Today we hear from a lovely teacher friend of mine who has described the impact of lockdown on her personally. It has been really interesting for me to read, because, as you probably know if you follow my blog, I’m an ex primary school teacher myself. I hope you enjoy reading about her experiences of how day-to-day life has changed.
My name could be Louise, but it is not! I am a Y3 teacher at a school in a South coast resort. Sounds idyllic? Well, living near to the sea is wonderful, but for many of the children in my school, life is far from idyllic. My heart was always to teach children for whom life was a struggle and that is certainly the case where I am. Many people find it hard to believe that a town which has many extremely wealthy people and where many folk aspire to spend a long and happy retirement, should also have some of the most deprived, uncomfortable and antisocial wards of the UK.
I have been a teacher for almost 20 years, coming into the profession after getting my own 3 sons and daughter through the pre-school years. I have never aspired to senior leadership, but am currently leader of KS2 and maths in my school.
Weekday life – before and after lockdown
My usual school day starts at 6, but I often don’t leave for school till 7:40 when I leap on my trusty bike and cycle 6 miles across town. I love that time because it is often the only time I have in a busy life to think! Once at school, I rush in, wash, change and switch the technology on. By the time the children come in at 8:40, I am ready for them. Mornings are maths and English, with a break in between. English includes half an hour of reading and I, as maths lead, worry that there is an imbalance between the emphasis on English skills and the time given to maths. My lunch time is generally spent marking at least the maths books, though I will have done some during the lesson, and preparing for the afternoon. I rarely sit to eat in the staff room, but try to get in there to make a cup of tea, at least. Two hours of topic lessons and spellings take us to clearing away and story time. Having a younger class means the parents or carers often want to speak to me at the end of the school day, so it often takes time to get back to my room, where I then spend my time up till I am chucked out, making sure I am ready for the next day and that all marking etc is up to date. In the evenings, I plan and prepare resources, except for Tuesdays when I have running club.
Since lockdown, though, that has obviously changed. Our school, like many, though not all, is still open to children of key workers and the vulnerable. This latter category for us, is quite large, but not many have taken up the offer of coming in to school as yet. However, as lockdown enters week 5, we have persuaded more to come into school. This is a relief really, as there are some children about whom one worries when they are at home in a potentially volatile situation. We have a rota of staff (teachers and TAs) who come in, usually for a couple of days at a time. A member of SLT (Senior Learning Team) is on hand to deal with the overall admin of receiving and dismissing children, together with lunches and giving us all a break during the day when needed. Our key worker children have parents who work in care homes or supermarkets, rather than hospitals.
Mornings now start with children washing hands, collecting their named trays and sitting in their assigned places. At 9 we all do Joe Wicks PE – a chance for me to develop muscles I didn’t know I had, whilst the children (5 maximum in a room) claim it’s easy and bounce up and down, without putting much effort into their squats and lunges! Over the Easter holidays, the days were filled with arts and craft activities, which I found hard as I have not got an artistic bone in my body. In the afternoons we allowed the children time on ipads, playing games or doing some online learning set by their teachers. Now it is term-time, the children all have work packs to get through in the mornings and something a little less onerous in the afternoon. The learning activities have all been set by their teacher and are mainly designed to prevent the pupils forgetting things rather than teaching them new concepts. We have had to use offline resources in the main as our children don’t have free access to laptops and computers.
On days when I am not in school, I have a long list of jobs to get through each week. These involve setting the learning for the following week, giving feedback on the learning achieved so far. That can be a nightmare as often parents will send a tiny photograph of the child’s book or sheet which cannot be read clearly enough to see if it is correct! Other tasks include writing reports and a lot of subject leader development jobs, including those I set myself!
The good thing about lockdown working is that I can choose the hours to suit myself. So I am up later, I go for a run whilst it is daylight and can fit shopping, cleaning, washing etc around my chosen work hours. Although my children are all grown up, 2 of them still live at home with us, and our daughter was at home on holiday when we went into lockdown, so she is still with us. It quickly became clear that shopping and cooking would work best if we all took the cooking in turns. That has been great – trying the different foods my family make – although when shopping (my job) they do seem to provide me with a list of unusual ingredients to try and find!
Prior to lockdown, my big moan was that I had so little weekend time of my own. Even with my careful planning and weeknight work, I would still have things to do for school. That has been the biggest difference really in that I now have more of a difference between weekday and weekend life.
Saturday morning was always an earlyish start to get to parkrun – our nearest is only a short walk away so no excuse really. Early social distancing measures brought an end to parkrun and I am really looking forward to it starting up again, when life “gets back to normal”. For now, my club has organised a challenge that is parkrun (5k related) and I am thrilled that on my 5k course, my daily exercise has paid off and I am now faster than I have ever been (by 1 second!).
The rest of Saturday would be a blur of housework, but I am now finding that is more often done during the week, freeing up time for me to spend on more relaxing pursuits, or gardening. Sundays again would be more social with church at least once, or possibly a running race in the morning.
With lockdown, church has continued, but online. Skilled tech people are managing to record and meld together services including my husband and me leading some of the songs – all pre-recorded and then woven together. I think technology has been a real boon in this period. I love being able to talk to people on Zoom from our home, or participate in a virtual pub quiz etc. Obviously, being with the people would be best, but when that cannot be done, this is a fantastic substitute.
Sadly, my elderly parents have no internet, or TV, or computer, so their only way of reaching the outside world is through the telephone. They are really struggling with the loss of independence and not being able to see people. I find it so hard when I phone to hear my mum crying over the phone about the things that have gone wrong in the house, how she just wants to be able to buy her own food and so on. And always at the back of my mind, is the dreaded thought that, at 88 and 90, they are extremely vulnerable should they pick up the dreaded infection. They live 180 miles away, and never before has 180 miles felt so far.
Overall, I think I prefer some aspects of life in lockdown because it gives me more time for the things that are important to me – family, faith and running. However, I miss my wider family even though we didn’t get to see them that often, I think this experience has shown that they are important to me and I would like to be able to see them more. I hope that when life opens up again, we will have a new normal that means work lives are adjusted so that there is a much better balance between having a life and working all life.
Thanks for reading!
A final word from me:
I’m so pleased that you took the time to share your experiences with us and give some insight into the life of a teacher before and after lockdown. It sounds like you are still extremely busy but I’m glad you have found some benefits to the situation. Thank you so much for your contribution and I hope you enjoyed getting down your thoughts in a slightly different way to what you are used to.