Teachers have been swept up in a wave of online learning, Google Classroom, YouTube tutorials and emailed assignments. I think we need to take a step back to ensure the wellbeing of our pupils, and worry less about the academic implications.
I am lucky in my current setting. Our head teacher’s take on home learning is to set a document of subject-specific tasks each week and respond to pupil emails as and when. We are working on a rota of some days in school and the others working from home. I have seen other schools that have taken a different approach and are going in on the online learning from a different angle. No one knows who is right and who is wrong right now. The word unprecedented is floating around so much, which is why we can’t be sure that what we are doing is the right thing. This is where student wellbeing comes to the forefront for me.
In recent days, I’ve started to try and see things from the child’s point of view. Our children have had their routine ripped away from them. That familiar classroom and teacher, seeing their peers each day and developing as members of society by interacting with children and adults each day. Children who struggle to focus in a classroom are now facing an even bigger challenge by trying to focus in a setting that is probably normally associated with down time and reward. We’re all living in a world which is alien to that which we know. Children must be terrified. I was heartbroken when I realised (through various PSHE activities) that the vast amount of my children have anxieties about death. Either dying themselves of losing members of their family. For those children now, how petrifying must this indiscriminate virus be?
Parents are trying to work from home and be teachers as well. Some may be handling it well, others may be struggling with their own subject knowledge or ability to juggle their various new responsibilities. So why are we concerning ourselves with setting assignments and chasing them up to be completed?
Student wellbeing should be number one on our to do list. I for one will be encouraging my class to do what they need to look after their mental wellbeing. My weekly home learning guidance includes practical, low maintenance activities to spark joy and creativity. I’m telling my children to pursue a hobby and learn something new. Do you know how to stitch on a button? Can you shine your shoes? Do you know how to tie your laces? Can you fold clothes properly? Do you know how to put a wash on and work the machine? Can you bake a cake? Have you ever planted and nurtured a flower? Can you learn how to knit or sew? Can you build something for your room or the garden?
There is a plethora of life skills that our children could be learning, maybe even more so for the older ones. I believe that the best way to get our pupils through this uncertain time with their wellbeing in tact is to encourage them to use this time to develop as young people and pursue new skills and hobbies. How marvellous will it be when you get your class back and you can share all the new things you’ve learned while you’ve been away?