Half a term of online teaching? I'm ready for MI5 now

Weeks of delivering live lessons have given teachers a range of somewhat unexpected skills, says Emily Gunton

Emily Gunton

Online learning: Teaching live lessons has given teachers new skills, says Emily Gunton

I am a teacher, but half a term of delivering live lessons has allowed me to diversify my skills in ways I could have never imagined. As a result, I’ve started to wonder whether there are other career opportunities I need to explore.

The first sign that my skillset had broadened was at 3.28pm on Thursday. At this precise moment, there was a knock at the door. I was teaching Year 7, and the online delivery driver stood on my doorstep with eight trays of food, beaming from ear-to-ear because he was 32 minutes early.

Any other time – 99.9 per cent of the time, in fact – I would have been delighted to have my shopping delivered early. I usually end up with the 10.30pm to 11.30pm graveyard slot. But today, of all days, I didn't want it to be early. 

I had another 17 minutes of my Year 7 lesson left. In my bid to save the world from plastic and my cupboards from more carrier bags, I had opted for the bagless option. Could I teach my class and save my shopping from doorstep abandonment? 

Online teaching: A future career in daytime TV

I set Year 7 the task of listening to Mars by Gustav Holst. As they heard the fanfare for the bringer of war, I was actually at war, with my shopping. As I legged it between the front door and kitchen, I felt like I was re-enacting an episode of Supermarket Sweep. It was as if Dale Winton was watching over me: if I dropped something, that would be a £25 penalty. 

As I completed my task, I serenely sat down in front of my computer and finished the lesson. It made me wonder if I was wasted in teaching. Appearing on daytime-TV game shows could be my next calling.

Not content with contemplating my future career in daytime TV, I decided that I also needed to train myself up to work as a professional make-up artist

After staring at myself on screen for close to seven hours a day, for weeks on end, I’d realised that the laptop camera does not lie. I needed an injection of colour to brighten my increasingly pale face. 

After trawling YouTube make-up videos and blending colours on my face – to varying degrees of success – I became a living version of the Pantone colour chart. My skills as a make-up artist had brought me back to life.

This has never been more important than when the wi-fi grinds to a halt and my screen freezes. We have all experienced it: that moment when you are left looking like The Scream, by Edvard Munch. But at least I stand out from the original, thanks to my bright pink lipstick, and my new colour-matching skills.

Agent Teacher, scanning for high-level targets

The final sign that I was morphing further away from my previous identity as a teacher was when I sat down at my desk, only to ask myself, "What’s happened to my desk?" 

There I sit, with my laptop for my PowerPoint, my iPad to monitor the class chat and general chat, and my phone to check my emails. I look like I work at GCHQ, analysing the screen, scanning for high-level targets as I monitor all channels to support any student who may need my help. 

As if this wasn't enough, I have now started splitting my screen, thus giving me a fourth screen to work with. If MI5 could see what I was working with, they would instantly recognise my talent and send a recruiting agent to my door. Though ideally not at 3.28pm on a Thursday. 

As we battle through the weeks of online teaching, curveballs keep being thrown at us in weird and wonderful ways. But the show must go on, despite the frozen screens, early shopping deliveries and the never-ending shock caused by staring at ourselves for 35 hours a week.

Just think how multiskilled we’ll all be by the time we finally make it back into the classroom.

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

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Latest stories