OPINION: Teachers won’t be at all worried if you’ve struggled with homeschooling
PUBLISHED: 10:26 25 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:26 25 August 2020
Our new columnist, The Secret Teacher, has been a primary school teacher in East Anglia for more than 15 years
With September fast approaching, teachers across the country have been readying themselves and their classrooms to welcome back whole classes in under two weeks.
For some children, the start of term will be their first time on school premises in nearly six months. A long six months in which they will have faced the challenges of homeschooling, separation from their friends, physical isolation from others (particularly grandparents) and the worry of the coronavirus itself.
Some children have lost loved ones and are facing the grieving process.
Everyone will be changed in some way by their experiences.
Whilst all of us have remained working since March, our teaching has looked very different. Setting and supervising online work, however carefully planned, cannot be as effective as face to face teaching.
Although we have done our best to provide children with a range of work, it has felt like we’ve only been doing part of the process. In the classroom, we would rarely present a task and leave children to get on with it. Teaching and learning is an ongoing process throughout each lesson: we might have a discussion together, share ideas, practise examples, or work with children who need something extra.
One child may need a bit more explanation, others might need to recap some previous learning before they can carry on, or others just need some reassurance that they can do it.
Some children whizz through a task and need a challenge to stretch them.
Children are unpredictable, and teachers are adaptable. We also have the benefit of a whole school filled with items to make learning easier. But without being together, we know we have not been able to provide our pupils with everything they’ve needed.
Parents have done an incredible job throughout home learning, whilst many of them juggled working from home and caring for other children. But however supportive, no family home is equipped with the same resources as a school.
In my phone conversations with parents during lockdown, two main threads were common for most families:
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1. their worry about their child’s wellbeing
2. the idea that they might ‘fall behind’
For teachers, this second concern is far less of a pressing worry. Everyone has been in the same position. No-one was prepared for homeschooling. And I have yet to speak to a parent (myself included) who feels they made a brilliant job of it. In a home environment, it is just not possible to recreate the range of experiences and activities that the children encounter at school- both academically and socially.
So for teachers, lack of progress is not a worry. From age four to 18, our young people were coping under very difficult circumstances for a very long time.
I work in Key Stage 2 but for whichever age or subject, the fundamental principle of teaching is the same for all of us: find out where each child is and help them move on to their next step. So in some ways, the new term’s learning will be no different.
However, classes will take time to blend together and will have had diverse experiences.
Key workers’ children and pupils who returned to school in ‘bubbles’ from June 1 have had some time to socialise and get used to the stricter hygiene routines. But even the children who attended school throughout lockdown have done so in small numbers. They have been spaced around classrooms with no more than 15 pupils (and often far fewer in many rural schools) with a more informal timetable.
Some of their classmates, teachers and school staff have been part of families who were, or still are, shielding. They have had limited contact with wider family and friends.
For them, a room full of 30 other people in close proximity may be overwhelming. They will be learning to reintegrate into society, and are likely to have mixed feelings about this.
Our priority for September is the pupils’ wellbeing: making sure they feel safe at school, have the chance to share their experiences and have the opportunity to spend time with their peers.
Once they have adjusted to the new routines in our bubbles, they can begin to build confidence in their learning again.
For the first time since March 20, welcome back.
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