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Long Hours and Online Learning – Interview with teacher Sophie Jackson (Megan Neall, Sunbury Manor)

Over the last 2 years, how schools approach learning has been through some large changes, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent national lockdowns. When the topic of education is brought up in relation to these changes, most people highlight the impact of a changing learning environment on students. However, children weren’t the only people affected: schools and their staff had to adapt quickly to a rapidly changing environment as well. In order to find out what these changes were like, I conducted an online interview with primary school teacher, Sophie Jackson.

Hi Sophie, thankyou for agreeing to take part in this interview. To start off, tell me a bit about yourself: how long have you been teaching? Which year groups do you teach?

It’s a pleasure! I qualified in 1997, and have been teaching for 24 years. I’ve taught everything from Year 1 to Year 6, and as of September 2021 I have 31 Year 6 children. Before that I spent 4 years teaching Year 3.

 

What changes did your school put in place to ensure students were still being taught during lockdown?

During the first lockdown work was uploaded onto the school website in year groups which parents could find to see what we expected to be done during the week. We set up an email account for parents to email in the work, and teachers had a rota for which days they had to monitor the emails and respond to work. We had to ensure that the work set was in line with the curriculum the children would have been following if still in school.

When we returned to school in September 2020, we continued to set work on Google Classroom in case students had to isolate. We followed our timetables in school and recorded virtual lessons for the children at home, as well as teaching our classes during the day. We had a few bubble closures where we then had Google Meets each morning and afternoon to ensure students understood what we expected of them and had been able to access everything we’d uploaded. The headteacher lead assemblies on Mondays and Fridays where the whole school had to log into Google Meets as well.

During the second lockdown, January 2021, students already knew the expectations. We continued to hold Meets at the beginning and end of each day, as well as the online assemblies twice a week. The work submitted was responded to as soon as it came in, and we told parents that we’d get to it within 48 hours of it being submitted. I always tried to do it there and then to keep on top of it all.

Across both lockdowns and all our bubble closures, families that we hadn’t heard from in a few days received telephone calls to check that everyone was safe and well.

 

Did you have any students who had difficulty accessing the online resources that you uploaded? If so, how was this dealt with?

We have several large families with more than 3 children at the school, some of which had to create a timetable for devices so the entire family could access work and schoolwork. We applied for extra laptops from the Government which were distributed to those in most need, although we didn’t receive as many as we had asked for. Vulnerable children and children of key workers had spaces in school if needed, although as you could imagine these filled up quite quickly.

 

How did you find having to adapt quickly to the changing environment?
It’s one of those things you just have to do and mostly it wasn’t too bad, although I was working 7am-10pm most days. Very quick learning and collaboration with colleagues made sure we had everything covered.  

 

Was it a struggle to manage keeping your students up to date while having your own family at home?

I was very lucky in that my oldest two are motivated learners and just got on with it, and we’re very lucky to have Chromebooks and iPads at home for them all to work on. We only really struggled with printing work as our printer is rubbish!

My youngest was a bit trickier, as we had to make sure our Google Meets didn’t clash. We had usually woken up early so we could start his work at 6am and get through it as quickly as we could. He’d sit next to me and I’d try to keep him motivated as much as I could: he created lots of Lego models!!
 

What about your classes? Did they keep on top of the workload?

My classes have been amazing! They’ve tried so hard to keep on top of everything and we truly appreciated that they were doing what they could, whilst grown ups were also working and having to help siblings. We were happy with what they tried to keep doing and only asked them to try and do their best with the difficult circumstances. Each family was different obviously, but I can honestly say I’m so proud of all their achievements during what has been a very, very different couple of years.

 

To finish off, now were back to a more familiar learning environment are there any aspects of online learning that the school has carried over into normal lessons? Do you think it is a good idea to do so?
We still make sure that all work is kept on Google Classrooms as we still have lots of students isolating at different times. We also set homework on Classrooms to ensure the children are kept familiar with it just in case, and our learning conversations and parents evenings are now held over Google Meets. I think it is a good idea to keep the online side of learning going and to ask children to work with it occasionally, as we still don’t know what is going to happen in the future.

 

I would like to thank Sophie Jackson for agreeing to participate in this interview. Hopefully this insight into what lockdown was like for teachers has changed some people’s perception of the effects of lockdown for everyone involved in education.



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