Reflecting on the Positives of Teaching/Learning from Home

I have¬† been teaching from home since December 11th. First due to isolating followed by a new national lockdown that closed schools. I am now preparing to return to the school building, and in person teaching, along with fellow teachers across England on Monday (March 8th). I think we can all agree that teaching from home is not ideal. It brings with it a unique set of challenges, and navigating technology can be frustrating when everything isn’t working as expected.

However, working and learning from home isn’t all bad. There are some things that I will miss about the experience, and I think students will miss some things as well. In the past week of home learning, I’ve been focusing on the positives – those things we’ll miss about working from home. Here’s my list:

  • nonexistent commute – my office is next door to the bedroom, so the commute couldn’t be any shorter! Now, I can’t complain, as it takes me 5 minutes by car to drive to my school, and I’m close enough to cycle on nice days, but the nonexistent commute is amazing.
  • more relaxed outfits – now some days I’ve dressed up like normal, worn a dress, and been just like in school. However, I have really enjoyed having the option of wearing jeans or yoga pants since no one ever sees me except for the shoulders up. This also means I can wear comfy socks and slippers all day – no need for proper shoes.
  • temperature control – working from home means you have complete control over the temperature (assuming you can agree with those you live with). This has meant feeling nice and cosy throughout the working day and having the option to easily grab another warm sweater or blanket if I am cold.
  • consistent schedule – in order to keep our bubbles apart for COVID safety, at school this year we have had 7 different break and lunch times. For teachers, this has meant your break and lunch time varying from day to day depending on which year group you are teaching at a particular time. At home, we aligned all the schedules and all of the start and end times for all year groups. This has been amazing!
  • long lunch break – our SLT realised within the first week of the new lockdown that students need a break from screen time during the day, and we instituted a one hour lunch break. During this time, students and staff have not been expected to be online. It’s been amazing to have that hour free. It’s given me time for walks with the dog, a relaxed pace lunch, and just some moments to rest my eyes away from the computer.
  • chat banter – I love the banter between my colleagues as we use the chat feature in Teams. We have a lot of fun throughout the day – as well as helping each other. Last time we were in school, we stopped using the chat as much. I really hope we keep going this time. Also, using the chat for lessons has meant a lot of students who might not normally feel comfortable participating are typing things in the box or thumbs upping others answers. Additionally, there is a fair amount of banter in many of my classes through the chat; however, I’m pretty sure most of this will continue in person.
  • learning new tools – During the first lockdown with school building closures last spring, we started using Teams as our platform. During this second round of school building closures, our students are really on top of using Teams. We’ve now started using OneNote Class Notebooks as a digital exercise book. There have definitely been some growing pains, and it can be a bit more difficult for everyone to wrap their heads around, but I’ve found once students and teachers have a good grasp of OneNote, they love it! Everyone has been really resilient and have learned so many skills because of working from home. The independence and ownership most students display for their own learning is really powerful. I am so exited for all of the growth I have seen in students and staff.
  • parental support – my school has been very transparent with parents as each new changes comes along. We also listen and help wherever possible. In this difficult time of lockdown, we’ve actually developed our connections with parents even more. For instance, we are going back to school in full uniform. Some parents expressed concern that students have outgrown their uniforms. Within a day, we had a uniform donation programme set up, and parents started donating outgrown uniforms. Our science technicians set to work washing and mending all of the uniforms, and then we’ve opened up a click and collect service for parents to order and pick up what they need for their children. It’s been amazing! It’s also given us a plan to do this every new school year. The parental support we have is amazing, and I know we will continue to work together as a school community.

Working through this second period of school building closures has been a very different experience since the first one. I’ve been much busier, as I’ve taught every single lesson on my timetable online. Last year, we had a lot more asynchronous learning. Students are in a much better place as we head back next week, and I am looking forward to so many things about being back in person. Perhaps the top one is gauging student understanding by observing body language. I never appreciated how much I do this until I no longer had this as an option.

As we return to the school building next week, I want to capitalise on all of the gains we have made while we have been working and learning from home. The skills students have learned will continue to help them grow and advance. I don’t want to lose sight of all of the good things that having some time working differently gave us, and I hope you can take a minute or two to reflect on the positives of teaching from home as well.¬†