Here in Kuwait children haven’t been in school since March due to Covid. While schools across the world, especially back in England, have opened up again, schools here have remained closed. There is no certainty or any real clarification of when children and staff can go back to school again. This leaves a lot of anxiety I think for many across the country, worrying if their children will be able to catch up, how will this affect their socialisation and personal growth etc. There are many factors which contribute to this unsettling time right now.
If you didn’t know already I teach a lovely class of Year 3. There are five year 3 groups in our school with each one named a type of tree. I have the Year 3 Willow class who have been a delight to teach this year. When I moved back here in September I knew I would be teaching online but didn’t exactly know how long for.
At first it felt very temporary and I could imagine myself stepping foot back into the classroom again. Although I know this eventually will happen again one day, right now it all seems very settled in the online world. Of course this comes with many barriers and obstacles to overcome which I’ll share with you now.
But I have no experience in online teaching?
I’m sure this was going through many people’s minds during this pandemic. How am I supposed to do this? What if I can’t grasp this new online platform? How can I do group work, assessments, adjust to suit individual needs etc.
The truth is no-one knew this is how the world would pan out. We didn’t expect for lockdowns to happen, we didn’t expect schools to shut and not be safe anymore, all of these changes have been hit by full force on us and it’s okay to feel completely overwhelmed in such unprecedented times. I tried my best to grasp the online teaching platform as quickly as possible to make sure my lessons ran smoothly. I watched endless YouTube videos for tips on online planning, interactive activities and how to use various platforms to engage your children as much as possible. These have all helped me in gaining ideas of how I would like my online classroom to be.
The more I began to use the online platform the more confident I felt. It becomes an every day routine that soon feels like second nature to you. Muting and unmuting mics, using the chat box, sharing your screen and allowing your students to interactively use the whiteboard are all features that are practised daily.
Online Classroom Management
I was inspired by someones account on instagram to create these signs for my virtual teaching to help with classroom management. They have been a life saver when it comes to managing the rules of virtual classroom.
I introduced them within the first few weeks of being back to school (online). I felt it really benefited from them to be able to visually see what I was instructing them to do…especially with muting their mics and allowing others to speak. I still use them up until now and will continue to do so throughout this academic year.
What I have noticed throughout my experience in online teaching is that you need to be careful to not overuse your voice too much in the lessons. This can sometimes come across as you are just lecturing them what to do a lot of the time rather than properly teaching them. Therefore these visuals also give that little bit of a break from using your voice.
My star of the weeks have been a great success in my classes this year. It is something they look forward to at the end of each week. I believe it also gives them still a sense of normality of being within a classroom again. Even though we are now online there are always ways to continue bringing in the same practises and routines within that online space.
These are also great for encouragement and promoting positivity in the classroom. I particularly love how supportive my children have been when the star of the week has been announced. They always congratulate the student in the chatbox and give them positive praise filled with kindness.
As our working week is from Sunday to Thursday, I always announce it in the last session of the day which is homework, to be able to end on a really good note ready for the weekend. I’ve been choosing someone different each week so far and giving a mini teacher speech of praise for why I have chosen that student in particular. I also remind other students that there is still chance to achieve the star of the week in the upcoming weeks ahead.
What’s my schedule like?
Different year groups throughout EYFS, KS1 and KS2 have different schedules throughout the day, but for Year 3 we are teaching from 11am to 4pm everyday and expected to be available for meetings/planning etc anytime between 9am to 5pm each day.
Within the 11am – 4pm slot we have two 15 minute breaks for the children and we don’t teach every class on the curriculum. I teach English which includes (writing, reading, grammar and spelling) as well as Maths, Science, Humanities and Computing. The extra subjects that are taught by specialist teachers are Art, French, Arabic and Islamic Studies.
Some days I will be teaching 4 lessons a day, each lasting 45 minutes, whilst other days I will be teaching 5 lessons a day. Tuesdays are a gem because I only teach 3 lessons therefore I use that time to try to catch up on any marking or planning that needs to be done for the following week.
Every Thursday we have an after school meeting at 4:15 to discuss the week ahead. This is a chance to raise any concerns or queries you have with your team leader on zoom.
We have recently been introduced to teaching an extra 45 minute session for a selected small group from your class to give them more focus on a specific subject such as Maths, English and Science. They are referred to as support sessions which I feel will come in handy and are exactly what the children need right now, particularly those that need to be at a slower space.
You see if we were living in normal times right now and were back inside the classroom, we would have TAs who could work with specific individuals or groups to help them in specific learning areas to give them that extra support they need. This is something that is lacking in online teaching now, having that space during lesson to focus on a specific student for a decent amount of time. 45 minutes flys by and that’s something I’m still trying to juggle around till today.
How do I manage my time wisely? How can I make sure I’m giving the best education possible to these children? How can I adapt in the same way I would in the classroom?
Expect everything and anything
Ever heard of the term just roll with it? That’s exactly how I would describe this new age of teaching. Does anyone really have it all figured out? Most definitely not. We can only do our best and that’s enough!
I try to see the funny side of things of what can go wrong online, how disorganised and chaotic it can be at times. You do get used to the blips and learn how to work around it. That’s online teaching for you! Your wifi may cut out, you may get ‘kicked’ out of the classroom…not literally might I add!
I’ve had children take me virtually with them to the dentist, to having a picnic in their garden, on a car ride, lounging on the sofa eating cereal and just chilling as they say. The most important thing for me is as long as they are online and engaging that’s all that matters really. Yes in an ideal world we would all like them to sit at a desk and act as if they are at school but in reality that isn’t realistic.
Just because we have adapted to the change doesn’t mean the children will as easily. They are children after all and I can’t imagine how I would’ve been at 7, 8 years old during this time period.
Virtual teaching comes with patience, understanding and determination to see the year through. Of course we need this to be a great teacher anyway virtually or not, but now more than ever we really need to check in on our students and do the best we possibly can for them.
So that brings me to the end of sharing with you all a little bit about how my life has been teaching online this year so far. Let me know your thoughts and experiences if you are a teacher or parent who has a child in school during these times, be it online or in person. How are they finding it?