An Unforgettable Year

Experiences of an NZ Intermediate School Teacher

“We need to give our students more credit than we sometimes do.”

The first take I’m going to share with you is from an incredible intermediate school teacher from NZ. Over 30 years into this teaching life and her students are still surprising her! This year she’s had a composite class of 30 Year 7/8 students. Let’s delve into her take on teaching in 2020:

🔒 Lockdown

Cast your memory back to the day when you found out that your school was closing. Did you know it was coming? How was it announced? What was the feeling amongst staff and students?
No, I didn’t truly comprehend what was coming. Sitting in the staffroom when the news was on the TV, it seemed somewhat apocalyptic. When my students left at 3pm we were still not sure what was happening. I took a few of my resources home to be prepared. But that was it. The staff were all called in the next day for half a day to prepare. Again seemed so surreal. I was more focused on making sure our home was ready - riding to the supermarket and mall to get what I thought we would need, not knowing just how life changing lockdown would be.

Sitting in the staffroom when the news was on the TV, it seemed somewhat apocalyptic.

Did anything change in your personal circumstances around the time your country went into lockdown?
Everything was very much the same for us. In fact, we loved being at home as it gave us a great sense of calm during the first lockdown.

What did teaching during lockdown look like for you? What were the expectations from your school?
My office became my new classroom. We used Google Meet as our platform to communicate and Google Classroom and Seesaw to post work. The school’s goal was to keep our students calm and together.

What was the hardest part about transitioning to online learning? Do you think your school was set up to deliver this? How well did your students handle the change?
We were better set up than we thought. Getting devices to students who had school-owned ones was the biggest challenge in the first lockdown. As soon as the second lockdown was announced, devices went home that day with students. The novelty of lockdown disappeared with the second one, however, as a class, I was so proud of them through both lockdowns. Out of 30 students, only one chose to ‘wag’ school. Interestingly his classmates made him accountable when they returned to school.

If your school was open for children of essential workers, what was your role in supporting this?
I continued to work from home. Our school of 1100 only had around ten students at school. Our senior leadership, specialist staff and one teacher per mini school were on site.

Keep calm and carry on

🎒 The Big Return

What procedures or systems did your school put in place once students were back at school?
Hand sanitiser dispensers in all rooms, drink fountains covered and not used, no assemblies, PE equipment cleaned, QR scanning, no visitors into the school, students washing their hands and improved personal hygiene.

Did your curriculum/timetable change?
No, we carried on as usual. After the first lockdown, we just wanted to move forward and not dwell on it.

How did your students feel about coming back to school? What was their attendance like? Did anything surprise you about their attitudes towards learning?
Students loved being back - they missed school. I only had three students who didn’t return when we came back to Level 1; Two with health issues and one who has a history of poor attendance. I was surprised that my students completed all of their learning.

Did you notice any big gaps in your students' learning?
Yes there were gaps but nothing too significant.

How did you find returning to school?
I was happy to be back at school as I wanted life to get back to normal - a new normal now.

💭 Reflections

Has school returned to 'normal' for you yet?
Yes - things are normal.

What has online/remote teaching taught you? Has it changed your perspective on teaching and/or technology?
Students don’t love online learning as much as they perceived they would. Distance learning has shown how resilient children are.

How did you find the workload this year? Were there any changes that made your days better or worse?
During lockdown not having all the extras - meetings, duty, the noise and hustle and bustle of school was such a bonus. All I had to focus on was my students.

What positives have come for you personally this year?
I loved the quiet - no traffic noises, no planes overhead. I loved the freedom of the day and I had much more time to myself. I am a homebody so loved being at home.

Sum up the year in one word: Unforgettable!

Any thoughts, hopes or take-aways going into 2021?
Hoping we can travel internationally but realistically know that is not going to be. We now live in a different world. I am very grateful to be in New Zealand.

Final words:
We need to give our students more credit than we sometimes do. At times I was in tears by just how committed my class were. So many times the internet dropped out for students then there they would be on the screen of their friend’s phone! They checked in with each other and managed to make the best of a strange situation.

~

Thanks for your insight into the year. You clearly built a wonderful relationship with your ākonga to keep them engaged in their learning and it is heart-warming to hear of their manawaroa - resilience - truly living out the school values!

What's your story of this year?

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