Lockdown has brought many difficulties and challenges in education.
Huge strides in online education have been made in months that perhaps previously would have taken years. Teachers have created learning packs, online lessons and updated communication systems – rising to the challenge of how to educate their pupils without the the essential face-to-face contact and personal interaction.
Children have spent weeks and months away from the support bubble of a school, from their friends, from their safe place. Some will have thrived in a new family bubble – building new self-esteem and confidence. Others will have found it a challenge. Learning will have been lost but more importantly, their circumstances could have changed. They may have learned a deeper understanding of what it means to live in poverty, or encountered this for the first time. They may have learned to hide, to become invisible, to protect themselves from adults who are not safe, without the respite that school can provide.
Many parents have struggled to teach their children without the internal dynamics of a classroom causing many to praise teachers for what they do and others condemn them for not doing enough.
Never before has the personal connection of a teacher and pupils been so keenly missed.
One look at the exam results chaos of the last few days shows that attempting to plot a way through a length-un-known pandemic is not easy. Ofqual worked to create a system to attempt to moderate results taken from schools across the country in their different sizes and advantage areas. A moderation system was needed but the one they created removed the personal touch.
Pupils became part of the algorithm rather than the true individuals they are.
A-Level students suddenly were given results based on a mathematical pattern and not the work they have produced. Headteachers across the country were in uproar and the children were left wondering how the system had failed them so spectacularly.
Thankfully, the algorithm is no more and results are again based on what each individual pupils worked for but the point was made. You cannot take the personal out of education.
Never before had the personal connection within education been lost so much.
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is the value of personal relationships.
The value of interacting with colleagues, grandparents, family on a one-to-one basis has emerged as a key priority across the country and been much missed across the country through the lockdown period. Children and young people rely on these connections each day affecting their emotions, behaviour and how they connect with others.
Soon September will be here and the clamour for the reopening of schools will return. Pressure will be on for schools to serve their communities once more. Parents will expect pupils to return; teachers will need to teach lessons; Covid-19 procedures will need to be followed and yet perhaps the most important part of all of this is in danger of being lost..
We believe that something that is a core ingredient to successful teaching at anytime will need to placed at even higher importance and is even more crucial once schools return after the Summer…. the developing and building up of RELATIONSHIPS.
As James Comer puts it:
“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.”
Never before has the personal connection within education been so needed.
The whole of education is underpinned by the relationship between the teacher and pupil.
Teachers need to know their pupils to help them succeed. All research has shown that pupils learn at different rates and will respond differently to different tasks. A teacher takes these points and brings them together. There has been huge strides made with education technology and home-learning but the strongest links were always made with a face-to-face conversation. Feedback from students has stated that interactions with their teacher were one of the most beneficial parts of lockdown learning.
However, on the return to the classroom, many teachers will be walking back into the unknown. There is always a mixture of anticipation and trepidation coming back after the 6-week holidays and starting to teach again, yet here we are asking colleagues to pick it up after 5/6 months out of the classroom.
The pupils they teach will also have changed. They will all arrive with unknown issues from lockdown, some challenged, others empowered. Some will have thrived, others not. Depending on your school and catchment, some will be able to pick up learning, others will have stopped and will need to be re-integrated back into a school way of working with its rules and integral dynamics.
Some will return to education having made surprising progress, not only in learning of all kinds, but also in terms of their mental health and wellbeing, which are foundational to learning success. Others may have maintained their learning to a degree, but be carrying an emotional burden which will guarantee that they buckle under the pressure of ‘catch up’ programmes. Still others will arrive on shaky ground in all areas, having endured a period of their lives where survival was the only attainable goal.”“The-myth-of-catching-up-after-covid-19”
We must look first at forming those positive relationships.
Amy Pickard (aka @teachersparkly), in her blog looking at a recovery curriculum, used Maslow’s Hierachy of Need to show how this could help. This is truly the correct starting point.
We all want pupils to overcome the impact of the lockdown.
We need to begin where children are, rather than focus on where we would like them to be, and how to get them all to that same point as quickly as possible.
We need to understand them, get to know them once more and enable them to pick up their learning at a point that is right for them and continue working towards realising their true potential.
And the most important first step is to put the personal connection back into the education system.
Thank you for reading this article.
It is the first of a three part series entitled “NEVER STOP LEARNING“.
Part two states that Every child deserves a Champion..
Part three asks are your teachers in a Position of Knowledge
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