SHC Life in Lockdown Series, #5:
Teaching During Lockdown
By Surbiton HC
In this series of short interviews, we talk to a range of club members to find out what they’ve been up to during lockdown. We're covering work, hobbies and life in general… if you have a story to tell, or you know of another club member who does, Beckie would love to hear from you.
SHC Life in Lockdown Series, #5: Teaching During Lockdown
Lockdown has posed some big challenges in education. While children have been adapting to new ways of learning – and parents have become accustomed to home schooling their kids – teachers have been forced to find new ways of working too. Many of our SHC members work in education. Here, Emma, Tom and Tracey talk about their experiences of teaching during lockdown and what they’ve learnt from the experience themselves.
Emma (SHC Sirens, primary school teacher)
"As a primary teacher I teach all subjects but for the last few years I've been working part time so mainly teach French, Science and PE. It varies but the majority of my work is with 9-11 year olds.
We’ve been using Google classrooms during lockdown. We're not doing video lessons but are allowed to upload the odd video (and have a weekly video assembly). I also use 'Loom' to record voiceovers for my lessons, especially French; the kids really need to hear me pronounce the vocab... otherwise I risk ending up with 180 Delboy Trotters!
Like many parents, the biggest challenge has been fitting work around childcare. It's very hard to be productive planning lessons or grading work while simultaneously pretending to be Ana from Frozen stuck on a mountain (I never get to be Elsa). Since my partner returned to work a few weeks back, I often do a day's work after putting my daughter to bed. I've definitely found that the hardest. However we do spend more time together during the day and lockdown meant more family time, which has been nice.
For children, the biggest challenges are undoubtedly linked to poverty. Children with laptops can easily access work and can chat with their class and teachers daily, so are less isolated and have fewer obstacles to their success. For a child who lacks a laptop, paints or an encyclopedia, it is so much harder. Parent workload also impacts on how much they can help or do activities with children, which can also affect outcomes.
I've got better at managing my time and not allowing my work to fill every moment... but I still have a long way to go! As a teacher you need to be incredibly hardworking, resourceful and inventive to keep kids engaged – teachers play to the hardest audience on earth (now more than ever!) but you have to try to find balance rather than sacrifice yourself to it. At the end of the day there must always be time for wine… and hockey!"
Tom (Men’s 2s, Geography & PE teacher)
"I teach Geography to Years 7-9, and PE to Years 7-13. We have been using Microsoft Teams during lockdown, which has been really useful. There were a few teething problems as both staff and pupils got their heads around how it works but since April it has been quite smooth. We have all had to understand that any pupil or teacher can have a day where the Wifi is slow or the microphone not working.
For me, the biggest challenge has been losing out on casual conversations with colleagues, whether that’s about something that worked well in a lesson or something a particular pupil responded well to. We have Whatsapp groups but it’s not quite the same.
There have been positives too though – on the Geography front it’s been nice not to have to print hundreds of resources a week, one click and the pupils all receive it digitally!
I’ve leant a few things myself during this time too. I’ve recognised that I feed off the energy of the kids in my classroom quite a lot, normally I ask a question to the class and then pick on someone at random to answer it. Quickfire questioning is quite tricky over a video meeting. Through conversations with teachers at other schools I’ve also recognised how fortunate our pupils are to be getting regular live lessons every day and to be receiving regular feedback on their work.
On a personal level I’ve really missed organised sport – normally as soon as the hockey season finishes I’m off to play cricket or golf. The Men’s 2s (and assorted guests) have resorted to organised time trial races, where we either run or cycle a set distance with a handicapped time. I know I’m desperate when I’m entering running races!
I think the learning from home environment has worked really well for some and has been tricky for others. For those who thrive on spending time with friends and are extroverts being at home away from their classmates has been hard, we’ve been trying to encourage video calls in form time in the morning – playing silly games and doing treasure hunts – just to keep them connected.
Since the middle of June we have been running socially distanced sports afternoons at our playing fields and the turnout has been great. I’ve also seen some pupils who have made real academic progress and I think it’s due to a combination of a lack of distractions from friends, getting enough sleep without an early commute or extra activities in the evening, parents being at home and therefore more involved in their school work. There are probably some lessons that schools and education can learn from this.
I hope that young people will come out of lockdown with a renewed sense of self belief, being able to produce academic work without a teacher looking over their shoulder should enable them to have more confidence in their own ability."
Tracey (SHC Sirens and Back 2 Hockey Coordinator, Special Education teacher)
"I work for Surrey County Council as a Specialist Teacher in mainstream schools supporting schools and families with pupils aged 3-16 who have behaviour difficulties. I usually spend 80% of my working week in schools, advising teachers on how best to support pupils in the classroom.
Going from my usual way of working to sitting at a desk all day has been really challenging for me (physically and mentally). I miss the interaction I normally get with teachers in school, the pupils, as well as the other colleagues in my team and in the office. It’s been an emotional time, but my colleagues are really supportive and caring which has been really important to me.
My brain is fried with IT! We started at work with Skype, we’ve now moved onto Microsoft Teams but we also use Zoom. This is mainly for meetings with schools and parents. We are also delivering online training to schools – so getting my head around sharing PowerPoints and presentations has been a very steep learning curve.
I’ve also learnt that I really need people around me and that I find change very difficult. For my own mental health I need to be outside and I have had to make sure that I leave the house, to go cycling or look after my veggies in the garden. It’s been a relief that hockey has started up again to give us a much needed chance to chat and socialise.
I think the hardest thing for the children is not seeing their friends and losing out on social contact and connections. It’s also been challenging not having the consistency and routine of a regular school day.
We have learnt that we can work remotely and do this successfully and efficiently and it’s been great to feel that we are able to continue to support our schools through this really difficult and challenging time. This experience has highlighted to me how versatile and resilient we are as a profession – we are always looking for new ways to engage and make things fun."