The move to remote learning has been a limited success, but it also carries a great risk, both to students and to teachers, unless we focus on the right things.
Remote learning was and is a noble idea. It promises flexibility, independence and encourages resilient learners. Remote learning has also forced teachers to update their technological skills, enabling them to share, collaborate and use content in a much more efficient way.
This, surely, bodes well for the future of education and it prepares students for the real world, where companies increasingly encourage remote-working arrangements.
But, let’s be honest here. It’s not working, is it?
Consider all of the hours you put in: uploading new content, making sure your tasks are both classroom and home-friendly, checking homework, looking to see who the latest self-isolating students are, not to mention the CONSTANT emails/comments/messages from students and parents.
We can add to that, the fact that this increase in workload, coupled with the idea in the back of your mind that a parent could be “observing” you teach, can be panic-inducing and exhausting.
Then, there’s the additional pressure of student progress. Students who are at home tend to fall behind. That’s quite natural. After all, they haven’t had face-to-face lessons with their teacher. Joining in from home on some sort of “live link” just isn’t the same.
Not to mention the fact that they’ve had to share the family laptop with all of their siblings, who also need it for their own lessons. (Of course, this also assumes a best-case scenario, where there IS a family laptop.)
I’ll not even go into the problem of healthy, but self-isolating students who fail to attend morning lessons, simply because they’re still in bed.
So what can we do about it?
In complex situations like this, I find it useful to go back to first principles.
What is it that we truly value?
- The health, wellbeing and education of our students.
- Our own health, wellbeing and development, not just as teachers, but as human beings.
Simplifying our teaching, to address these two areas, can narrow the range of choices we need to make and will help us eliminate activities that take us further away from these values.
What should we prioritise?
- Pastoral care of our students
- Developing students’ subject knowledge, as far as we can, given today’s constraints
What should we not do?
- Expect our students to be independent enough to cope without our help
- Hold ourselves to unrealistic standards
This period won’t last forever. One day we might even look back on it like we do when we had that amazing “snow week” back in 2010.
Back then, we were cold, worried about our safety, we hadn’t seen our parents for a little while and we were more than a bit concerned about the panic-buyers in the shops.
Now, we just say “Remember when we had that snow week? That was weird, wasn’t it?”
Stick to what you value: Keep yourself healthy and teach as well as you can.
Remember: You aren’t in the same situation as you were in last year, so be kind to yourself and try not to compare your current teaching to how you used to do it or how you would like to. You can’t control everything (and you’re not meant to).
Some students aren’t remotely learning right now. We can help them by breaking down some of those barriers to learning, but we can’t force it to happen.
You are right to be optimistic though.
Teachers are good at optimism. It’s what drives us.
Just don’t let it drive you round the bend.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this. Leave a comment or send me a message @guruteaching on Twitter.