One thing this pandemic has highlighted, is the fact that teachers are such resilient characters. Since last March, as a profession like so many others, we have faced a myriad of uncertainties and last minute ministerial decisions that have had quite profound impacts on what we do.

From discussions with other colleagues in school leadership, the main objective will and has always been to minimise disruption to our students. This really came to fruition at the beginning of this term, when all schools and colleges could re-open for a day after the Christmas holidays only to be told that evening, we should revert to online learning with immediate effect. Not every profession could react so quickly and adapt to a different approach to working life within hours, but teachers did. All the planning and preparation for face to face teaching the following day had to be adapted overnight by dedicated colleagues to ensure that the quality of learning the following morning and beyond would not be affected. To all the teachers and school leaders out there, I salute you!

A common phrase mentioned these days around the breakfast table in teacher households up and down the country is, “I think I’ll walk to work today” as footsteps can be heard heading upstairs to the spare bedroom turned working office. This has long replaced the daily commute and drive to the physical school buildings. A lot has rightly been said and mentioned recently about the effect lockdown and online learning has on the youth of today. As a school leader, I tend to lean on the notion that they will be fine, as long as they have a healthy balance of screen, work and down time during the day. An area where I have been thinking about carefully recently, is the effect it has on staff. As we all know, teaching into a device simply isn’t the same as in class, the pace of the lesson and the general environment for allowing effective questioning is so much harder. Along with this frustration, staff are dealing with their kitchens now being the replacement staffroom. Haven’t we all had days where we some lessons just haven’t gone the way we planned, and a colleague sat sipping a coffee in the staffroom passes a witty comment that brings a smile back to your face and gives you the motivation you need to go again and get that lesson right for the next period? The ‘home staffroom’ isn’t quite the same, as the fridge cannot pass on a witty comment, only provide the leftovers from yesterday’s dinner or simply that piece of cake that you didn’t really want, but now feel compelled to eat!

My SLT and I have adapted and we make time everyday to ‘check in’ with our staff, both teaching and non-teaching. Call this a sanity check if you like. A simple 5 – 10-minute chat about anything, does not need to be work related. This is to ensure that all feel part of the team, and to know that we are all there for each other. Some staff are absolutely fine, as the house is full with either a working partner and/or kids doing their own online learning, others are all alone and make the most of our chats. The main lesson I have learnt, is that checking in on staff is a powerful statement of being and feeling valued. My advice to any senior colleague in other schools and colleges is to always check on how the staff are getting along, individual chats and whole staff 10 minute morning briefings allows the forum for all to see each other and have a quick conversation to start the day.

When talking to my staff, I tend to always ask if they are having adequate time away from their computers, going for a walk, taking a half hour away from the screen and hopping to the shop to buy some milk and so on. The problem with this is that I do not practise as I preach, as all senior colleagues know, there is always something that needs to be done. A recent BBC article written by an optometrist highlighted that we should all stand 20 feet away from a screen for 20 seconds for every 20 minutes we spend at a computer, therefore to all my education colleagues, please remember the 20-20-20 rule.

I am in awe of the dedication and resilience that I have seen from my staff and teachers up and down the country. The reason we all got into teaching was to ensure all the young people in our care make sufficient progress and achieve their potential. The way teachers and leaders have ensured that learning has carried on regardless in most cases is a credit to the profession and to all pedagogists out there. Keep up the good work you lot!

My only question now, with the ability to shift swiftly to online learning, are snow days a thing of the past? Surely not………

 

This article was written by Jason Lewis, Principal, Bosworth Independent College

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