POSTED ORIGINALLY ON MARCH 12TH 2020
My alarm still goes off at 5am. I guess I can’t get my head round that I’m not physically getting up and going into work. To be honest, I am a morning person anyway so it is all the same. I grab a coffee and read a chapter from my book. The lack of commute means I can take the morning slower. When I do open the laptop, it is to check what lessons I have during the day.
Today is a four period day out of six, starting with year 9. I go into google classroom and check the lesson over. Yesterday, we got further updates from our Head and asked to consider how much work we are setting. I am looking the lesson over with this in mind. I think it’s reasonable but we shall see. We have now decided that all pupils in KS3 will have one reading lesson a week – one to get them away from the screen and, two, to make it slightly easier for ourselves. In addition, it gives those pupils who are struggling to complete all the work set in a week a space to finish this work off.
Once I have looked at the lesson, which already has clear instructions, I post reminder instructions to the stream for the class. I am not going to do a google hang out with year 9 today – I did one yesterday and they are all positive and upbeat, cracking on and, for the most part, handing in on time. One thing I do do is address a misconception about the ‘tail’ of a newspaper article through the stream (having commented on this in a number of pupil responses). The stream is good for this.
As they work during their lesson, I am marking their work from the previous lesson. I use the comments bar down the right hand side to offer quick feedback. I want to know that they’ve understood key concepts and that they are developing their ideas. This is a process that today takes about 45 minutes. There are a few pupils who haven’t submitted. Again, I use the comment bar to ask them to submit as soon as possible.
I am now keeping a register, ticking off pupils who have submitted tasks after each lesson and those that have not. As I mark, this register is open so after looking at each pupils’ section, I tick off, as I go, those who have submitted, those who are incomplete and those whose work is missing. This is the most time-consuming thing but I feel if we are not on this, pupils will start to slow down and more and more pupils will stop submitting. Keeping them going and motivated to work is essential.
I go to my next lesson- year 7. This is more tricky. They are really not as good with the online learning and many are not submitting. This is even with a simple research task. I spend time going back through to be clear who has and has not submitted and send notifications asking for the work. In a second task, pupils have been asked to interview family members about their cultural background. One pupil has submitted a video and it has me in tears. A creative way of approaching the task but also the way his mum speaks about her cultural heritage is so moving. It is the best start to the morning. After spending an hour and a half to two hours going through assignments, marking, tracking and chasing, it is time for breakfast and a shower!
Just before lessons begin, I touch base with a few colleagues who I am missing. The daily banter is something that is harder to translate on online. A colleague asks if we can have a google hang out later just to catch up. Alongside taking care of the exam classes, isolation remains a concern for us all and we need to all find ways to manage how we cope with this. At the moment, I am not feeling as confined as I thought. Maybe this is because I know there is no choice and we just need to suck it up at the moment. I have plenty of work…LOL and some books that have been sat waiting to be read since January. I also have an apartment I could spring clean.
At 8.50 I open my year 9 page and my emails ready to go. All is quiet – my y9s are the best at the remote learning so far. They are working through, supporting each other and submitting on time. A few queries come in, in response to the work set or questions about what is needed and how they can improve. I make sure I am available for the duration of the lesson and then use the time to mark other work as well.
During this time, I have a year 12 requesting access to a document. I’ve learnt two things here – one, very early on, make a copy of the document for every student. This week, as the week has progressed I have also learnt something about deadlines. I have been setting the deadline for the end of the lesson and I think if pupils fail to meet this then the work locks. A good learning point has been to set the deadline for the work on the Sunday of that week to give pupils the breathing space to get tasks done and completed without the work being locked. They can still submit but anyone who is struggling or needs a lesson run over can continue without problems. I also need to review how much I set my pupils. All good stuff for week 2.
Deleting emails as they come in is also key. There is an increase in emails as all comments made on google docs are then sent through by email so I respond and delete as soon as I can, keeping the flow manageable.
I fire off emails about the EE upload to IB. This is the first time I am doing it and I am nervous that I am now alone but having colleagues on the end of an email reassures me that I am doing everything right. During this time, I hear from a few colleagues – some are stressed and most are not enjoying this experience. Talking to each other really helps. I have flipped – on Monday when the lockdown was announced, I cried. Mainly because there was the potential of not seeing year 13 again and out of a genuine worry for my exam groups. On Tuesday morning, I met with year 11 and year 13 through google hangout and they were so positive, so upbeat that I adapted my mindset. Sometimes, we forget how resilient our pupils are!
