Posted in lifestyle, lockdown

Managing life during lockdown: A guest post from a primary school teacher

Photo credit: Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

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! 

Weekends

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.

Posted in lifestyle, lockdown

Enduring lockdown: a guest post from my 8 year old niece

The UK has been in lockdown for a while now, forcing everyone who can stay home to do so. I asked some of my family and friends to write guest posts for my blog sharing how the government enforcement has affected them personally. You can read about my life here, my mum’s experiences here, my husband who is an office worker now working from home here and my university student friend’s point of view here. The next in the series is from my eight year old niece who has written down how the situation has affected her. It’s taken her a while to do this little job for me as she’s really not in work mode right now and writing is such a chore!

Boris Johnson announced that schools were going to be forced to close from Friday 28th March to all pupils except those from families of key workers and vulnerable children. This has meant that most school aged children are now being kept at home, many being looked after by parents who are working from home too. As far as I’m aware, a lot of mums and dads are attempting to home educate their kids as they’re worried about them missing out but I imagine it can’t be easy for them. My brother says that the school is providing activities but these are just to consolidate what has already been taught as you can’t expect parents to teach their children new things.

How my life has changed

Hi everyone, my name is Lexi and I’m 8 years old. I’m Auntie Laura’s niece and my daddy is her brother. The coronavirus has stopped me from going to school and seeing my friends. I can’t go to the park or swimming or do any fun stuff. It’s hard to stay inside because I don’t have that much stuff to do. I miss all of my family and when the coronavirus has gone I want to go out to a park or somewhere with my family and friends.

Keep safe,

Love Lexi

And just in case you want to see how lovely her writing is and what a great speller she is, here’s the paper copy:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts Lexi. Hopefully lockdown will be over soon and your Auntie Laura and Uncle Michael can come for a visit and go out somewhere nice with you.

Posted in Blogging, mental health, productivity, wellbeing, wellness

Life during lockdown: A guest post from my student friend

Today, we hear from my friend Larissa who is a postgraduate student at our local university. I first met her at the compassion group which we both attended last year. I found her really lovely to talk to, so we swapped phone numbers and have stayed friends. We recently met for coffee and cake but I guess we won’t be seeing each other in person for a while now. Anyway, I’ll hand this post over…

Hi, I’m Larissa, a 21-year-old student living in Sunderland. In January I started a Masters Degree in Media Production, but obviously due to the global pandemic we’re all experiencing, I’m stuck at home.

How have my week days changed?

My weekdays have changed quite dramatically, before I was at University five days a week, learning production management, to use cameras, sound equipment and editing software. Now I have limited amounts of work I can do at home and most of my week days consist of playing Animal Crossing on my old Nintendo DS and trying out new vegan recipes.

I’ve also gone from seeing a twenty-plus group of friends and peers, to only seeing those within my household.

How have my weekends changed?

My weekends haven’t changed all too much in honesty, I do occasionally go out drinking on weekends when things are normal, but had been limiting how much I was anyway. However, recently myself and some friends had been having ‘Games Nights’, and I am missing getting together, relaxing and having a good laugh.

What’s one of the worst things about lockdown?

Undoubtedly, there were always going to be negatives about being in lockdown; most people don’t enjoy being stuck in their house, unable to leave. I had considered myself a home-bird until the UK’s lockdown began, but it has made me realise how much I enjoy the freedom of being able to leave my house and pop to see a friend, to the beach, to grab a coffee.

My mental health has also been negatively affected during lockdown; most people (including me) are likely experiencing anxiety regarding their own and other’s health, but personally I struggle with not being able to see my loved ones often (you might call me clingy), and as overwhelming as day-to-day life can prove to be, the lack of normal routine has left me feeling unmotivated and low.

What have you found to be positive about lockdown?

Of course it’s not all doom and gloom (although it’s okay if it feels that way at the moment), I feel there’s been an increase in community spirit, and lots of children in the area have been drawing and writing nice messages and sticking them up in their windows for everyone to see.

I’ve also started exercising daily, something I’d been meaning to get back into the habit of for months. Basically, I’ve had a lot of time to focus on practicing self-care and doing the things I enjoy such as:

-Meditation

-Sketching

-Writing (including this blog post, something I probably wouldn’t have been doing had I not been stuck indoors with all the free time in the world!)

-Gaming

-Cooking

-Spending time with my cat Loki

-Walking in nature (for the government approved one hour per day might I add)

I hope you and your loved ones are all staying safe and well. I know people are going through some horrific things collectively at the moment, but I suppose what I want to finish with, is use this time, if possible, to reconnect; whether that be with yourself, you loved ones, nature or whatever.

