School closure and the need for change
It’s been such a long time since I last wrote a blog post. With the recent school closure it has given me some food for thought. It’s in times like these that we are forced to react and reflect on what we do as educators. Our usual modus operandi has changed and we have to embrace change. The school closures have forced us to embrace digital learning and technology. Are we ready for this? Possibly not, but it’s as good a time as any to embrace it!
So many questions …
It seems like the formal school closure announcement was a lifetime ago. Whilst many of us had predicted it, it was still sudden and forced a great deal of change and prompted many questions. As a middle leader, I was quite torn in many ways between making sure that I am set up to work from home and ensuring that the members of my department are ready to embrace such a speedy departure from our normal habits.
We have all been through a range of emotions since the announcement and managing that is challenging. I decided to prioritise how I could help my department with the transition to working away from school. I’m fairly resilient and try to adapt as quickly as possible, so considered other first of all. We pulled together as a team to ensure that we had remote access to key resources, tidied the department and spent plenty of time chatting and answering questions. This last aspect was as important as any other because we don’t know when we will be back together again.
So, I would like to think that when I locked the office and double checked the department on the Friday afternoon that everyone went away as content as could be. We set up a WhatsApp group and have held an online meeting via the Google Suite to keep in contact. It’s all been useful and I think that we are adapting quite well. As a department, I think we have come through a range of emotions and tiredness and are back to thinking more logically, myself included!
What is our current set up?
Each department and each school will have set themselves up quite differently. I am certain that the situation will evolve and we will find more efficient ways of working and more effective resources for digital learning. The school closure will have an effect on our pupils as well as our staff and some of them are feeling unsettled and wondering what’s next. It’s the first time in 12 years of teaching where I have had conversations with my pupils and not had the answer or been able to get an answer. Hopefully that will change.
My department and I are are pretty well set up to deliver material remotely and have used our online subscriptions, textbooks and worksheets to deliver lessons. Although, we know that we want to branch out from our use of Quizlet and see this as a great opportunity to develop our understanding of digital learning tools.
Our digital learning experiences
My school has been using aspects of the Google Suite of apps and tools for quite a while. Therefore, getting work to our pupils is not a problem as it is part of their normal way of working. Google Classroom is fantastic and we will be working on how to use this more effectively to deliver content online and how to provide feedback and dialogue. The tools are there and now it’s thinking of how to develop our skills.
The range of advice, apps, services etc. is almost bewildering! Every time I log on to Facebook or Twitter there is so much more. It takes time consider all of these things. Therefore, until Easter, we have continued to use what we feel comfortable with and not to push too far at the moment as we need time to adapt. In the near future, I hope to develop my use of technology and share this with the department.
I’m a firm believer that during this time of uncertainly that we don’t push things too far. We should work within out comfort zone as we adapt and then gradually make changes to working from home. The school closure is a huge change and we cannot ignore that fact. Teachers, parents, pupils and all members of our school community need time to adapt.
What’s next for me …
Now that the tiredness and stress have subsided I can start to think more clearly! I have set up my home office/classroom at the dining table and feel organised and ready to go. I love being organised and that has continued as I schedule my online lessons, meetings and helping the department as best I can. That means that I can also start to consider my to do list as well as department and personal development.
So, one of the big jobs that I am going to begin to tackle is curriculum design. Our current model needs some rethinking and I now have the time to do this! It’s always at the back of my mind and now I can organise my week to spend time on this. In terms of department development, I will also look at to do list and review our priorities for development. Finally, I will spend more time creating resources and using my blog/social media to engage with teaching and my own development. It’s been a long time, but looking forward to it. For starters, I have created a magazine-style resource for A Level French called À la une, inspired by @OllieMFL on Twitter.