We hear it every day on the news, but we are certainly living in unprecedented times. Like every teacher, I am currently trying to get used to teaching from home and setting remote learning tasks for the children instead of being at the front of the classroom every day. First impressions: it’s different. Very, very different. Yes, I get to stay at home, which means no commute, a bit of a lie in and regular breaks throughout the day but overall, it’s a crazy new reality. And if I’m honest, the transition hasn’t been easy.
Here are the three main questions I’ve struggled with so far:
What work to give the children?
This has been the biggest challenge. Do we send new learning or revision of key concepts? And if we do send new learning, how can we be sure children will get taught the correct methods or even do it at all? How do you find that balance between making it simple and easy for the parents while at the same time making it purposeful?
In the end, the decision was made to send new learning in Maths (we follow the Power Maths scheme), while focusing on revision in English (mostly reading comprehensions and SPAG). There’s also daily reading and arithmetic practise. My colleagues in EYFS/KS1 are also sending daily phonics work.
Alongside we also set foundation subjects on a weekly basis (one week History, the next Geography, then Science and so on). So far, most of these have taken on the form of a research-based project, with a few worksheets thrown in.
But we always give the children an idea for something fun to do during their day too. They don’t work constantly at school; there are break times, assemblies, lesson transitions etc. Plus, at home their work probably won’t take them half as long – they won’t have a fully fledged input so I feel it’s important to give the children some ‘non-academic’ tasks too.
How to get the work to the children?
There are a lot of online learning platforms out there (SeeSaw, Class Dojo, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams) and communication with parents and children is essential to ensure home learning is successful, but this has been a particular challenge for me.
We have a high number of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and while the vast majority of them have internet access, they don’t have suitable devices for learning, with most accessing the internet on phones.
So we are making paper-based home learning packs containing everything the children will need to complete their learning successfully. In some cases, we’re even including pencils, erasers, rulers etc because some of our children will not have access to this equipment. We will also set tasks on the online learning platform, Purple Mash, but we don’t expect all children to do this – how can we when they don’t have the told to do so?
Once this pack is sent out, we follow up with posts on our school blog which allows the children to keep in touch – by commenting. We have given our email addresses to parents too – another new thing - so they can contact us with any questions or comments about the work set, but we adhere to strict rules about only responding to their emails in school hours.
What do I do on a day-to-day basis?
This new way of working is a complete unknown and I often find myself at home thinking, ‘have I done enough work today?’ And the honest answer is, I don’t know.
I have tried to keep to some semblance of routine – I believe that’s important. I am up, dressed and at my ‘desk’ (read, dining table) for 9am. I check my emails to see if there are any communication from SLT, other teachers or parents. Then I’ll check the blog, hoping to see some comments from children or parents on what they’ve been up to. I’ll also check that my daily post containing a reminder of the day’s tasks (which I scheduled the previous day) has actually posted as expected.
I will then write my post for the next day (or edit it if I’ve been particularly productive and already scheduled it), adding in something about how I’ve been spending my time in lockdown, a positive quote and some fun video or activity I want to share with my students.
All in all, that can take up to an hour, depending on the number of emails. Then I sit down to so some admin. Notes for pupil progress meetings, data input, marking etc. But I keep the emails open because there will no doubt be something that comes up during the day that requires my attention. We’re currently in the process of reorganising our curriculum in response to the new OFSTED framework, so there’s always going to be something to do.
But even if I’ve been at my desk all day (which on occasion I have) or I’ve just done two hours, I find myself constantly wondering, ‘is it enough?’.
The reality is that at the present moment, there is no “right way” to teach from home. It’s new to the vast majority of us and sometimes I think it would be so much easier if the DfE or SLT or the unions just advised what teachers should be doing and how many hours we should be working. But here we are, muddling through, doing our best. We’re missing our students, their parents, our colleagues and because of lockdown, our friends and families too. But we’ll carry on. Why? Because this is the reality and we will do everything in our power to make the best of it for those who matter: our students.
How are you finding teaching at home? Have you got any tips or tricks? Please comment and let me know.
I'm Ruth. I'm a teacher based in Manchester, UK.
I've been teaching for eight years and am currently based in Year Four, but I have also taught in Year One and Reception.
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