Thank you for reading, and if you liked my writing and would like to link up with me, you’re quite welcome to message me on https://uk.linkedin.com/in/larissa-hird-9b29b9183

Larissa

I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about lockdown from the point of view of a student. I know Larissa is keeping in touch with people on Facebook, but it’s not quite the same as enjoying face-to-face contact time with friends and being with lots of other students during the week. Hopefully we can meet up for coffee and vegan cake again soon. Take care and message me any time,

Posted in Blogging, wellbeing, wellness

Self isolation from the point of view of a retired person: A guest post from my mum

A brief introduction

Hi everyone, my mum has risen to the challenge of creating a guest post about the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown on her life and so I’d like to present her words to you below. It’s probably the first time ever that I’ve seen her write at length on a subject as we usually keep in touch via phone and WhatsApp message where we try to keep our writing to a minimum character length! So, without further ado, I’ll hand over this post to its main author:

Hello, I’m Laura’s mum , Julie, and I’ve been asked if I would like to jot down the good bits and the bad bits about self isolation from the view of an older person (I suspect she might be trying to keep me busy lol!). Well here goes…

I’m not quite 70 but close enough and my husband (Laura’s dad) is getting on for 80 so we are treating this as both of us being ‘vulnerable’ although I can still shop whilst he stays in the car. I’ve tried to come up with positives first, but there are fewer of those.

The positives of staying at home…

Firstly, I like gardening and having more time and the weather not being too bad, though chilly at times, I’ve warmed up digging over the patches where my husband sets his runner beans when the weather warms up. I’ve also been hoeing between my plants. Since our soil is solid clay and had flooded several times, it is now drying out to concrete! – so I’m getting fresh air and a good work out.  

Secondly, my husband has had a spell of physical problems involving lots of pain in various parts of his body, which the doctor says is related to gout and arthritis. However, he has begun taking medication for his difficulties, and now he has picked up, he is able to do some of the jobs that have had to be put on hold. It’s a pity though that the DIY shops are no longer available to us for garden supplies.  

Thirdly, and probably the best of all, people have been so kind. We have had offers of help from our son’s girlfriend who works at the hospital and has been a bit down herself. Also, Laura’s friend from childhood, who works in intensive care at the hospital has offered help and so has the woman who has recently moved into the house across the road. Our son would do our shopping, but quite honestly, whilst I can, I would much sooner do it myself and of course Laura lives a long way away in Sunderland whilst we’re in the Midlands.  

Finally, on the positive side of the situation, I’ve got more time for hobbies such as jigsaws, crosswords and reading which I always enjoy.

The negative aspects of social isolation and distancing 

Now onto the downsides…

Before this all started, we used to go out on bus trips with lunch in Wetherspoons twice per week. Well that is out for now and I miss it. We started off driving a little way to quiet spots for a picnic in the car and a walk but now, the Government have said they don’t want people driving to places for exercise so we stopped doing that. Walking locally gets a bit tedious after a while, but never mind!  

Next, whereas I used to shop 4 or 5 times per week, I’m trying to just shop once per week which isn’t easy because our favourite supermarket doesn’t stock absolutely everything I need to buy. On the plus side, I can do my own shopping, unlike my auntie and uncle who are totally isolated due to my auntie’s serious health issues and have not yet been able to get a delivery spot. Hopefully they will soon. In the meantime my brother and sister-in-law, who also have health issues and want to isolate but can’t get a food delivery are helping my auntie out (back to kind people again!).  

Another problem is that we are running out of jigsaws to do. My brother has some but he can’t bring them to me because he is in isolation too and the charity shops where we usually get them are closed but that is just a small problem. These are just practical issues.

The worse thing about having to isolate is that Laura and her husband will not be able to come down at Easter, which they always do. Also I can’t go round to ours son’s on a Saturday to spend the day with him and our granddaughter Lexi, or see them on a Wednesday for tea which is our usual routine. However, on a positive note, although we   don’t do social media, and it takes me all my time to send an email, I am able to keep in touch with Laura, our son and granddaughter and the rest of my family by text and the odd phone call. I got a very noisy, but very welcome phone call from our granddaughter, aged 8, last weekend which cheered me up no end! Also, my husband and I have each other to talk to and it would be much worse to live on my own in the middle of nowhere like some people have to contend with. That’s it. Take care everyone and keep well.

Julie (Laura’s mum)

I hope you have enjoyed hearing from my mum and it has made you think about the effect of social isolation on the older generation. It’s also nice for me to know that my mum is being thought of by members of her local community, especially with me being too far away to offer practical help. After being initially really upset by the turn of events, I can see she is beginning to adapt relatively well to the situation and is still able to make the most of life and see some positives.

