Teachers everywhere around the UK are likely to have at least several more weeks of attempting to work from home.
This will require ongoing attempts to set home-learning tasks for children that are both engaging and contribute to their academic progress, while simultaneously trying to complete welfare checks over the phone and coping with your own lockdown life concerns.
Coronavirus: Tips for remote teaching
Over the past few weeks I've seen that there are some good and some not-so-good ways to set tasks, and I think the following points are worth bearing in mind as we continue with this remote teaching lifestyle.
1. Clear communication
First and foremost, we need to work on what we communicate to parents and children. Are we expecting them to complete everything we send home, or just what they can manage?
Are we expecting that the work we send is going to last all day, or can parents decide to spend some time off-timetable doing other activities?
Clear communication will ensure that parents don’t need to feel guilty for not managing to replicate a school day for four children of different ages.
2. Manageable expectations
Following on from that, parents need to feel like they are able to cope – we must make sure that our expectations of what parents and children can do together are realistic.
Children are not all going to be able to complete the same amount of work that they would if they were in school.
The distractions of being at home, the emotions that impact during isolation, the lack of routine – there are many things which mean that all those brilliant learning activities we’ve sent home might never get done.
3. Accessible work
If we send blanket tasks to a whole class, will it be too easy for some children and too difficult for others? Probably.
Our time is probably better spent tailoring a smaller number of activities rather than sending a ton of activities that many children can’t access.
If we want children to do some work while they are at home, we should ensure that it is open-ended enough for them all to access it, or provide what is essentially differentiated work.
4. Fair format
Another factor that might inhibit some children from completing work at home is if they do not have the technology to access it.
Although edtech is being touted as the great saviour in this pandemic, there are still plenty of children with no laptop, tablet, device or internet access.
Sending work that needs printing out is pretty much a no-no. Expecting all children to access all the internet-based tasks you are asking them to do is not realistic.
Be aware of who these children are and consider how you can keep them on board.
5. Less prescriptiveness
In an ideal world, we’d be able to control children’s learning remotely during times such as these.
However, the majority of us are not set up for this and so the more we prescribe, the more the gap will grow between those who can access the learning and those who can’t.
With wellbeing concerns surrounding isolation and lockdown, it is important that we are not requiring too much of parents and children.
Although at some point in the future we will have to deal with the fallout of this time of missed schooling, we must ensure now that we are enabling families to thrive, making suggestions for how they might make the best of their time at home together without having rigid expectations.
Aidan Severs is a deputy head at a primary school in the North of England. He tweets @thatboycanteach