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Distance teaching during lockdown – “I miss being in front of the students”

For one anonymous educator, it seems that an enforced absence from school really does make the heart grow fonder..

  • Distance teaching during lockdown – “I miss being in front of the students”

For me, Groundhog Day is one of those films I wouldn’t make a point of viewing, but might watch if it happened to be on TV.

The idea of watching someone relive the same day over and over again in an infinite time loop seems torturous to me. But, well, here we are…

We all have things in our lives that represent a comforting idea of escape. Mine used to include money, relationships and holidays, but not work.

Yet school has now joined those freedom-promising luxuries, because what these strange times has taught me is that it’s is a refuge for my mind and soul – and that I actually really, really love my job.

A few positives of lockdown

In ‘normal times’, I’ve found that teaching brings me a huge amount of variety. I like the rigidity of the school day, but within that structure the variables are huge.

No two lessons are ever the same, you can expect to interact with heaps of people each day, and then of course there’s the innate unpredictability of students.

If you’d asked me two months ago how I’d feel about attending whole staff CPD after a full day of teaching, I’d have given a strained smile and nodded, while trying to conceal the contempt in my eyes.

Now, I’d happily pay to attend a face-to-face session with my colleagues. I’d willingly work a week of back-to-back lessons and still be buzzing. What’s that, Ofsted are coming? Amazing! I can’t wait.

As it transpires, having my workplace situated inside my house poses a number of challenges that don’t sit well with me. I appreciate how the environment is benefiting from drastically reduced rates of commuting, but that aside, I see very few positives in working from home – and I’d venture that many others feel the same way.

Those with young children and the means will have resorted to heavy doses of Disney+ in a feeble attempt to pacify their rug-rats during those important video calls.

Parents with teenagers will be busy revisiting their earlier failings in life by trying to help out with their sons’ and daughters’ GCSE maths assignments (though at least they now have an answer to that question they asked their teachers many years ago: ‘When will we ever use maths again?’).

And of course, those with no children and living alone will be regularly battling feelings of loneliness and isolation.

The meaning of ‘busy’

For me, the term ‘busy’ has taken on a whole new meaning.

‘Busy’ used to mean meetings, teaching, phone calls, planning, marking, data collection. Now it’s used to describe how many video calls I’ve managed to schedule into the span of an hour.

Working from home means being (metaphorically) chained to your computer and, I’d suggest, becoming massively more time inefficient. I’m aware that my own productivity has plummeted, even though my teaching time is theoretically close to zero.

In all honesty, I’m not sure I’m cut out for what I’m meant to be doing. I want to be in front of students, and I want to be teaching them stuff. That’s what I signed up for, and as it turns out, doing that from home isn’t fun. At all.

The pandemic has reframed just how important school is for me. I’ve always viewed the arrangement as one in which I simply provide a service to my school, and paid little attention to what school gives me back in return. But when I stop to think about it, I get a lot back.

Because right now, I’m struggling with this weird Groundhog Day repetition of for-the-sake-of-it emails and video calls about upcoming video calls. If only there were a Harry Potter-esque spell that could snap things back to how they were.

I solemnly swear that I don’t mind being at school, I solemnly swear that I don’t mind being at school…


The author is a senior leader for teaching and learning.

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