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Musings of a virtual teacher

Submitted by virtual teacher on 25 April 2020

So in March life changed suddenly and drastically. Overnight my job went from one of the most people- orientated, sociable and close contact jobs you can do, to a virtual one. I am an SEND teacher and I LOVE my job. I love working with my students and TAs and communicating verbally and non verbally. I love sitting next to or across from students 1:1 and using pictures and objects to explain concepts and facilitate social interaction and understanding. My students thrive when they have consistency, routine, strong relationships and engaging activities. These changed quickly and without warning. We discussed it and prepared for it, even wrote some social stories about it… but I don’t think any of us ever really thought it would happen.

There are so many factors to consider for any teacher, when planning for students to access work at home, but this becomes more challenging when working with students with additional needs. How much access do they have to ICT? Do they have paper and pens and rulers and protractors? Do they have parents that have the time, skills and confidence to support them with academic learning? Are they all healthy and currently capable of working- both mentally and physically? How do I get the balance between providing activities and not creating additional stress during this unprecedented time? Video lessons will not work well for my students due to their varied needs and abilities, so how do I plan activities that they will find enjoyable with objectives which are clear for parents?

These are all things I am working on currently. Have I got them right every day? No. But I am trying. My current work schedule involves planning and resourcing lessons and uploading it to an online platform, corresponding with parents regarding how they are getting on and completing CPD and administrative tasks as set by my school. I spend a lot of my day, like most, at a computer, with music playing in the background and a coffee next to me.

So what do I find difficult? I miss people. That’s about the root of it. I miss the chats with my colleagues in the early morning, and the break time ‘biscuit box’. I miss the amusing things people say and do and wanting to share those stories with each other. I even miss the photocopier running out of paper just when you were about to use it but are also busting for the loo! But most of all I miss my students. My teaching style is intuitive and responds to what is happening in the classroom… its hard to plan ‘next steps’ when you can’t fully see what your students are doing or thinking or feeling.

But is it all bad? No. I am obviously extremely grateful that I have a job at all, and I still have one I can do, albeit in a very different way. I can invest more time creating more exciting resources and in differentiating my resources so they match perfectly what each student needs to do. I can prepare for the future. I am completing an SEND diploma to further my skills and my career. I can rest and focus on my own health and diet and exercise which I hope will benefit me in the long run.

I got married a month before lockdown and it’s a different type of honeymoon to the one I was expecting… but I am enjoying an unforeseen amount of time with my new husband- we are ticking films off our ‘top 100’ list, zooming with family and friends, reading, walking, playing scrabble (its neck and neck!) and luckily, we haven’t wanted to kill each other yet!

 I am supporting my friends with young children, by helping with early years phonics and maths ideas. I am making online stories for my 2-year-old niece; to help keep her entertained but also so I can feel close to her. I am excited to be part of the team delivering some sessions in school to keyworker students – I will be giving them some basic lessons in MAKATON sign language; something which I hope they will enjoy and benefit from.

So what do I hope is happening with my students? I hope they are keeping up with their reading, and maths, and comprehension and science and humanities; at whatever level they and their family can manage. I hope they are enjoying the sun, and baking cakes, and riding bikes, and playing with their siblings and watching interesting films. But most of all… I hope they are safe and happy.