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“I’ve begun to feel a bit lost” – lockdown, learning and listlessness

As our collective lockdown stretches on and family tensions continue to rise, our students’ engagement levels will inevitably become harder to sustain, writes Jayn Sadler...

  • “I’ve begun to feel a bit lost” – lockdown, learning and listlessness

As I enter into my ninth week of home isolation with two teenagers, one of them has finally taken up reading for pleasure after my constant pushing for her to pick up a book, while the other is well on his way to breaking world records for time spent on a gaming console.

I’ve given much thought as to whether he should be spending as much time on it as he does, but have ultimately concluded that that’s not a battle I’m prepared to have with an 18-year-old boy. Not when there’s so very little else going on. Either way, he seems reluctant to come and bake cakes or watch another Marvel movie with me – those being my own guilty pleasures… 

In truth, this past week has been quite tough. I’ve begun to feel a bit lost, wandering from room to room, unable to read much more and my enthusiasm for the documentaries and films available on Netflix and Prime starting to wane.

I’ve also observed a marked drop-off in student engagement over the last week, which has prompted me to ruminate on the possible causes for all this listlessness. It’s safe to say that the novelty of home learning has naturally worn off by now. Parents are facing bigger battles at home to get their children to do the work set for them, and are now probably at the point where some will have given up. We can’t expect parents and carers to engage in daily conflicts with their children during the pandemic if those children aren’t predisposed to working independently.

No rulebook

Governments and leadership groups in every profession have an impossible task. There are always a million ways to do anything, but the sad reality is that you have to choose only one way. There’s currently no rulebook for how we are to deal with the current coronavirus pandemic. No doubt there will be once all this is over, and that we’ll never get caught out so drastically again – but for now, let’s just get through this.

Of course, safeguarding procedures dictate that schools regularly monitor and contact their students, which is what I see happening in earnest across all trusts in the local area. I know that in our school only kind advice is being given to parents who are struggling in getting their restless children to complete their schoolwork.

I go cold at the thought of what it would have been like for me if my son was being asked to do work at home. The house would have become a warzone – if only for a week, because I’d have likely given up myself by then.

Unsung heroes

My suggestion would be to alert your school not just to those students you haven’t heard from, but also those who ordinarily complete their work but have suddenly stopped doing so. Keep an eye also on any students who seem to express states of anxiety or fear in their work, which may be caused by heightened reactions to the virus by the general public and throughout the media.

I raise my hat to every member of our profession working in pastoral teams, attending their school site and making remote wellness checks, often from early until late, to ensure the safety of all the children (and indeed staff) within our schools.

I know of some who are delivering food parcels to local children and families locally, others who have taken to delivering care packages to their immobile colleagues. When clapping for the country’s key workers at 8pm on a Thursday evening, I also clap for those fantastic pastoral teams, and the amazing work they’ve done throughout the lockdown. If our profession has one group of unsung heroes during this pandemic, it’s them.

Jayn Sadler is an English teacher from north Essex

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