With a few days left of Summer term 2020 it's time to reflect, relax and let out a considerable sigh of relief.
This has been the most challenging period in my career of 14 years. This has been the most challenging period as a classroom teacher, middle manager and pastoral carer. In this post I wanted to share my experiences, reflect on what went well and what requires some improvement and look ahead to predict some of the remaining challenges that this global event has thrown up.
I was recently in a meeting with SLT in which it was suggested that the school and education will not face another challenge of this magnitude for 100 years. As broad a statement as that was, there is of course a grain of truth in that. Whilst we have gone through global conflicts, global economic chaos, global pandemics really do stand out as the markers of change. Following the closure of the school before the Easter break and the move to remote teaching we (the teaching community) have been met by a never ending stream of training, updates, planning, re planning and re re planning. Nonetheless, this profession has weathered that storm well and whilst we are burned out, it can only have had a strengthening effect on the manner in which this great vocation is held.
Remote teaching has been both incredibly frustrating but also incredibly rewarding, in particular not being able to see your students. It is this element, face to face interaction with a class, that a webcam and a smart background simply cannot replicate. There is a hole in my routine and whilst I would always 'miss' students during the long summer break this 'break' has been interminable. But, similarly the move to remote teaching has also produced many, many positives for teaching. The crisis pushed us into adapting, moving forward and grappling with new technology. Last year to suggest making a Power Point with a dialogue as a matter of course would have greeted with interest, but the novelty would wear off. Now I am managing a team that is proficient is affording a range of remote teaching, pre-recorded screens, online assessment, website creation, 1:1 video support and more. The lack of hesitancy, positive approval and willingness to try demonstrates not only the strength of this small group of dedicated staff but also, I would venture, the attitude of our profession not just nationally but globally. The crisis has led to a technological shift in teaching, perhaps not in the sense of development, but certainly in levelling out the provision of interactive and electronic resources and methods of delivery.
Remote leadership has also been challenging and in some ways more so than that of remote teaching. Again it is the face to face contact that has had the greatest impact on the manner in which I have led my team. Those quick conversations over the photocopiers, with a coffee or simply in passing in a corridor have gone, and whilst we continue to meet remotely, this is simply not the same. On the occasions that I have gone into the department, it feels cold, in stasis and the warmth of those that give it purpose has been sucked away. Yes, we will return, but for now it is not the place that it once was. Practically, I have had to remind myself to send quick emails to check in on my colleagues and certainly could have done much better in this regard to cater for their well being. However, once again our remote working platform has afforded solutions and respite. Virtual drinks, coffee and quizzes now provide a suitable stop gap and the entire school community has come together for virtual theatre visits, concerts and films.
When we do return to school in person it will be very different, current plans will require us to radically change the physical manner in which we teach and for those of us working in boarding schools the changes will be even more profound. Nevertheless, with such strong, well intentioned and supportive professionals, any challenge can be surmounted. So as I end here I will say thankyou, not only to my own colleagues but all of those around the globe that have continued to be driven by their guiding selfless principles to provide.