School Direct students share their COVID-19 teaching experiences
By very nature of the School Based (School Direct) route to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) course that we run, our participating students are on the front line of education. The majority of our students’ time is spent within their school setting – both primary and secondary – as functioning members of staff. As such, both their professional and student life has been subject to simultaneous and significant upheaval.
Many of our students aren’t just juggling study and work; they’re also parents, partners and carers themselves. This is especially prevalent among our School Direct cohort who typically slightly older than the average undergraduate and have many of these elements present in their personal lives.
Two of our School Direct students have volunteered detailed accounts of how life has changed through the COVID-19 lockdown period.
Claire Blackwell, School Direct Primary
“From the 18th March when the school closure announcement was made I found the atmosphere was uncertain, but united. It was a time when the whole school pulled together to provide what was needed. We ensured every child in the school went home with a blank exercise book, a bundle of reading books, and a home learning pack. The work that went into these was immense and within two days 550 learning packs had been created.
Now we have a rota system of staffing to ensure care for the children of key workers. This rota has changed as the number of children using the service has dropped and safety is a priority. Each weekly team plans activities for the week and shares this on the website, keeping all staff and children at home abreast of what is happening in school.
We have clear expectations of us for working from home which I find a great help. We are supporting our classes via email, sharing their success with home learning and answering questions and it is wonderful to still ‘be their teacher’. I have answered one girl in her own hieroglyphics and am having a daily challenge of ‘Dear Zoo Guess the animal’ with another boy, which is great fun. I am sending ‘Marvellous Me’s’ as rewards just as I would in school, keeping that familiarity and positive relationships with the children in my class. As a trust we are working in year teams across the three schools to provide additional home learning packs each week that are on the website. We have found eBook websites and continue to offer mathletics and school challenges as we would in school, plus we recently had an Accelerated Reader Quizzing Challenge.
I think one of the most important things is for the children to still feel part of the school community. We produce weekly newsletter for all children and this celebrates home learning accomplishments, challenge results, and news of what the teachers have been up to at home, keeping everyone together as a school.
Vulnerable children are being monitored by taking up a school place, or through regular phone calls to check in on them at home. Children with special educational needs (SEN) are supported with adapted home learning – I provided this for a boy in my class, as well as a designated SEN area on the school website and access to the SENCo (SEN co-ordinator) via email.
I am still in regular contact with my mentor via email and I have tried to be proactive setting myself targets.
Currently I am working alongside the Music subject lead to rewrite the curriculum and weekly plans for the school and set up a format to complete a deep-dive. This is both widening my subject knowledge and giving me a greater insight into the deep dive process and how assessment within the school works. I feel incredibly supported by my school, and know I can email my tutors with any university questions. Having done an Open University degree, working from home is not new to me, but working as part of a bigger team from home is a new challenge that I am embracing.
I find the uncertainty difficult, but am taking things one day at a time, and asking for help when I need it, it is important not to isolate yourself but keep in touch with work teams and friends to find a way through.”
Holly Bunyard, School Direct Primary
“What a time to be alive! Home Learning has become the norm for us all now. Like many others, I have become a stay at home student, teacher, and parent all wrapped into one. Juggling my studies, my students and my own child has been an interesting learning curve but it seems the kids have adapted to it better than I have!
I set weekly activities for the children to do at home. My main focus is to strike a balance between fun, engaging tasks to keep the children excited about learning and tasks that can be done with minimal support and resources to reflect the demographic of my school. It’s a hard balance to manage, but I think having my own child helps me empathise with the tremendous pressure other parents feel. Personally, I feel as long as our kids are looked after and happy during this exceptional time, then that is the best we can hope for. We can fix gaps in knowledge when children return. Not all my colleagues feel the same, which has inspired lively debate. But ultimately everyone is feeling the strain.
I have, however, found a way to stay in contact through the medium of vlogging! Somehow on the last Friday of school I won the job of taking home the class frogspawn (lucky me) and now regularly vlog for the website on the tadpoles’ progress. Many of the children love seeing my face and commenting on the videos, but are slightly gutted their teacher is fulfilling their dream of becoming a YouTuber before they are.”
Like our previous blog about student teachers from other courses and their efforts working with the children of key workers, these are just some of the stories that are happening day-in, day-out. And whilst the ending of this current period is slowly drawing closer, it’s important to remember that in the background there is still a huge amount of work still going on.
Find out more about our School Based (School Direct) course.