I think if there’s something that the partial school closures have taught me it’s about the aspects of the job that I take for granted. It’s easy to forget the enjoyment of actually being in the classroom, especially on really busy days with back to back lessons. There’s even something to be said about being on duty and getting to speak to students that I don’t teach and enjoying a bit of fresh air, although this brings less joy in the winter months! Here are some things I am thinking about as we consider the return to school.
Appreciating the little things
Attempting to keep the learning going from home really helps you to appreciate the things that are usually so easy. Teaching asynchronously definitely has its advantages, and I’ll think about that a little more later, but there are things that can’t be done. I can’t:
- Just pop around the room with a pen and pause the lesson when I spot a common error.
- Grab a few books and go through them under the visualiser.
- Check that students actually understand the grammar point before asking them to practise applying it.
- Just skip an activity because they’ve got it already.
- Explain it again differently for those that didn’t it get the first time, because I’m not there with them.
- Ask questions to check understanding or push them forward.
There are so many small things that can’t be done that really define what we do as teachers. I’m looking forward to being able to do all of these things again, no matter how minor each one may seem on its own.
The obvious one that we’d miss as teachers is the interaction with our students. I’d started to build a really good relationship with my year 10 and I hope we’ve not lost that when we get back.
I also got on really well with my Year 12: they’re a big class for an A level Spanish group and I’d been worried about how we’d get on but it was going well. I was in the early stages of planning a sixth form trip, which we don’t usually do, because they were so keen, but clearly that wasn’t to be.
I’m sure these kinds of things will be relatable for many teachers, as it’s the students that keep us going in every day after all. I’m looking forward to seeing both of these classes again as they head into really important years and hope we can just pick up where we left off.
Consistency and routine
Whilst there are many things to miss about being in school, there are hopefully some things that we have learned during this time that we will be able to continue.
For me, the benefit of getting into a routine and not constantly trying new things is clear. After the first couple of weeks I got into a pattern of how my lessons would be and, give or take a few tweaks here and there, have stuck to it. This has given a sense of consistency not only to the students but to me too. I know how I am going about my planning, roughly how long it’s going to take me and what I’m going to need and the same should hopefully apply to my students. This is something I’m going to consciously try to remember when we return to school. Especially when it comes to the structure of my lessons and the homework I set.
Talking of homework, this time has given me more ideas for how I could be doing that more effectively. Many of the adaptations we have made to our teaching could be used for homework, but on a smaller scale.
I’m considering how I might use Loom once we are back to remind students of exactly what it is they are practising and how to go about it. This might be especially useful for homework that is revising a topic that hasn’t been covered recently. I’m also thinking of using more tools that allow for self-marking, such as Google Forms and Socrative, as I know my biggest weakness with homework, other than remembering to set it, is building in the time to review it and mark it.
Having had the opportunity to experiment with these tools when teaching remotely, I have got a good idea of what my students have and haven’t accessed, so that gives me an indication of what could be continued.
Rebecca Nobes is Head of Spanish at The Boswells School in Chelmsford, Essex. She runs #MFLchat on Twitter on Monday evenings from 8.30pm-9.00pm. She is a council member of the Chartered College of Teaching and was awarded Chartered Teacher status in July 2019. Rebecca can be found at @BexN91 on twitter or www.learninglinguist.co.uk
Rebecca has previously written about strategies for teaching from home while maintaining a work-life balance