Lockdown learning - A day in the life of a teacher delivering remote lessons
- Credit: Denise Bradley
From Covid tests to making virtual classroom videos the past nine months have seen life in the classroom become very different for teachers as well as pupils.
With schools set not to return as had been planned after February half term, most children will continue learning from home.
To see what remote teaching is like, we joined a typical day for Simon Hipwell, Year 2 class teacher and English lead at Diss Primary Academy Partnership, which includes infants and juniors.
6am - Covid Test
The day starts early with a throat and nose swab for one of the lateral flow coronavirus tests that have begun to be rolled out this week for teachers and support staff in primary schools.
Mr Hipwell said: “We are doing them twice a week which while uncomfortable is a really positive thing because it adds to that feeling of safety for staff members in school. While in school we are mixing with vulnerable and key worker children.
“It’s good news when everyone has done it and comes out negative.”
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8am - Prep
Arriving into school shortly before 8am teachers begin preparations for lessons, go over work from the previous day and send feedback to pupils.
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“We have a set timetable and I think that is important because a lot of our families need structure. Lessons will go up on those times and during those times the teachers are online, prepared to give live feedback and support.
“However we are also very aware that every family is different and depending on parents' situations we still have a fair few children who do the work but not in the normal timetable. It might be that mum is free in the afternoon to support so that is when they do their work.”
9am - PE
Children log on to Google Classroom at 9am as Mr Hipwell and other teachers put good morning messages with the children encouraged to write messages. “It can be just saying they went out for a nice walk, because children miss that interaction when they are stuck when it’s just them and their families,” he said.
First thing every day is PE with classes across the entire school doing the same activities. “We have families with three or four children in different year groups, so it’s no good saying one class is doing PE at 9am, another at 10am and another in the afternoon. Whether it is Joe Wicks videos or whatever, everyone will do it at the same time and that makes it easier for families.”
9.30am - English
The school first began using Google Classroom in the first lockdown allowing teachers to produce videos, live stream and mark work in real time.
“It allows you to schedule a lesson and it pops up on a class stream and the children can see it appear. We are still teaching, we are not baby-sitting, we have a curriculum to cover.
“For every lesson we produce a Zoom video so they can see our face in the corner of the screen, then they all have a recording sheet and the nice thing is that we can see what they are doing as they are doing it.”
10.30am - Break
Aside from lessons the school does live phonics classes with small groups of children who need extra support.
Mr Hipwell said: “What we have found is that doing a whole class live lesson doesn’t work very well. It’s really difficult for the children to get involved when there are so many and they have to be muted.
“What we do is for every lesson we create a video that can be played, paused and replayed, but we then do extra live small groups. That is my favourite part of the day because it is as close as we get to being normal real teachers again. It’s nice to be able to talk to the children in small groups.”
10.45am - Maths
Lessons may have moved online but the school has stuck to the same system of marking - highlighting work green and pink according to whether it's successful or needs more thinking about.
“We can write live comments to the children saying ‘wow,I love what you’ve done here’ or ‘can you think about doing this…’. They can write to us saying they're a little bit stuck or they aren’t sure what they should be doing.”
11.45am - Reading
You would have thought some of the magic would be lost online but Mr Hipwell is still able to read a book to the class including them seeing the pages being turned.
“We are a school that puts reading right at the forefront. When we were still in school every class had books read to them every day but we are still able to do that as well as teaching reading.
“I also have a teaching assistant who is doing one-to-one lessons for children who really need that extra support. She can share books on the screen and they can read through them together.”
12.15pm - Lunch
School dinner time is certainly much quieter with most pupils at home as they take a break to eat. But that doesn’t stop Mr Hipwell and the teachers sharing stories about what they are tucking into with children offering their opinion.
1.15pm - Storytime
Every class in the school enjoys an after dinner story whether it be a while book in Year 2 or a chapter of an ongoing tale in higher years. Teachers also use the opportunity to get ahead making videos for future lessons or contacting parents who are all phoned at least once a week.
“We are building up a partnership because the lines between school and home have been blurred so much. It’s about working together and the response from parents has been really positive.”
1.30pm - Topic
Lessons on a different subject each day including history and geography, science, RE, art and personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) again using videos, tasks with live feedback and support. Vulnerable and key worker children in school are receiving the same lessons as those logged on at home.
“We don’t want to say if you’re in school you’re going to be taught by a teacher but if you’re at home we’ll send some worksheets and tell you to get on with it.
“The only difference is that those in school are writing in books but they still join the whole class Zoom so they get to talk to their friends. It’s so important that everyone feels part of our school.”
2.30pm - Spelling and Phonics
While work on spelling and phonics is a daily lesson the school also finds time to squeeze other fun stuff online.
“Once a week we have a whole class Zoom call that has nothing to do with learning but is a chat about how we all are, stuff we’ve liked, and saying hello to friends you haven’t seen in a while.
“One recent suggestion was for us to do stuff outside lessons, so I shared a video I’d made with my family on how to make chocolate brownies.”
2.45pm - Collective Worship
Everyday the school has collective worship which is recorded so every child across the school will have the same assembly.
“We have been really lucky we have had the Earsham Benefice who have supported us with their vicars giving assemblies.
“On a Friday we have a celebration assembly where we celebrate who has been doing excellent work this week. Those at home get emailed a certificate that they can print out.”
3pm - Home Time
It’s time for pupils at home to log off and those in school to head home but the day hasn’t finished for the staff.
“There is marking for those children who submit work late and staff meetings which has been really important for us to share expertise, but we have a really supportive head who is really clear in that she doesn’t want staff members working late into the night.
“We all hope to get back into the classroom as soon as we can. No-one wants to be in front of a computer all day, but for the situation we are in I’m really proud of what we are producing and sharing with our families.”