For the teachers delivering the national curriculum, the last five weeks have undoubtedly been tough.
Not only has the past month seen them stripped them of the major tool that is face-to face education, they’ve quickly adapted to take on board a lengthy list of tech skills, coaching both parents and students in their use along the way.
Along with mastering software like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Skype, they’ve had to alter all their lesson plans, continue grading and assessing, find new ways to ensure children are engaged, and still front up daily with a smile.
They’ve delivered lessons in-person and online, met the curriculum requirements as best they could and navigated their own mounting frustration, along with the inevitable concerns of parents.
Many spent the bulk of the Term 1 holidays redrafting course work to accommodate the online environment. There were days of in-service meetings walking through the technology they would use.
Then there was the uncertainty of when and how school would resume, and if it did, would it put their own health at risk?
The online challenge
A peak into my seven-year-old’s first of three Zoom lessons for the day offers an insight into the challenge faced.
On screen is the primary school teacher, along with 20 or so tiny faces. They’re learning English and the teacher’s instructions are calm and clear as she gently prompts one child to mute their audio, another to put down their cat, and a third to please stop changing their virtual background.
Someone doesn’t have the printout they need, another left her workbook at school last term, someone else can’t find their password for the online spelling program, and a further three children are having tech issues that mean they’ve missed the past 10 minutes of lesson instructions.
Occasionally a parent pops in with another pressing question that needs to be addressed. In the meantime, the teacher is doing her darndest to ensure a horde of seven-year-olds are focussed and engaged as they tackle the concept of adjectives.
It’s safe to say the teacher probably has a few very choice adjectives to describe the experience of online learning.
A personal insight
Early in the online learning journey, a teacher friend in NSW was asked how things were going.
“Getting better,” she replied in her positive teacher tone.
Shortly after, she shared the fact that after working through online schooling with her own three primary school children during the day, she was often up late into the night grading high school assessments before recording the next day’s lessons for her students.
Some children don’t have internet access, so she’s also been creating hard copy lessons and posting them their resources.
“I’m no longer finishing at 2am like I was the first week,” she said. “Now it’s more like midnight. Technology is not my forte, so the learning curve was steep.”
The past month or so has indeed been a steep learning curve for us all in many different ways. But a big shout out and heartfelt thanks to all the teachers who fronted up online or in-person every school day during this tough term. Incredible, resilient, adaptable, amazing are just some of the adjectives I’d use.
How did your household find online learning?