Never in my teaching career did I think I would be planning for a Pandemic. But over the last week that has been the reality for me, my fellow staff and educators around the world.
So where to start…
Well I often need to write things down when life gets a little crazy. I am therefore writing this, more for my own sanity than anything else. If it helps others then that is great.
As the Leader of Learning of 8 classes (235 students) at Aquinas College I have been proud of the way we have worked together. I guess I am truly lucky to work with an amazing bunch of educators, who all extremely experienced (yes, old). Experience at a time like this is vital. We have also worked together for a while. We know each other well and work to each others strengths as best we can.
When this all kicked up, we started with grand ideas of what could be achieved. Online classes, video conferencing etc. However, after honest discussion and listening to each other, we have come to the conclusion that small, regular work, especially in the beginning is the best option.
As educators we can not underestimate the pressures at home as students go into isolation.
Very quickly we put together a list of things staff must be able to do.
– Remote access of their schoolwork from home.
– Access to our LMS from home.
– Be able to contact your students.
– Ensure your students can contact you.
The last two points will look different for each staff member. I think it is important that staff play to their strengths and don’t try and learn something new. Stick with what you know and what you are comfortable with.
As a team we also worked through a couple of scenarios, just so we are on the same page. We came up with these;
– As soon as one person from our department goes into self-isolation we will start evening video calls via Microsoft Teams.
– If our school is closed then we will have 2 video meetings a week. In the afternoons and on Microsoft Teams. Days to be decided.
Following this we had a couple of planning meetings. While we can all imagine awesome online lessons, we have been concerned about the emotional toll on families and parents at this time. Having multiple kids at home, and expecting them to do school work, will be stressful for parents. Add on top of this computer access and the family issues that go hand in hand (excuse the social distancing pun) with that. Things could become very stressful.
With that in mind we have decided to scale back things and do the following;
- School work will be centrally distributed. We don’t want work from this teacher, work from that teacher. Suddenly, we have poor 11 year old Jack at home stressing about all the school work he has to do. This is an easy way to overwhelm students.
- We will use the Kiwi Kids News website – kiwikidsnews.co.nz
They are doing a daily worksheet which provides a writing, reading and math task. One central location to make our life easier and staff don’t need to think about new work all the time. My hope is that this frees up staff to give feedback to students on their work and also use their time to give other work to those that may want it or need it.
- We have also put together the Aquinas College Learning Bingo Board. This is a sheet with 16 tasks on it that students can do at home. We will distribute it if needed. We see this sheet lasting for a week and if needed we will create a new one each week. Students can pick and choose activities to complete. As many of these tasks as possible will be completed ‘offline’.
- We have sent students home with some textbooks. Our plan is to use these to keep students off computers. With so many students using computers as their ‘relaxing time’ we don’t think it is wise spending all school activities online.
Specifically, students have been given 5 library books (novels), a math textbook (at their level) and 5 school journals.
- Our staff have set up online learning with their class. We are fortunate to have Education Perfect for all our students. A great tool for a time like this, especially if closures are long term. Staff have then set up either Microsoft Teams or Google Classroom with their students. A lot of these have been using these all year so this is nothing new.
- We have also set up a community wide Microsoft Team. A total of 235 students and 8 staff.
Year Level assemblies on Microsoft Teams was never something I though I would be thinking of. If this does go on for a while, I believe these times will be important for students and staff.
We also see this channel as a cool way to run some more light-hearted activities. These will be important to keep students together and well-being in check.
I am personally looking forward to the tidiest bedroom competition (yes, i have a boy in this year level – he will come dead last!), the cupcake competition with 240 students, all uploading images of their best baking. Uber delivery for the winner to the school principal?
So that is currently where my department sits. Is it a Pandemic plan? I am not sure but it is a plan and we have a pandemic. We are ready to roll this out if needed. That is the best we can do in a time like this.
If there is one thing I have learnt in the last few weeks, it is that things can change very quickly. Thankfully, most teachers roll with whatever confronts them each day. Working ‘on the fly’ is our specialty.