Learning about home learning

This week I’ve cried. I’ve felt elated when tech worked. I’ve felt overwhelmed. I’ve felt proud of myself. I’ve felt exhausted. I’ve laughed. I’ve met up virtually with colleagues. I’ve seen smiles on some of my S4’s faces for the first time in months! I’ve worried. I’ve connected with new people. I’ve been inspired. I’ve stayed up late. I’ve fallen asleep. I’ve given my own kids way too much much screen time. I’ve learned lots. Mostly by making mistakes.

But I’ve kept going because of our young people. And connecting with them to help, support or feedback makes it all worthwhile. So what are my takeaways from this week?

1. Structure works. Structure of lessons. Structure of tasks. Structure of instructions. Structure within the week. I think my own boys, and my learners respond best when we provide that structure for them.

2. Work smarter not harder. I’m trying hard to make sure the resources I’m spending time making, last longer than lockdown. Focussing on the threshold concepts, pedagogy and skills and making videos or voiceover powerpoints which can be used year after year makes investing qthe time worthwhile. Avoiding mentioning specific information which may change (SQA assessment etc) and instead instructional coaching of the knowledge, skills and process which will support pupils. The key subject knowledge and skills which will always remain important.

3. At the start of this week’s lesson, I asked learners what would make home learning better. Feedback from my learners was that they would like more quizzes and more live lessons. I’m pleased that the habit of retrieval practice in class, has been useful to them and they recognise how useful the testing effect is. Whilst part of me feels flattered that they appreciate our time online together, part of me wonders if there’s another reason they would rather attend a live lesson than go off and work independently. Is it because it’s easier to sit and listen to me than having to go off and discipline themselves to think hard? With this in mind, my lessons this week have attempted to get pupils working harder than me. Lessons involved cold calling pupils to give responses in the chat, asking pupils to unmic to answer, voting for answers using symbols in the chat, incorporating Menti tasks to build wordclouds and collaboration on tasks which make them think. So this week I’m going to try more of this. And some brief support check-ins at the start of periods to connect and set pupils off on task with a view to scaffold their independent learning before leaving them to work on their own.

Infographic by @unleashing_me Sufian Sadiq @chilternTSA

3. A toddler entering a live lesson asking to go ‘pee pee’ sometimes is more of an icebreaker than any game! And I think my pupils appreciated this visible act of being human. I hope it put them at ease. I’ve accepted that my own kids will join in with lessons, or meetings. They are being ignored and left to their own devices so much that when they do need cry out for attention, I’m going to try my best ‘to see them’ and give them what they need. And not beat myself up about it like I did last time round.

4. I have the best colleagues. When we’ve been unable to nip back and forth into each other’s classrooms as we do in person, the chat function on teams has allowed us to ask those silly questions and check things with each other easily. Everyone has just got on with our new way of working with a smile. Our online meetings are a chance to laugh and share a cuppa whilst supporting each other and working through issues together. On Friday afternoon after a tough day, I literally hugged my laptop when I heard the voice of my work bestie – and after a chat with her felt so much better. On Friday night a group of colleagues met on Zoom to laugh and it was exactly what I needed. It’s very easy to become an island during this whole period of lockdown. And with that isolation brings uncertainty, lack of perspective and worry. Connection is key.

5. This is a marathon not a sprint. We need to look after, and pace ourselves. Wellbeing is absolutely vital if we are to be the best for our young people. And it’s important that we encourage them to do likewise. The lines between work and home have blurred significantly. It’s been too easy to work through lunchtime or keep working late into the night. I’m going to try harder this week with boundaries. I need to get outside more. I need to set aside some time for me to read, watch tv or switch off.

Have a great week everyone – remember my mantra. ‘We can only do what we can do.’ And that is enough. You are enough.

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