We are in unprecedented times. 3 weeks ago, I was hurriedly running around tidying the house getting ready for family to come round to celebrate my son’s 3rd birthday. Phrases are often over used, but this really does feel like a different life. So much has changed in such a short space of time and the impact on our lives is great. Schools are all but closed, parents are working overtime with their children at home and teachers are juggling their old role with their new one.
Since the increase in concern, the introduction of daily updates and (late) announcements, we have started to see people’s true colours. As the quote suggests, when our backs are against the wall and we are facing crisis point, we show ourselves for who we really are.
You could start with bodies such as Ofsted – too slow to react to the crisis and therefore missing a huge opportunity to buy respect and capital with the teaching community. You will no doubt have already read mock tweets suggesting comments that may appear in future Ofsted reports: “The quality of home learning did not sufficiently support the most disadvantaged pupils”. We all hope that these don’t come true, but how much time will be given before we read the line ‘business as usual’ again. What are their true colours?
I’ve also seen a worrying number of teachers reporting that they have to complete ‘time sheets’ for their work at home. I’ve tried to think of an eloquent way to phrase it but seriously – what is that about? Every circumstance is different. Some will be able to work for long periods, some may not. But that is not the point. The point is that work should not be the focus at the moment. No one has experienced this before. It is not fair or reasonable to put that kind of additional pressure on to teachers at a time where they will undoubtedly be anxious over their health, their family and almost certainly the children in their class that they aren’t seeing every day. Anyone who was on the fence in these schools about whether it was the place for them has surely had their minds made up. I think the true colours are pretty clear here too.
But, as the song says ‘Don’t be discouraged’. As much as this has shown some things at their worst, it has also brought the very best out in people. Anyone in the teaching community will have their thoughts and feelings over pre-prepared resources with subscription fees. Whatever your feelings are, the fact that these were, almost without exception, made free to access will help teachers and parents support their children.
On top of this, the online community has been incredibly supportive. There have been amazing free resources created by teachers (I particularly like http://www.researchify.co.uk by @solomon_teach) as well as resources collated and shared on padlets, drop-box accounts and websites. With additional time at home, many may look to their own CPD and again, the generosity and support has been fantastic. You can find anything from Dual coding and cognitive science on @senecalearn to a series of videos from @teacherhead on Rosenshine’s Principles in Action. And with a menu of activities and no pressure to engage (in the way of weekly meetings for example), it wouldn’t surprise me to see more people take an active part in their own CPD.
We’ve seen on large scales the way that the true colours start to show in these times of crisis. However, these are perhaps even more apparent on the smaller scale – when we look directly at the communities that we serve. The school community of parents and children have been amazing. In the time leading up to schools ‘closing’, we received care package deliveries (Nandos was a particularly highlight) and so many messages of support. These have continued since closing, and show how much schools really are the centre of communities.
When it became clearer that this wasn’t going to pass us by and that we needed to start to prepare, the response at my school (and I’m sure many others) was amazing. Whether it was from supporting each other, to taking on additional jobs voluntarily or even to asking if someone wanted a cuppa, seeing the team unite showed me their true colours. When organising a working rota to support key workers, despite the dangers, staff wanted to volunteer and help out. They continue to look for more and more ways to support their children in the best ways possible. I am privileged to work in such a team.
Perhaps then, it is no coincidence that one of the enduring images in recent weeks has been that of a rainbow. A symbol of hope that many have put in their windows to unite against a common threat.
Let’s try to make our true colours beautiful. In times such as these, it will make all the difference.