Guest Blog: School Closures
Updated: Oct 26, 2020
Today's blog comes from our very first guest blogger, Kirsty. A secondary Maths teacher, exploring teachers current roles during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this unprecedented and strange time, there is a lot of talk and pressure surrounding the opening of schools. As we
know, schools are open, just not for everyone. Our role has now changed to ‘care provider’ rather than ‘educator’, although the media seems to forget this, I know. However, we have also become so much more. We are offering support to students however we possibly can, we are here to support their families and offer reassurance and help, and we are here to support and serve our local communities. We are to be the calm in this storm, and it will end. We will return to some form of normality, even if it is a new normality. As human beings we are adaptable, and as teachers we are versatile. We are familiar with being reactive and flexible; it is our normality to modify lessons, conversations, interactions, environments and so much more. We are prepared for this ever-changing time, more so than we probably realise.
Note: I have already said we are human beings. Homo sapiens. Intelligent life form, although we know, at times, we question our sanity and intelligence!
We all have families, friends, neighbours and communities who we worry about, and we are allowed to worry. We are allowed to be anxious. We are allowed to be scared. We are allowed to look after ourselves. We are allowed to look after our mental health. Just remember, if you aren’t looking after yourself, you cannot look after others. We are allowed to say, ‘not today’ and spend the day in our pyjamas or go for the 2pm nap. For those blessed with children, you can decide there will be no ‘home school’ today. We are allowed to be tired even though we feel like we haven’t ‘done much’. We are allowed to wonder how we used to function at school!
“Schools will reopen on June 1st!” Will they? “Social distancing is possible in schools!” Are you sure?
These are just a few comments that I have seen or heard on social media. It is scaremongering at its best. It is from people wanting to be proactive rather than reactive. It is from people twisting the words of others. It is said with the best of intentions. It is said with the worst of intentions. Teachers have been slated for ‘sitting at home with full pay’, and teachers have been praised for helping ensure that key workers are able to go to work. We must remember, nobody can ever win a war with social media, so maybe we should stop trying! Take it with a pinch of salt...easier said than done of course! I have every confidence that school leaders are going to advise us of our next steps when they know what they are. We know that we are strategically planning for students to return to the classroom. We will do what we can to minimise the impact of this time. We will research and try to learn from those countries who have already gone through this battle. And we will do it all whilst looking after each other. Teachers are teachers because they want to be. You cannot survive being a teacher without a want to teach, a need to help and a passion for the art of education. The school community is made up of some of the most dedicated people I will ever have the pleasure of knowing and so education is still in safe hands, even if a little break has been needed.
What will happen when schools reopen? It is a valid question, but a question that does not have an answer. How will students be affected? Again, a valid question without an answer. Students are human beings. They will have been affected by this crisis in different ways, some will have had more structure than others, some will have had an academic focus whereas some will have had a skills-based education outside of the classroom. Nobody knows what will happen until it happens. They will be looked after by the school community though, that is guaranteed. A big question I have is that I have not seen discussed too much, (probably masked by GCSE and college students panicking over their next steps and how they move forward) is the transition between primary and secondary schools. Secondary schools rely on the SATs data on many different levels but surely this will not be available.
Will primary schools allocate scored based on evidence like has been asked for the GCSE qualifications?
Will students sit their SATs in year 7 in their new school?
Will secondary schools decide for themselves how to proceed further?
So many questions, again all valid, and again lacking so many answers. But I am not worried. As a secondary maths teacher who clearly loves numbers and therefore data, I am not worried because I know we will work together to move forward. Children will not be left behind because we will not let that happen, it is not in a teacher’s DNA. I know that we will do what is best for our students, our children. Students are obviously more than numbers, so how are they feeling about the change? The luxury of returning to familiarity is potentially something they have missed out on at a time when they are yet to develop the skills to adapt to the changes around them. Had any of the students had a chance to ask any questions about moving on? Again, I am not worried. I’ve already said it, teachers are versatile. If our focus needs to shift more than ever to the pastoral care to ensure our students are happy at their new schools, then that is what we will do. The child is more important than the ‘student’. I hope that this crisis has a huge silver lining and helps move education forward. It has emphasised the need for technology and how we can use it both in and out of the classroom. It has emphasised the need for teachers and their expertise, which unfortunately is so often taken for granted. I hope more than anything that the education system becomes more ‘human’. The UK has come together to support each other, and the community spirit is more evident than ever, and I hope the education system follows suit. Stay positive, stay home and stay safe.
Follow Kirsty on Twitter @MrsNumberNerd.