We’re 5 weeks into lockdown and I’ve recently been reflecting on my own unique distance learning experience. I teach in a Berkshire based Independent Secondary School where I head up the PE and Sports department. Whilst a number of my friends and colleagues who teach in the UK and abroad, primary and secondary education have found the task of ‘continuing’ to teach from a distance a real challenge, I’ve actually found it a generally positive experience.
I hope that doesn’t sound too smug?! The main reason the transition to a guided distance learning approach has been relatively pain free for me is the use of the google suite. My school has adopted google everything (classroom, drive and now meet) and that has been very useful for staff, students and parents.
This week, we have been tasked with following the ‘normal’ timetable as much as possible. Whilst issues have arose, generally students are joining scheduled digital lessons, completing work and interacting with teachers and each other. There really is so much great technology at our fingertips these days that allow students and teachers to interact.
For a PE teacher and sports coach like me, the challenges and logistics of distance learning are different to that of someone predominantly classroom based. Whilst academic lessons run using screen sharing and alternate use of mic muting and un-muting, practical PE and Games sessions can be logistically more problematic. This week I’ve delivered live follow along workouts, virtual cricket batting sessions in my lounge, prerecorded you tube videos for Parkour and strength and conditioning and even had a go at some live Yoga!
It really has tested my creativity and innovation to come with ideas for students to follow. As the Head of Cricket at the school I’ve even adopted the boys garden trampoline and turned it into a make shift batting net (much to their annoyance)!
With all the above in mind alongside trying to be a dad, husband, dog owner and home school teacher (of sorts) to my two sons, the one thing that has come through for me is the attention to students wellbeing. Over my 15 years of teaching the emphasis has shifted more and more towards the exam grades and outcomes for students, the value added, the proof of progress. For the first time, in a long time, we appear to be more aware of how we are all doing? “How are you coping with lockdown?” is a question I’ve heard and said so many times over the last 5 weeks. Could we be seeing a long term change in the way we approach education? I for one hope so.
Whilst this pandemic is a serious problem for so many reasons, I, the eternal optimist, continue to look for the positives. More time with the family, a chance to set goals, time to achieve those goals, time to reflect, to learn new skills. Let me ask you a question; what new goals have you set yourself since lockdown? How are you tracking them? What habits have you changed? If the answer to these questions is “mmm, not sure” or “I haven’t” then you’re missing a golden opportunity.
This won’t happen again, not in our lifetime. Let’s be thankful for our health and for the front line workers out there making a difference. If we can stay healthy, stay at home, stay positive and be positive to those people around us we can come through this together and, maybe, even with a few new tricks up our sleeves…