Supporting students and colleagues - Scotland
I am currently a secondary school teacher in a large school in Scotland. I teach Modern Studies as well as other disciplines within social subjects, such as history. I teach across all year groups, everything from S1 to S6, so we have the very youngest coming in aged 11 when they come, right the way through to 18 year olds. I began teaching in 1999 so I am just coming up for 22 years in post.
At the beginning of the pandemic teaching was asynchronous. So that was mostly me pre-recording and talking to slides or internal linking with other resources. However, as the pandemic moved on, we became far more into synchronous lessons and less in production. So that would be a set time trying to stick as far as possible to people's timetables or times as if they were in school for the synchronous lessons. It would be things like maybe a Jam-Board session so that we could be talking to a source or sources. Quite often there was a bit of flipped learning. I would prepare something for the pupils to read in advance and they came in with questions and or thoughts or posing a question to Google Classroom.
So, my situation was at home. I had my husband who was in exactly the same situation because he is a physics teacher, and I had my two children. So, I was very well aware of having to meet the needs of everyone else in the household whilst reading emails and you can see the emails just increasing exponentially. There were children's comments and criticism. I was having to be the I.T. coordinator and I.T. support person for many pupils. And quite often having to reply back. And meanwhile, I see the marking workload increasing hugely and I found that I was working longer and longer and longer hours up to 12 to 13 hours in front of a computer, even when trying to take breaks or move out into the garden. I found that I became very, very frazzled and did not ever feel like I was getting a break from anything at any stage. And that became very difficult. But that meant that even though I was at home with other people, I actually really felt very isolated and isolated from colleagues.
In what way did you respond to this dilemma/difficulty?
We tried to overcome that by having a WhatsApp group. So that meant that we had the ability to be in touch with people that way. And that was helpful because we could just check in with our colleagues who lived on their own.
We did have regular faculty meetings which were online meetings, so we could at least see people. And that was very much with a wellbeing focus. First and foremost, it was ‘Is everyone OK’? And then after that it was ‘OK, right, well, we need to try and work around parents’ evening or after our reports tonight or something’. Everything that we had to just face in a normal year as the school year went on. We would think, right, we are doing this for the first time in a different way. And each time that was a challenge. There was a heightened sense of anxiety with the tech work, you know, would it be well received? Would the pupils engage? What happens when the pupils do not engage, etc., etc. And once you overcame that hurdle and you have done that the first time it was a learning curve. The next time was a little bit easier, and the next time was a little bit easier. But each time has been that spike of anxiety and the inability to get away from anything at any time was very, very wearing.
What are the implications for teaching, learning and my understanding of the role of a teacher?
From a personal perspective, I would say I had to learn that I was not going to get everything done all the time. There is a satisfaction or positive vibe when you leave your desk and leave a classroom, switch off your computer and go home, rather than when you are working from home. There did not seem to be an end to that, and it just became very difficult, I will just do another half hour I will just mark another five papers and it got to the stage where you had to be really ruthless.
I think in terms of skills, I definitely upskilled in terms of technology and whether that's just confidence to be able to try out some of the tools that were available on Google Classroom. They have been there all the time, but we have never actually looked at them and never used them. Finding out things like we had a little addition that we could use a little extension called ‘note’ that we could record if we had a presentation that we wanted to just post within our slides. We could add little comments to the pupils who could click on a little speaker sign, and they would hear me saying something about the slide. So, it is really helpful for areas where you thought people were going to have a problem.
The Jamboards were fabulous. You could just annotate, and pupils could see you annotating as if you had a whiteboard in front of you. I feel far more confident using these within a classroom setting as well. So that has been helpful. I suppose lots and lots of changes had to be made to materials and resources to get them to work. And as good as we managed to get it throughout, I still feel that discussions were very difficult and group work was very difficult. It was individual work. I felt that in a number of cases it worked actually maybe even better than it would have done in class because the pupils had the time to be able to pick apart your resources. Whereas in class as a teacher at the front of the room, you are generally in charge of how that goes.
Keywords: home working, well-being, technology, collaboration and social contact