We think you do an amazing job normally. Now, with the sudden switch to remote learning, we think you're doing a stupendous job. Because it's not just the way in which you teach, and we learn, that has changed. It's the way you care for us, the way you check that we're doing OK, the way you guide us.
When it's exam time, you guide us through the process, knowing that, one way or another, regardless of results, we'll be OK. You always have all the answers. But at the moment, you don't, because you can't. Nobody has them. Nobody knows for sure when we'll be able to go back to the canteen, get a cookie from Linda, and crowd around the table to talk about Liverpool beating Arsenal. Or when I'll be able to pester Mrs Coles for a pen, because I've left mine at home, again.
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Every school has an ethos that students and staff follow, almost always around being a community who work together to achieve good results. We're taught that that community is a family. Now, all of a sudden, that family has been ripped apart, we have been forced to spend time with our actual family, and we're not sure when we'll be back. Or, for Years 6, 11 and 13, if we'll ever be back. I've heard tales of how staff have, quite literally overnight, planned end-of-year celebrations to make sure that students get at least part of the send-off they deserve. A friend’s secondary school, over the course of a weekend, completely revamped their virtual learning environment with digital textbook content, worksheets and that all-important help and support section – because that's something everyone needs at the moment.
We know that, as students, we’re all guilty of flippantly labelling teachers as people only interested in results, as part of an exam factory. But exam results have never been less important, with no exams and no league tables being announced this year.
However, at no real surprise to any of us, you're still here and you're more vested in us as individuals than ever before. You're emailing us, not just asking how we are, but telling us what you're up to as well – how you're enjoying spending more time with your cats, that your dog is happier than ever to have company all the time, that you've finally painted the fence in the garden. You're showing us that you are human, and that you're having to adapt as well: that is something we're all so thankful for. You make us realise we’re not alone, even if feels like it.
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I'm fortunate that at my college, we're using technology to have video lessons, so we're able to carry on being taught new content. Only, you’re not just teaching, and we're not just learning. We're laughing, we're sharing ideas, making memories. All the things we would normally do in the classroom. The whole education experience, albeit in a different form factor, is carrying on. So too are the lessons where things go a bit off-topic, but that's never been a better thing: spending 20 minutes talking about whether Brussels sprouts or cabbage is worse? Where our best holiday picture was taken? These seemingly simple conversations have an immeasurable impact on our moods, boosting our morale. Those conversations get us talking, making a connection with one another.
For us, learning from home has presented a number of challenges – and I don't just mean because the cat keeps sitting on the keyboard. It turns out that we do need you prompting us to "get on with it" – it's quite hard for us to stay motivated. It seems like there's no point to it anymore. But again, you provide that voice of reassurance. To quote one of my lecturers: "We really do care about keeping you all on track with your qualifications and we know this is a trying and challenging time."
Some of us are also feeling really stressed, and worried, and concerned. Which means that we're struggling with sleep. So, our routine gets thrown out. Which affects our ability to concentrate. Which affects our ability to do the work. You get the idea. Pretty quickly, everything feels like it's gone out the window, even for us independent students – the stability that we require isn't there, with no set date for its return. Some of us feel like we're grieving, having lost not just routine, but the comfort and security we subconsciously get from seeing you five days a week. We miss you, and we know that you miss us.
To try to put some sort of conclusion to something which is barely reaching its climax is pretty tricky. So, I’ll just say that we know you're doing your best. You're doing more than your best. You're doing all of this on top of being a mum, a dad, an aunt, an uncle. We know that. You're our superheroes, our legends. On top of the doctors and nurses, you are the people whom we’ll be telling our grandchildren about. Please, please carry on doing what you're doing. The impact you’re having on us at the moment means more than 800 words ever will.
Alfie Payne is a creative media college student at Farnborough College of Technology