Going to the loo any time is an online learning novelty

Yes, teaching remotely leaves us tired and frazzled – but, says Emily Gunton, there have been a few bonuses
25th January 2021, 12:45pm
Emily Gunton


Going to the loo any time is an online learning novelty

Coronavirus: Delivering Online Learning Does Have Some Benefits For Teachers, Says Emily Gunton

Since live remote learning began, we have all had to throw out how we teach and rethink it with one day's notice. We're exhausted and frazzled, and there seems to be no doubt among my colleagues that we would all rather be teaching in school. 

But are there any plusses to joining in the with the office-based workforce and working from home? 

As it is January, it felt only right that I made a few new year's resolutions, generally based on eating and exercise. After all, lockdown life seems to revolve around planning the supermarket shop, embarking on another game of Monopoly and deciding which box set is next in line for our weekly binge.

It was now time to implement some change, and Boris' announcement of school closures kickstarted it.

Coronavirus: Online learning means no blowdrying and no commuting

Generally, I eat healthily and I am active. But I find that my exercise levels decrease in the few weeks before the end of a half-term. For me, working and exercising do not go together. They are more like a married couple going from hopelessly devoted at the start of term to the brink of divorce by the time we reach the next holiday. 

Now, faced with no commute time, no need to blowdry my hair or to get the kids up, dressed and to breakfast club, I have time to exercise every day before I start teaching. I've started wondering: will this will be the year I rediscover my abs? I have no excuse, well at least for the next seven to…well, who knows how many weeks?

With all good resolutions, it pays to have a back-up. So it seemed only right that I followed tradition and resurrected my default resolution: drinking more water. 

Over the years, I have tried everything in my quest to drink more water at work. I have had expensive, cheap, small, large, glass, metal and plastic bottles. I have even tried the ones with straws. However, none of this takes away from the underlying problem. 

What happens when I need the loo, halfway through a double lesson? I can honestly say that I purposely underhydrate at school. Toilet stops have to coincide with timetabled breaks, so I have to take steps to ensure that I can make it through. This means drink nothing, unless absolutely necessary. A cup of caffeine at break is essential, but there is no room in the tank for anything else, so adequate, water-based hydration has to wait. 

Now I am at home, and I no longer have to negotiate the one-way system to answer the call of nature. This has allowed me to get into the habit of drinking a glass of water an hour, knowing that I can use the facilities if I need to. In the words of Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, I feel like I can shout, "Hey, I'm not afraid any more!" 

Back in the kitchen, I am enjoying the peace and tranquillity that lunchtime provides. I manage to sit down, eat at a leisurely speed, away from my laptop (anybody else getting screen fatigue?) and come out without feeling like I've just participated in the staffroom version of Man v Food

You know that feeling when you have approximately seven minutes and 40 seconds to eat lunch and have a quick loo stop before lunch duty? I also know that I will not be accosted by a Year 7 asking me a Year 7-style question: "Do you know where lost property is?" 

I know that I can sit and stare out of the window over a cheese sandwich, allowing myself time to recharge, and to digest my lunch.

The thrill of the washing machine

One of the most exciting developments in my latest working pattern is the washing machine. No longer am I faced with an Everest-sized mountain of washing every weekend. I now manage to keep the process happily ticking along throughout the week. 

I tend to put on a load of washing before breakfast - sorry, did I mention breakfast? Yes, I have now rediscovered the most important meal of the day. But back at the washing machine - the daily load is washed by break, dried by lunch and then stacked up in neat piles, ready to be distributed by the end of the day. This lockdown has seen me reborn as Dot Cotton. I can now turn a load around in less than 12 hours.

For the first time in my teaching career, I am less stressed. One of the most significant stresses in "normal" life - apart from the never-ending pile of laundry - is that I am not around for my children enough. 

Since we began our series of lockdowns in March, I am more connected with my children, because I can spend more time with them. It always makes me laugh when people tell me that teaching fits in with family life. Maybe in the holidays, but it is difficult in term time, and I often feel like Animal from the Muppets.

I have also felt like I have been able to flex my job. On the days when my son has been going into school, I have taken him in at the usual time. For many, this is just a normal part of the day, but it has been a treat for him and me. 

Spending time with my family in the day has meant that I am now working much later than I usually would. But I have enjoyed working to my schedule, and, as a result, I am definitely less Animal and more chilled-out Kermit the Frog.

Emily Gunton is director of music, head of co-curricular and outreach and school consultant teacher at Blackheath High School in south-east London

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