The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has been extraordinary. Catastrophic hospital scenes have filled our TV screens, and many of us were made to feel helpless in the face of such devastation. But health care is not the only profession which has been forced to make radical changes and push its staff to their absolute limits.
Teachers have been tasked with trying to limit the damage COVID-19 has had on children’s education. In the face of unprecedented disruption, they have adapted not only lesson plans but their own teaching style, and one individual believes the pandemic has made her a significantly better teacher.
I spoke with a newly qualified primary teacher from Hampshire, who has asked to remain anonymous for safeguarding reasons. She values the lessons that she has learnt from the Coronavirus pandemic.
“Through-out teacher training, you are told how important lesson planning is. You plan, and plan, and plan, making sure every minute of a class has a purpose. During that first term when children were allowed back to school, I did no planning!”
“Most of the time we were really acting on instinct. I chose to see how the children were feeling each day, and we would do our lessons accordingly.”
“I just did what I thought felt right, and made sure I was there for the children, both academically and personally”
The emotional distress of the pandemic has affected children as well as adults. Children in the interviewee’s class are in their formative years, absorbing everything around them. This included the news, which has been inescapable amidst the pandemic. “On good days we would get lots of learning done, but on bad days, when someone was perhaps dealing with bereavement or things were feeling very heavy, we would play game, or just talk. I learnt to throw away lesson plans each day because everything was such a rollercoaster. I just did what I thought felt right, and made sure I was there for the children, both academically and personally.”
“I’ve also learnt to trust my instincts more. The pandemic has taught me to follow my creativity and that it is okay to deviate from a plan.”
“It has also shown me just how wonderful children are. They are some of the best people when it comes to giving advice, and of course, they don’t hold back on giving opinions!”
The primary school teacher also recognises that teachers alone were not responsible for home-schooling during the pandemic: “Parents also deserve a huge well done for this past year. The resilience and kindness from the children is really down to them, and it has certainly made my job easier.”
Elen Lima is a parent who has enjoyed home-schooling . “During lockdown, I was constantly in contact with my daughter’s teacher and appreciative of their support”, she said. “I’ve actually had more contact with them during the home schooling times than when they were all in school!”
Ms Lima recognises the patience required of teachers during the pandemic. When discussing learning from home, she said: “They have had to be so patient, firm, focussed and always in a good mood”.
While home-schooling certainly comes with its challenges, Ms Lima has enjoyed being able to see her child engage with classes. “The biggest positive from my perspective was seeing how my daughter’s writing ability grew and how it was motivated and celebrated by her teachers. It really supported her confidence,” she said.
John Joly, the CEO of UK based charity Parentkind said: “Most parents aren’t teachers and recognised their role during lockdowns as supporting teachers in ensuring as little learning as possible was lost.
“Children do best when schools and parents work in close partnership”
“We are keen to see the deepened interest and boosted confidence of parents in supporting learning beyond the pandemic. Children do best when schools and parents work in close partnership, and it’s now time to champion the parental role in education.”
While parents adapted to home-schooling, teaching staff were there to provide support and reassurance. School closures were unquestionably problematic. Yet they did provide parents with the unique opportunity to watch their children’s academic and creative growth from under their own roof, as well as testing teaching staff to think creatively and make online teaching fun and accessible. No teacher training could have prepared for spelling bees over Zoom, or PE classes from the living room. But while the rest of the World stopped, the education of our young children did not. And teachers, and parents, are to thank for it.
Emily Hall– read more from Emily here