5. It’s Reading, Stupid!
The week began with one of the brightest moonlit skies I can remember (was it like this before 2020? Did we ever notice them then?) and, as I do every day, I prayed for my family and my Dad in particular. A new month; renewed optimism.
At school on Monday, the big question on my mind was the following. Do we just keep admitting children back to school ad infinitum? Or is there some sort of ‘cap’ by which we can control this? After investigating this with the local authority, it appears that neither local government (and obviously not national government) are particularly exercised by it.
Refer to your risk assessment.
We’ve now around 25% – 30% of pupils in school, and we’re taking calls from stressed parents regularly. My new policy is to bring such pupils in for the odd day or two a week. Why? It gives the family a break and allows us to orientate the pupil and give him/her some socialisation. But I just know we’ll be up around 50% by end of February. It presents significant headaches over staffing, and the last thing we want is ‘in-and-out’ self-isolation periods.
By Tuesday, I park that issue and move back to this opium of ‘remote learning’. We launch a new initiative of 1:1 readers – a good twenty staff (me included) dialling in to the house and hearing a pupil read. It means that we can be sure that the hundred or so pupils in school are reading each day whilst another sixty of so read via the video link. We’re hoping that parents are doing the same with the others. I am slightly annoyed with myself that we didn’t do this sooner, but better late than never.
I continue to be convinced that if pupils are reading regularly during this lockdown, they will be fine. A lot of love from parents, and daily reading. The idea of delivering a remote curriculum is just nonsense unless the parent is there at all times to support the child, and the teacher is available at all times for guidance, feedback and assessment. I hear one teacher at an online conference congratulating himself on delivering a ‘robust curriculum’. Parallel universe.
If we’ve learnt anything about remote communication from the last year, it’s that computer-to-computer links are fine for transactional work, but hopeless for nuance and discussion (just ask the Handforth Parish Council). Well, it’s the same with teaching. It’s a grand delusion, and the same people who believe it’s different are those who will be wittering on about their mental health – another issue that is being totally misunderstood.
Basically, online learning has become the latest big FOMO issue. It has little to do with education.
On Wednesday and Thursday, I attend two very different webinars which back up my point. They were both brilliant for allowing me to listen to erudite and interesting speakers – the 1-1 dynamic if you like. But hopeless if you wanted discussion or interaction. Both concerned the post-pandemic world of education; the Respublica one was especially good.
On Thursday, I am sent the work of a Year 2 pupil. This child has gone through all the stages of making a pancake, one by one, with clear instructional language and explanations. The consequent presentation is really professional. He’s teaching his classmates what to do as part of their learning that day. Now this is a good use of remote learning – I couldn’t be prouder of him.
I do my 1:1 reading from home on Friday and there is a joyous moment. I’m hearing a Y2 pupil read her book ; it’s a play about a Doctor, some puppies and lots of coloured spots. She has her Dad sitting next to her and I suggest that Dad takes the part of the Doctor. We read the play for a few pages, all of us smiling and laughing, particularly when Dad has to say, ‘Yowl!!’ Again, this is remote learning at its best. Specific, personalised and augmenting the partnership between home and school.
Our Friday weekly newsletter is a cracker – there’s a pupil page for the first time, and a whole page of photos sent in by children who lit their candles and prayed on the Feast of Candlemas on Tuesday.
Here’s another thing. All this fuss and worry over lost learning, but where is the chance for reflection or prayer? To take a moment and remember we are spiritual beings? I’m completely committed to the school providing this leadership. Lent next.
With my Dad a little more stable in the mental hospital, and my Mum being looked after by her sister, attention turns to my 17-year-old. We’re not really talking at the moment. I got angry with him when he missed yet another tutorial (…the alarm clock didn’t go off…) and he’s fed up with me being a stressed-out, miserable headteacher.
But it really is tough for this age group, it really is. When we come out of all this, who do we focus on? I think it’s this group – the teenagers and young adults. We need to give them hope and optimism.
Which means it comes back to parents again.