in and it was delightful. Those dark mornings were not a lol and having a little bit more time in bed before I had to get up and go for a run (or having even longer if it wasn’t a run day) was much much needed.
- Seeing my colleagues learn things:
My colleagues have just shone through this and whenever I’ve had a question, someone’s replied in our Teams chats to answer it. Watching one of my colleagues struggle with sharing things on Teams in live lessons and then crack it after playing around for hours was just brilliant. I mean this in the least condescending way at all… but I just think my colleagues (and I’m sure all of the teaching world) has just bloody killed it over the past 8 weeks.
- Getting the chance to go along to my colleagues lessons:
We were told that if we wanted to go along and watch people’s lessons, on an incredibly informal means, to do it. I managed to pop along to a few lessons and just to watch my colleagues do what they do best and magpie from them was great! We’ve obviously not been allowed to go and see each other in action, so this was like some kind of happy medium! (Past me didn’t think this when people came to observe me, ha!)
- Sharing the work with my student was freeing, if not a bit stressful for control enthusiast me:
I was incredibly blessed to have a PGCE student from November to just after February half term, so in some respects I had less work to do, but in others I had so much more. She was an absolute ray of light and I know she’s going to make a wonderful teacher. Working alongside someone so closely and letting them into my brain was pretty scary at first and I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I was ready… (I’m only a 3rd year teacher, who am I to be guiding the next generation of teachers?).
- Live lessons became the highlight of my day:
Every day, at 1:30pm, I had half an hour with my class. We’d have storytime on a Tuesday and then the rest of the days we’d do a bit of everything else. From Maths lessons, to Science lessons to a bit of shared writing, seeing my kids’ faces and hearing how their days were going just kept me ticking over nicely. I’d say I consistenly had 28/30 children in my live lessons and I’m so eternally grateful for them showing up and joining in as well as they did (even if it was staring at a screen of initials and silence in some lesson).
- It gave me the chance to think outside of the box for certain things:
You can’t do things the way you’d do them in the classroom; it’s just NOT possible. There’s a certain freedom that comes with being in a well-stocked school and a classroom full of things you can just put your hands on at a moment’s notice… that was ripped away moving online. However, what was then given to us was the chance to change how we do things. I’ve never recorded myself so many times in my life; I’ve never explored so many new websites to make things interactive; I’ve never spent so mant hours playing times table games (thanks TTRS) against my kids before. Remote teaching gave me that freedom to be creative again.
- I definitely flourish in a classroom environment:
I say all of these things and ultimately… I need the environment and the atmosphere of my classroom to be the best teacher I can be.
- I need the separation of home and work:
After 3 weeks of working from home, I was going a little bit crazy. I didn’t realise before this how desperately the separation of home and school was something I needed… now I know. But you don’t learn these things about yourself until you need to.
- My relationships with my kids and their parents really benefitted from open communication:
Every week, I did a weekly check in with my kids. It was nothing revolutionary, just a Microsoft Teams Forms kind of quiz for them to fill in. It’d ask them how they were feeling, how their weekend was, how they were doing with their work etc… but I used this so much. It was an invaluable tool for me to see who was doing well, who might need a phone call and who was struggling so whose phone calls became a priority for me. I could give them a call on Teams, or I could give their parents a call via phone. We also, last lockdown, got class email addresses and the parents/children could use this and it made everything so much easier for us!
- My TA is an absolute god send:
I don’t think I need to add anything to that.
- The way my colleagues banded together over things made me so proud:
Was it an easy adjustment for everyone? No. Did some people absolutely just embrace it? Absolutely. Were some people dab hands straight away? Yes. In my school, it didn’t matter whether you were afraid of online learning, or you were a pro, we all just banded together and helped however we could. Got a lesson on this? Here! Need help with this? Here. We set up so many systems to make things as ‘like school’ for each other and for the kids as we could.
- I don’t want to have to rush back into it… but there’s things I’d like to keep/implement in the classroom.
Could I also do a post very similar to this about the things I didn’t like? About the things I missed? About the frustrations I had? Yeah, but honestly, I don’t have the space in my heart or my head to do that. EVERYONE has adapted and EVERYONE has changed their way of live over the past 2 months and I think that’s something we should try to find the good in. We get slated enough in the press for not doing enough… and I’ll say this once and once only:
I worked harder over the past 8 weeks (or however long) that I would’ve if we’d been in school. It’s not been easy. It’s not always been the fulfilling job that you see in the adverts, but it’s been what I’ve made of it: one hell of a rollercoaster.
One that I wanna get off now.