Learning to teach and to teach online


I have just completed my one-year probationary training in a primary school in Scotland. My probationary time was in one school with the final few months online due to the first lockdown and I then moved to another school during the lockdown. This meant that during the first lockdown I had joined a new school without meeting the staff or students and had to build relationships with the children online. The pupils were offered Chrome books, and this had multiple issues. Whilst planning and facilitating online learning I was also required to undertake face-to-face teaching in a hub school for front-line workers who required childcare, so lessons were planned for a range of age groups. These were all children from a range of schools, so all this was very stressful.


I was having to plan and set work for pupils so they did not fall behind with their learning whilst also being aware that from my experience in the last school that many students never engaged online. The children were provided with Chrome books, however, for some there were issues with access to the internet and a lack of parental support. The ethos was for children to engage with the learning materials at a time suitable for them dependent on their home circumstances.

The school did not make it compulsory for pupils to attend classes online and they could decide when to engage. I, however, had be available during school hours and often pupils do not log in to join the class or ask for advice. This meant I had gaps in my day and having to home school at the same time which was difficult to manage. So, it was a lot of recordings, recording myself teaching at home with dogs barking. With interruptions, the doorbell going, and I had to re-record many things. I felt that they needed to see my face, so I needed to do recordings. It was a sort of comfort for them to see someone they knew, someone familiar. It was very difficult to differentiate. In the first school, the work wasn't heavily supported by the parents, but in the next school, the parents were supportive. Parents had high expectations of their children and I found that quite often that work was getting uploaded and I could tell that it was not the child’s writing but instead the parents’ input.

In what ways did you respond to this dilemma/difficulty?

Having sometimes spent hours designing and uploading schemes of work there was limited engagement. My focus began to shift from the curriculum outcomes to a focus on social and emotional support and maintaining meaningful connections with my pupils. I felt it was especially important that the children felt safe and content, I have more emails from worried parents which were quite hard. I reflected that the recorded sessions and the materials I had prepared had limited engagement. I have moved away from set outcomes to focus on my pupil's well-being knowing that when we return to physical school or again to online learning that there will be huge differences in the students’ curricular attainment.

What are the implications for teaching, learning and my understanding of the role of a teacher?

After the first lockdown, I was aware that the focus should be on wider flexible learning, so I posted a range of choices for wider reading and also tasks that involved wider family members so that families might find it easier to support a range of children. Technology allowed me to build good working relationships with the children before I would meet them in the classroom setting.

As the local authority did not have a common approach to how and what we should be teaching, it was through collaboration with colleagues that we were able to create online resources. Through these close working relationships between my current school and my previous school, we were able to make the workload more manageable. Many of us were home-schooling and in many instances had to deal with relatives who died during the pandemic, all this made working stressful and exhausting. A range of platforms utilised during the lockdown have been embedded into my ongoing practice and sole directed learning is offered more widely to the pupils as they had been in control of their learning. The skills I acquired during the lockdown have been embedded into practice, but I do wonder as time goes on if we may return to the ways of working before the lockdown.

Keywords: well-being, social and emotional development, collaborative working, stress, and professional autonomy

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