I get an email from a year 9. My initial enthusiasm for google forms has waned a little. Pupils need to input the exact answer and so now I am inundated with pupils telling me their answer is correct but because it is phrased differently, they are not being rewarded the mark. This means I will have to go and check the answers myself. I guess, the solution is using google forms for multiple choice – which I am terrible at creating and avoid – or simple one word factual recall questions. Writing this prompts me to set up a google hang out with year 11 for later to address this and tell them I will go through and mark as well. A quick communication like this might save me from hundreds of emails later. This is happening now with year 9 :-S
At 9.45 we move into lesson 2 – usually a department meet. A friend messages me from Korea to say he is into week 4. I also have many friends in China who have been locked down for far longer. It’s such an unprecedented time but it is so good to connect with people around the world who are experiencing the same things. The Italian community on Twitter have been fantastic, sharing ideas and resources and it is enough to keep you sane.
I’m not as productive during my free as I should be but the day is lengthened as I work longer into the evening and time away from the screen throughout the day is important. I guess this is an upside that now you are completely in control of your timetable and can feature in breaks as and when you wish. Sticking to timetable, I take a break at 10.35 with a cup of coffee and a bit of Masterchef UK which I love J
At 11am it is time for year 7 – the class I worry about the most because they aren’t coping as well with the remote learning and submitting work for me to see. Instructions are on the lesson and instructions are on the stream. I am on the stream today chasing up missing work as pupils enter the lesson. And actually I discover that year 7 prefer the stream. Lots of questions, comments and discussions about what they are doing. This might be a bit of breakthrough. It is a frantic hour. I have pupils checking in to show they are present. Pupils who still haven’t got to grips with the technology and don’t know how to download, edit etc. Pupils who still, despite asking a gazillion times, bless them, aren’t uploading to google classroom. The problem being that if some pupils upload to classroom, some via email, some via docs it becomes really unwieldy. Training the pupils is taking a bit of time. Our library lesson tomorrow should provide some breathing space to check all tasks for this week are done and successfully uploaded. Hopefully, I will be able to work with individuals to get this done. Right now, I need a lie down after the lesson but on to year 12…
At least I thought I had year 12 – wondering why it was quiet I suddenly realized I was 10 minutes late for a hangout with year 11 to clarify the google forms thing and I actually had year 11. Luckily, they were all there busy chatting away to each other and probably appreciated the download time. Oops! Day 6 and already losing the plot. Once the quizzes were clarified, off they went and I went to re-mark all of the quizzes for the pupils. (see above). Actually, this took no time at all and, as a result, have decided I still really like this feature. Did realise, however, whilst marking that the settings meant that I had no idea who had done what quiz – doh! After playing around with the settings, hopefully from now on I will be able to see who submits with the quizzes. This is a huge learning curve but with a positive hat getting to grips with some of the technology will be no bad thing moving forward.
By lunchtime I am frazzled after two intense lessons. Year 7 with the constant of the checking that they are ok and year 11 – one thinking I had year 12 and then, two, realizing the collection of the quiz data wasn’t working in terms of the names….especially after spending hours generating the quizzes. Time for a meat and cheese platter and a bit more of Masterchef!
Last lesson of my day – I am free last – is year 12 and for year 12 I branched out this week and decided to use screencast. We are moving on to Duffy and so put together…very hastily…some screencasts taking students through an analysis of the poem stanza by stanza. This was fantastic. I have been planning to use screencast for KS4/KS5 and had put that aside as a summer job to produce materials for next year but it was brilliant to trial and the easiest way to model an analysis of a poem at the moment. In fact, I loved it so much that I subscribed to the site so I can make longer videos etc. Despite complaints from my year 12s that I had set them too much work, they found the screencasts very useful.
My last lesson is a free and I am going to use the time to wander up to the supermarket – the only reason we are now really allowed out and about. I have nothing for breakfast tomorrow and we all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day! I’ve also run out of chocolate and, in times like this, that is an essential. In fact, I’ve just realized we aren’t allowed out without a self-certification. I don’t have a printer which is problem numero uno and secondly trying to complete an Italian form is fun! Thank heavens for Google translate. I’m absolutely bricking it now – the police here are not a friendly bunch. Wish me luck!
When I return, I need to sort the EEs finally and go through my lessons for tomorrow, trying to mark as much of the work from previous lessons as possible. At some point, I need to get ready for next week….and week 3 of remote learning – 19 lessons to sort. Whatever, I do, I switch off at 8 and go back to my book. I’m currently reading Monster – a retelling of the life of Mary Shelley and one of the books on the Carnegie longlist. It has me gripped!