So, all that remains for me to say is, thanks mum for providing your input, and I hope to see you, my dad, brother and niece for some face-to-face contact, days out and games evenings sooner rather than later! It might not be at Easter, but hopefully it’ll be some time in the summer before Lexi and I have our shared birthday.

Posted in mental health, productivity, wellbeing, wellness

How is my day-to-day life different now the U.K. is currently in lockdown?

Whilst in the shower this afternoon, I had an idea for some new blog posts which will help to document life during lockdown in response to COVID-19. I want to record how life is currently different from the perspective of different people in my life as everyone’s experience is unique and some individuals are coping with the situation much better than others. So, for this series of posts, I’m going to record how things are for me right now and then ask some of my family and friends how the lockdown has changed things for them and how they feel about it. I haven’t asked them yet, but I’m thinking of featuring guest posts from my husband, my mum, my eight year old niece, a friend who is at uni (or rather not at uni right now!) and one of my teacher friends who is mainly working from home).

I hope this idea appeals to you as much as it does to me and more importantly, fingers crossed the aforementioned family and friends are up for a bit of writing. I’ll start with me and hopefully everyone else will oblige me!

How have my week days changed?

As I run my own online business on Etsy (and this blog), I’m used to mainly being at home during the day, but also popping out to different places such as the post office, the shops and to my different classes at my local college and my yoga sessions at a wellbeing centre in the city centre. So, during the week, I’m usually mainly on my own between the hours of 8am – 5pm but do make sure I have some face to face interaction with others each day such as chatting to someone I see regularly in the park, catching up with the ladies who work in the shop which contains a post office where I hand in my shop orders, or talking to fellow students at my classes.

Now, I’m no longer home alone during the day, as my husband, Michael is working from home. I’ve lost my desk in my craft room as he needs to use it and I have to work either on the dining room table, or in the living room on the sofa with my laptop on my laptop tray. It’s nice to have him at home as I enjoy the company at lunchtime but most of the day, he’s hard at work on his laptop and I try to do things super quietly downstairs to avoid disturbing him.

As my classes at college, my access to the college gym and my yoga classes are all cancelled, I’m making sure I do at workout at home and go for a daily walk. I usually drive to a local park but we’ve been advised to avoid using our cars to go out for exercise, so I’m now walking around the block with my iPod playing some of my favourite tunes. I used to find my daily walk really relaxing and a great chance to get in touch with nature, but now, my walks are more stressful as I’m always on the look out for people coming towards me on the pavement so we can try to keep the recommended two metres distance. I’m also trying to interact with a range of people online in my Facebook groups and other online communities that I belong to. There’s lots of talk about how the virus is impacting on our lives but I try to avoid too many of these discussions as some of them can be quite negative and I’d rather focus on the positives of the situation.

Another of my social outlets which I’m really missing is my weekly choir session. As I’ve mentioned before, singing is really great for your wellbeing, but as well as this, I also miss the chance to interact with others which these times brought. I did sign up for Gareth Malone’s online choir but unfortunately the rehearsals are at 5.30pm when I’m usually making dinner for my husband and I.

How have my weekends changed?

My husband and I used to arrange at least one day out over the weekend which invariably included a picnic (sometimes in the car!) or a meal out, plus a trip to a different town (either for sightseeing or shopping), the seaside or a local nature spot. Now, we no longer do this and as the lockdown becomes stricter to ensure public safety, we are tending to stay at home almost all day. This has meant lots of time for DIY projects, gardening and housework. In the beginning we were going out for a walk somewhere different but now, as I mentioned before, we’ve been advised not to use our cars for leisure activities as popular tourist spots were getting too crowded and individuals were unable to maintain the safe distance.

What’s one of the worst things about the current lockdown?

I think one of the worst bits for me is the lack of real life social contact and interaction with others. Even when I was depressed and anxious, I still tried to make sure I spent time each day with other people. Luckily, I’ve come out of my bad patch and my mental health is much better. I’m just grateful that I am no longer struggling day-to-day as I think I would be finding this situation we find ourselves in a lot harder if I was like I have been for the last 5 months or so.

What have you found to be one of the positive things about the lockdown?

I’m loving seeing and hearing about how people are going out of their way to help and support others during this difficult time. It was so heart-warming when we and so many of our neighbours took to our door steps and front gardens to clap for the NHS and to show our thanks for their hard work. Also, lots of children in my local area have made beautiful rainbow pictures and displayed them in their windows with messages thanking NHS staff or reminding people to stay safe.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my life during lockdown. All that remains for me to say is – stay safe, keep washing your hands, remain at home as much as you can and try to find little things to celebrate about the situation, even if there are lots of sad, worrying and negative aspects.