April 2020 blog
Well, this month has been a vertical learning curve for me in so many ways. Some of it was good, some of it not so good. Here are some of the things I have learnt this month:
Exciting new learning:
Delivering learning online as a teacher is vastly different to delivering learning in a classroom. This has been an intellectually challenging and therefore an exciting journey. As a team of teachers, we have discovered that:
- ‘Less is more’. Students are more likely to engage with the activity if it seems manageable, and what is deemed as manageable by the student brain is vastly different when you are at home learning on your own, to being in the classroom with the guiding influence of the teacher on hand.
- Our primary aim should be to build confidence of students in being able to learn independently, not coverage of new and complex topics of learning from the curriculum just because that is what we had planned to do before lockdown.
- The way we explain tasks to students needs to be clearly signposted and delivered in small chunks, with the required learning explicit at each point.
- Feedback is very important to the students to enhance their motivation with attempting tasks and giving them confidence that what they have done is on the right lines.
- Many of our students have been able to adapt to online learning really quite successfully, and have a tremendous capacity to learn independently when the work is structured in the right way and made accessible through the deployment of the strategies listed above.
- No matter how well children are accessing online learning, they all miss the interaction of the classroom. Students I have spoken to, say that the teachers' role is so important in bringing a topic to life through their initial teaching of the knowledge and the way that they then facilitate discussion amongst class members around that recently acquired knowledge. This discussion is now seen as being vital to helping them see more than one viewpoint and therefore extending their own thinking and reasoning around the required learning.
- As a result of understanding the importance of class interaction, I am clearer than ever before about the vital role of the teacher in the process of learning. It has been mooted over recent years that the teacher will soon be replaced with AI in the learning process and soon all classrooms will be virtual. I now fundamentally disagree with this. The classroom, and the teacher in it, are a vital part of a student’s learning process. As a species, we are a naturally social group. We learn as much by observing and listening to what happens around us as we do from completing a direct activity to practice a skill or test a piece of knowledge that we have just acquired. One without the other leads to shallow learning, however, when combined, depth is injected which creates a richer more profound experience.
I see the way forward as a result of this experience as being about the delivery of blended learning. Up to now, many students have relied on the social interaction and observing element to their learning as delivered purely through the classroom, and not enough on the direct application of knowledge and practicing of skills independently outside of the classroom. Teachers over the last 6 weeks have had to learn how to engage students effectively remotely. Students have had to learn, that they can work remotely to re-enforce knowledge and grow their confidence. This lockdown has certainly given both groups the hard shove that was needed to break into the proper possibility of truly blended learning. What is imperative is that when schools are reopened fully, this crucial learning and this new amazing skill set on the behalf of teachers and students is not lost.
Frustrating new learning:
- Home learning whilst trying to work at the same time is almost impossible. Children seem to be able to sense when you have a deadline looming or a vital piece of work that needs to be completed or a ZOOM meeting about to begin, to have a complete crisis with their own work that demands your immediate attention.
- ZOOM is a limited means to a limited end. After this, I will be happy if I never have to ‘ZOOM’ or ‘Teams’ or ‘stay connected’ ever again
- Boys. They have the worst attention spans. (These subsequent learnings connected to the topic of boys probably just relate to my two). They are also content with the bare minimum. They also appear to have an insatiable hunger for food during a national emergency.
- Boys; benefit from a regime (I use this word purposefully rather than routine, as there is something more military and therefore uncompromising about it). Establishing a regime though takes the patience of Job and the resilience of a gladiator especially when you are confronted with an endless list of why things should not be done, specifically in the way you are expecting them to be done.
- Boys; do not believe that they ever make mistakes, and therefore there is nothing to be learnt from revisiting or redrafting a piece of work. (This can only ever be achieved if there is either a serious threat, normally relating to the impending doom of their electronic world, or some form of financial compensation owed to them for unnecessary work completed under duress, which has wasted valuable time out of their lives of doing… nothing, except demanding the next round of food!)
- Shopping in a one-way system is almost impossible for the average brain that is not highly logical to cope with. (Or as is my preferred view- shops are not laid out in a logical fashion and if these social distancing laws in shops are here to stay awhile, there should be a set format for every shop. For example, cereals will always be found in aisle 21, biscuits in aisle 22, and vegetables in aisle 2… I am sure you get my drift!)
- Shopping online is an art form that requires a specialist degree to be able to navigate all the pitfalls and hidden risks. This includes where an item can be delivered to, if like me you are normally at work and the delivery driver is intent on not following the instructions you have left 4 times via the remote service as to where it can be left till you get home resulting in the delivery being returned to the manufacturer with the incorrect definition of ‘turned away by client’! Long sentence, I know. But the frustration is still not fully processed yet as I am sure you can tell.
- 2 metres is a long way to stand apart from the people you love and miss. It is in fact, at times an unbridgeable gulf.
- I am a gregarious person. I know this now. I miss all forms of physical human contact, and no matter how great ‘FaceTime’ is, it is no replacement from being physically present with someone.
So it has been a month like no other. I am genuinely delighted by our new exciting learning and where this can take us in the future. I am so proud of our College community and all that we have achieved, from staying in touch with all our students; to the quality of teaching being delivered and the subsequent learning being completed; to the resilience and upbeat spirit of all the children who have been attending provision every day at the College and the staff who have made this provision possible; to the way we have supported the local hospitals and care homes with our production of face shields. Who would have thought 6 weeks ago that we could achieve so much? We may have a long way to go, but look at how far we have come already.
On a personal level, I am definitely clear about my own strengths and weakness. I have come to recognise that everybody’s experience of COVID 19 and lockdown is unique and there is no bigger waste of time than trying to compare how you are managing as opposed to others. And finally, I am slowly coming to accept that my greatest discovery through all of this is probably that ‘I am enough as I am.’
Keep well and stay Safe