“We will get through this by continuing to pull together…”
The sudden lockdown in March that led to the closure of schools and colleges has meant that our teachers, and students of all ages, have been some of the most affected by the Covid19 pandemic.
Home-schooling and remote learning became the new normal as we headed into the summer holidays of 2020. But as the new term started this September, and educational establishments reopened their doors, the challenges that teachers and students face are now very different.
As local lockdowns loom, teachers at all levels are having to put in place contingency plans to deal with individual self-isolations, bubble lockdowns and the prospect of whole school closures that could affect the new academic year.
To acknowledge their efforts and to celebrate World Teachers’ Day, the Tees Online is launching a series of articles that highlight the extraordinary effort put in by our educators and students in this most peculiar of years.
We start off with Neil Coleman, PE Teacher at Macmillan Academy, Middlesbrough.
“Our students and teachers have never experienced anything like this before. Teachers have had to adapt a great deal to incorporate all the safety measures, and departments have had to go to great lengths to cater for teaching lessons as normally as they possibly can. A huge amount of planning and preparation has been carried out by the Head of School, Heads of Departments, teachers, kitchen staff and cleaning staff. It’s been very much a whole school effort where everyone has pulled together.
As a teacher, the current situation we find ourselves in has certainly given us lots more to remember and added more pressure to an already demanding timetable and schedule. A restructured school day with staggered start and finish times, several different break and lunch times and even split lessons-interrupted by lunch makes for a very different school day compared to the norm.
“As a teacher, the current situation we find ourselves in has certainly given us lots more to remember and added more pressure to an already demanding timetable and schedule.”
Within the PE department, every single piece of equipment has had to be divided and segregated by year group. This is then stored in various locations around the PE facilities to ensure year group bubbles are only using the equipment that has been assigned to them. This equipment is also cleaned after use. In addition, the changing rooms have to be cleaned after use. To minimise the use of changing facilities, the students are coming to school in their PE kit if they have PE on a morning then they will change into full uniform at the end of the lesson. If they have PE on the afternoon they will change from uniform into PE kit at the start then they will stay in PE kit for the afternoon.
Students are remaining in their class ‘base’ to minimise moving around the site and it’s the teachers that are moving around school which is very different from normal circumstances. To this point staff and students do seem to be coping well with a huge amount of change to a normal school day/week. However, the added pressure of teachers moving from classroom to classroom, trying to get lessons started on time and having to remember all resources they need for the lesson is additional pressure we could do without but it’s just what we have to do in the ‘new norm’.
The harsh reality is that we may well be in this situation for a very long time. There will almost certainly be more to tolerate and adapt to in an already hectic world of teaching day to day. But as I said to my very first class upon my return, “Things are very different, school is very different, but it’s something we all have to deal with, adapt to and accept,” and to this point everybody is.
Coronavirus has given schools lots more to think about and presented us with many challenges and will probably continue to do so, but just as in the crisis’ early days, we will get through this by continuing to pull together.”
Neil Coleman, PE Teacher at Macmillan Academy, Middlesbrough.
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