The normal working week for me had a regular pattern. There was the time at home at the start of the week preparing for my teaching role in the middle and later part of the week. School days were long with lengthy travel time at the beginning and end of the teaching day. There were the weekends where the very best was done to make them feel, well, like a weekend.
The last four weeks, like for just about everyone else, has felt very different. I’ve just been reading an article, I think in the Guardian, that said that the education world has been rising to the Corona challenge. I have a daughter studying at art school in the Netherlands, a brother teaching in the UK and another teaching at a university in Malaysia. Added to this my wife teaches at a university of applied science her in the Netherlands and then there is me, a secondary school teacher. Maybe, just maybe, I’m better placed than most to offer an opinion on the efforts going on in the educational world.
I would certainly feel a large amount of agreement with that newspaper article, education is rising to the challenge. The urgency of the situation was rapidly clear. The online possibilities were ready, although for most, a little unexplored, to have a serious go at engaging and serving the stay at home pupils.
A learning curve of dizzying steepness was leapt at. Teams, Skype, Zoom, Moodles and any number of other online learning opportunities and facilities have been thrown into place. A process of teacher education that under normal circumstances that would have been spread out over numerous after school sessions spread over months has been picked up and run with.
Have I ever had so many emails, apps, chats and video meetings? And we really are only at the start of actually providing a form of online teaching of our numerous classes. This week I am starting with classes of up to 33 pupils online together in a Teams group together. I’m curious to see how it goes. I have to say, that although I’m missing the personal contact, I’m not sure how the online classroom might measure up in filling this gap.
Teachers the world over are undoubtedly putting in plenty of extra time and effort. I’m also curious to see whether this is being matched by our pupils. At this stage that is rather the great unknown factor. Can they work effectively with us only digitally standing over them. Time will tell. What will be the payback for a one, two, three-month dip in the educational service that we normally provide?
Amongst all this my weekly rhythm has changed, I’m starting to recognize something of a vague pattern. It is hours in front of the computer screen, apping on my phone, writing new material adjusted for the online context, marking, guiding colleagues, liaising with the school leadership, following online teaching courses and so on.
It’s starting early, finishing late. Technically my job is only 60% full-time. Educational hours always tend to run out of control, now more than ever. But I try to intersperse the screen time with other things to break it up and create rhythm in the days rather than lapsing into a sort of even continuum. For me that means a walk or going out running in the nearby woods. Thank goodness that these things are still an option for me. Family time and fragmented through it all when the moment presents itself, some painting and drawing.
A future blog post will dive into the theme of online appropriate and stimulating assignments that might work the best.