Don’t compromise the quality and make sure you take care!

I don’t think I’ll ever understand or accept why we have continued to keep schools open during this pandemic. 

I understand that there are two sides to the argument but let’s get serious about our job in schools and our role in the community. We stand for learning and citizen building, we are not child-minding centres. 

The message I’m hearing from our government is that our educators need to ‘hold the fort’ so our parents can continue ‘saving lives’ and ‘stocking shelves’. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many important jobs at the moment and our medical staff are leading the way but let’s not prioritise one over the other. For me, the reasons that I hear for keeping schools open further degrades the status of our teachers, let alone it totally disregards their wellbeing.

I also question the comments of many of our leaders that it’s about continuity of education. Really? With everything going on in the world we are expecting continuity.

For me personally, I’ve kept my kids at home for the last week and will continue to do so until we are winning the fight on COVID-19. 
My justification is simple…I care so much about the teachers at my children’s school that I don’t want to put them at any further unnecessary risk and I care so much about my own family and friends, some of whom are elderly that I don’t want to carry any burden of being a contributor to the spread. 

Now that I’ve had my say on school closures, I also wanted to give you a couple of tips to prepare for what the future could hold and some reflections from what I’ve experienced in the last week as our family has set up a ‘home school’ environment. I need to credit my wife here as she has done the heavy lifting on this part…

Don’t compromise the quality
My tip here, sometimes less is more! 

I have been talking with plenty of teachers across Australia who are currently preparing for a school closure by putting together work packages and access to online portals for their students. This is great and another example of our dedication but I want you to be careful. Don’t comprise the quality of the great work you consistently do in the classroom by sending home ‘busy work’. Why? This is what our parents will come to judge us on. No matter what, some kids won’t do it and some parents will see it as a ‘box ticking’ exercise before allowing their child to play Fortnite for the day. Don’t worry too much about that but for this reason, don’t go to the lowest denominator. It’s never easy but try and set a task that can involve the parents, that is meaningful and allows your students to extend themselves.

As your school embarks on creating an online or remote learning environment, think about how you can make education better! Leaders and teachers should be thinking about the type of remote learning culture they want to build.

Routines
Spend some time talking to your students about routines and how to learn at home. Talk about the learning space, chunking down the day, distractions, exercise and even nutrition. As a teacher, I’d encourage you to consider this as well. Try and keep your routine normal. Get up at the same time, shower, work, break and be careful not to overeat or increase your coffee intake. It’s the trap of the kitchen being next to the office!   

Wellbeing & Family
Teachers lives are built on social connections and we are people centred. You need to make sure that you meet your social needs and prioritise your wellbeing. Look at ways to connect with your colleagues so you can get that professional stimulation we crave. At Real Schools, we are offering a huge suite of PL over the next few weeks so look at doing something for yourself! It’s also a good way of getting your PL hours up.

Undoubtedly, there is going to be strain placed on families as we enter a new way of living and working. With families living out of each other’s pocket, no children’s sport or afterschool activities, and significant pressure placed on local business and employment, everything we once knew as normal will be different. 

It’s a challenge and my only advice is to communicate, communicate, communicate. Talk about it with your family members and try to understand that we’ll all have different feelings, stressors and emotions at different times. Be confident you’ll get through it!

I’m personally finding it hard to comprehend what is happening at the moment. I also try and take the positives from every opportunity and for me, one of the big positives is the great work that our teachers are currently doing, what they are preparing to do over the coming weeks and the significant role they’ll play in the restoration of our community as we will slowly work back to being ‘normal’. We will get there.

Best of luck and thank-you.