Updated: Oct 13, 2020
'It’s a long holiday for teachers'. 'Teachers have it so easy'. 'This lockdown means less work for you then as a teacher'. Just a few of the comments which couldn’t be further from the truth. At the beginning these comments made my blood boil, but as time passed all I could was laugh at the ignorance of people.
'It might be a good idea to take your laptop as this could be for a few weeks. Take care and stay safe'. These were the last words I heard as I walked down to my office, just before lockdown happened. Good job I did take my laptop, as well as my iPad, mark book, planner, one of each of the textbooks (trust me, that is a lot!) and other bits and bobs, but as I walked out of school, saying goodbye, I had the biggest lump in my throat. I could have never imagined what was going to happen next.
'Adapt fast' is one of the sayings you’ll hear said over and over again by teachers, but that doesn’t even come close. Yes, I had to adapt and find a new routine. My husband set up a camping cupboard in the lounge and that became my new classroom (and my daughter’s). I spent the weekend learning new technology: my worst nightmare! From that Monday I hit the ground running, uploading work on a biweekly basis. Making it organised and logical was the key! Then I just sat back for the rest of the two weeks…Yeah, right!
I was set up by 7:30am every morning at my laptop and would shut down around 8:30 pm most evenings. New schemes of work were written for years 7, 8 and 9 for terms 5 and 6 as the original topics weren’t appropriate (What do people believe about death? Why do we suffer? How will the world end...? See what I mean!). I should add that as well as this I was marking all the incoming work from approximately 350 students, as well as working on my other role as pastoral lead for a large sixth form. Identifying and safeguarding, and regular contact with students and parents.
Imagine a classroom with 30 students. Each students asks one question about the work or even just for a conversation. The teacher answers those quickly - job done - and carries on teaching and monitoring the lesson, but it only takes a few minutes. Now imagine each one of those students emailing that question. Have you got any idea how long it took, responding and re-responding?!
I missed my students immensely. The interaction, the adrenaline that comes with teaching, the laughter and the silly sarcastic comments.
We missed saying goodbye to the Year 11s (I had worked with them in a pastoral role since they were Year 7). It honestly broke my heart.
We missed saying goodbye to the Year 13s. As I had a new role within sixth form I was part of a goodbye video. When it was released I cried for nearly an hour solid! It made me realise how much I was missing everyone. But then the amazing and kind emails from students and parents stating their gratitude. I’m not going to lie, they made me cry even more!
With all the work and emotions of missing teaching and stress that came with all of that, I was also hard on myself and struggled with the feeling that I was letting my own daughter down. I felt I wasn’t able to support her or help her as much as I wanted to with her work. I spent time reassuring parents and friends that they could only do their best. The issue was that it took me a long time to take my own advice and to be kind to myself, but also to make time for myself.
All in all, being a teacher during a pandemic has been the biggest rollercoaster ride known - highs, lows and fast-paced. The downs have been bad - missing my students, the interaction, the rewarding nature that comes from teaching in the classroom, a load more work, trying to teach my own child whilst juggling the workload, the celebrations lost, the no goodbyes, struggling with my own mental health. Did I mention the workload?
But the highs have been out of this world. The gratitude, the kind words and knowing that I have actually made a difference to some students academically, but also with their mental health by using individualised strategies. The camaraderie with the people who I work with. We were most definitely there for each other.
By the way, schools weren’t closed, and teachers never stopped teaching.
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