“It was very challenging in March 2020, as it became clearly evident that schools were going to be implicated by Covid-19. We went from regular team teaching where all the Year 6 students (90) would gather together, to then having to separate tables and getting students to sit as far apart as physically possible to fit in the room. As the week went on, we had less students in attendance with families choosing to keep their children home for safety reasons. On the last week of Term 1, Monday was the official last day (after the government advice) and we had about 25 (out of 90) Year 6 students in attendance.

The rest of the week was spent preparing for what remote learning was going to look like for us all.

Day-to-day life as a teacher changed dramatically and it was very unusual territory. Teaching from home was a different experience, with having to regularly check in with families and having to teach myself about new technology – how to use Webex and Google Classrooms and other videoing software. I don’t think that I have ever filmed myself so much in my life! Teaching lessons, talking to myself, while I recorded, was a strange feeling. It soon became obvious that my favourite part of my job was the face to face interaction and how much I was missing this.

Regular contact with my colleagues was important during this time. We encouraged one another to take regular breaks away from the screen. We all struggled with the lack of face to face teaching and interaction with the students and when we started doing Webex meetings where we could chat to the students, it lifted some spirits.

I believe the way we approached remote learning was beneficial for all parties. We had a slow build up, videos and links introduced a few weeks into it and then after that introducing Webex meetings with students and some lessons.

Also in our learning grid, we always had a focus on personal learning, where it was encouraged for students to take regular breaks away from their screens and get outdoors to exercise. It was also encouraged to complete the daily GEM prompts that are in their school diaries, where the show Gratitude, Empathy and Mindfulness. The Resilience Project has been an amazing resource and we have seen many students showing empathy and gratitude towards their family members e.g. making coffee and cake for mum whilst she is working.

We had regular contact with parents and we would check in through this platform also. We were fortunate enough that our students were logged onto Google Classrooms too, so we could engage with them here as they posted answers to questions and submitted their learning. Many of my students benefited from small group Webex meetings where we could chat about any questions they had about the learning grid or just chat about life.

“I learnt some important lessons during this time, including empathy, gratitude and self-care”

1. Practising empathy – the importance of being kind to one another as you just never know what someone else is going through. Delivering random acts of kindness through way of a short positive message or a good morning video or a thank you note, go such a long way, and I found the benefit of this both to parents and the students as well. Life is hard enough at the best of times, having someone remind you that you are doing a good job, is a huge boost and a powerful tool to put someone back in a positive frame of mind.

2. Practising gratitude – focusing on what you have in front of you and what you are fortunate to have, and not worrying about what you don’t have. My partner and I were lucky enough to still be employed during this time and have our health, as well as our families being well and safe.

3. Looking after yourself – Spending a lot of time at home, regularly on your own in front of computer screen, cooped me up a lot. I was forced to develop really positive routines of going for frequent walks and doing exercise because these were the things I loved. Timed breaks where I could complete jigsaw puzzles and read were also important for practising mindfulness to keep my sanity. When you are in a good place, what you can do for others then is limitless.

I have learned a lot about my students during this time. I have witnessed hobbies and interests that I never knew of and some students have even found new hobbies. I have discovered what an amazing bunch of students I teach, as their gratitude for their families and where they live was practised daily. Hearing about some of the positive moments and memories they were making with their families was a real delight.

On the contrary it has also given me a strong insight to how many of my students learn and what they need in order to support them moving forward.

There have been many benefits for students during this time. I feel many students have learnt more about themselves as a learner and a person and can identify some of their key strengths. For those self-driven and motivated students, they have been able to take their learning to another level in regards to presentation and creativity. There has also been choice given to them to complete tasks when they would like to, rather than within a certain time frame. Also there have been many who have enjoyed having regular movement breaks, going for a bike ride with a friend or watching their favourite TV show throughout the school day. As well as being able to eat whenever they like!

And there are some negatives that I have observed. Many of them haven’t had a lot of interaction with their peers, feeling lonely and isolated at times. For some families there has been higher levels of stress in the household which has had an impact on some relationships. Also there have been some students who haven’t engaged in learning at all for the past 12 weeks, which will make the transition back to the classroom just a bit more challenging.

Challenges we face returning to schools.

· Having a structured routine and timetable to abide by will be a challenge for some students upon returning to school

· For staff it will be adjusting to the parameters set by the health professionals to ensure social distancing is occurring as best it can in a school setting – ensuring also that students regularly wash or sanitise their hands.

· Meeting the needs of all students returning to ensure that everyone is back in a positive head space to learn.

· The other challenge will be ensuring that those students who have been very engaged in remote learning continue to make progress and be challenged, whilst supporting those students who are getting used to learning process again.

I think there are lots of positives that have come from this experience. I think there has been a stronger interaction between staff and families and this will build a supportive foundation for students going forward. I also think there has been a big focus from teachers to look at how they can combine curriculum to ensure that the important content is being delivered effectively and more efficiently and I would love to see a revamp of the curriculum that encourages less content but develops deeper and stronger understandings, as well as a bigger focus on well-being.”