5 ways to improve your teaching skills during lockdown

Lockdown may offer time-pressed teachers a rare chance to spend some quality time developing skills, writes Adam Riches

Adam Riches

Coronavirus: How teachers working from home can embrace professional development

At the start of the school closures, teachers’ initial focus was (quite rightly) on the students and their studies.

However, as the delivery of learning begins to settle and schools are finding their preferred approaches, we should not overlook how we teachers can use this time for our own benefit.

Many teachers will be busy with childcare or other responsibilities in between delivering remote lessons and reassuring pupils and their families. But for those of you who do find yourself at a loose end, this is the perfect opportunity for some professional development.

Although traditional CPD may not be possible right now, with a proactive mindset, there are several ways we can continue to develop that will serve us well, both now and in the future.

Teacher CPD in coronavirus lockdown

1. Reading 

Many teachers may well find that they have more time in their working day during remote teaching. For those with young children around, this may not always be the case, but if you do have the time this is an opportunity to get some key reading done.

What’s more, there are plenty of resources that are readily available online, often in ebook format, meaning that accessing information isn’t hindered by social distancing or shop closures. 

Along with paid texts, there are lots of free texts, blogs and websites that give helpful information, so finding something to read about a specific area of teaching isn’t too hard. 

All this can help to nourish your thinking and knowledge in all manner of different areas of the teacher’s skill set, from lesson planning to behavioural management.

2. Networking 

There is a nation of teachers who are in the same boat, but everyone will be working slightly differently. As such, talking to others is a great way to ensure that you continue to develop your teaching. 

Twitter is a brilliant resource for networking, as is Linkedin and, to an extent, Facebook. Interacting with other teachers you may not normally have time to interact with allows for the sharing of good practice and the dissemination of different teaching ideas. 

You may not take something directly from somebody else's suggestion, but you may use bits of it – or you may find that something you do and take for granted helps out another teacher. 

Time invested now in networking will also pay dividends when we go back to the chalkface and we can continue to learn from one another. 

3. Courses 

It wasn’t until the school closures that I realised how many free courses there are online around teaching. Some providers are also offering free training for trainees and NQTs, which I think is brilliant considering the current climate. 

There are, of course, also paid-for courses available and now is a good time to get your teeth stuck in if you have the capacity to do so.

Schools still have CPD budgets, so don’t be afraid to ask your teaching and learning lead if you can get funded for a course. NPQ courses can be a burden with a full teaching load, but whilst we are distance teaching, it is much more manageable to complete such courses. 

My own trust has strong affiliations with training providers that offer every course conceivable. The thing is, knowing exactly what is on offer is impossible unless I ask. All schools value teacher improvement, so don’t be afraid to ask what might be available. 

4. Reflecting 

In my opinion, self-reflection is one of the most powerful tools for improving your teaching – and when done correctly, it negates the need for teaching observations. 

Start by asking yourself some simple questions: how has your teaching changed since you trained? How has it changed since last year and what will you do differently next year? Ask yourself these questions and then ask yourself: why? It is the final factor that will help you to develop your practice.

If you are struggling to explain “why” or you can’t think of a way to overcome an issue that you have been presented with, that’s when you can network or do some targeted research.

5. Adapting 

While you don’t literally have the students in the classroom in front of you, you may be adapting the resources you will be using when you do have them back. This is the prime time to implement all of the above into your teaching, ready for when you get back into the classroom.

So often in situations like this (obviously this situation is unprecedented, but you know what I mean) good training and reading doesn’t translate into an improvement in teaching, simply because the theory isn’t applied. 

If I’m honest, this is frequently due to time constraints on adapting what we have already planned and set. With some of that pressure alleviated, exploit this situation and get as much of your CPD as possible into your future teaching.

Overall, the hope will be that we never experience a time like this again. But while we are living and working through these tough times, we should not overlook the silver linings we can find to help us, both now and long into the future.

Adam Riches is a senior leader for teaching and learning, specialist leader in education and head of English. He tweets @TeachMrRiches and is the author of the book Teach Smarter

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