When Shut Means Open

So someone asked if I was enjoying being off school?

This is what ‘off school’ currently looks like.

I get up at half past six. Whilst having a ‘leisurely’ cuppa, I logon to Microsoft Teams and check all invitations to lessons have been sent. I then make sure all my PowerPoints are saved when I can find them. Believe me, I have been known to lose work because I can’t remember what I called it or where I put it. Next, I’ll check if any assignments have been submitted the previous evening and if so, read them and give the student feedback. Crap. The tea’s gone cold.

Time to make myself presentable. I wish Teams came with Snapchat filters instead of just background ones. Admittedly, I will agree that ten minutes before lift off, it is nice to just stick a headband on, throw a jumper over the PJ top then make another quick cuppa (hopefully to be drunk whilst hot) before ‘settling down’ in front of the computer. In reality, I’m sat on a old wooden chair with a flat cushion in an under stairs cupboard and my arse will be numb before the first lesson is over. So I’m presentable. Just watch some bloody clever arse make ‘smell-a-vision’ a reality soon so I’ll have to clean my teeth and have a quick spray of deodorant too.

So then we land in our remote classroom. Some students are in darkness because they can’t be bothered getting out of the bed they are so obviously in to open the curtains. Some look keen and eager with their headsets on when they’re in fact playing Fortnite. You get a random message from a child followed by a quick apology; the message was actually from her dog who’s just walked across her ipad. One child is raging because his toddler brother keeps walking into the room and is on the verge of a meltdown trying to get him removed. However, they’ve turned up and it’s reassuring to see all their expectant faces staring at me. Expectant because they’re all thinking how the hell is she gonna manage to teach us through a screen when she struggles face to face?!

I’ve learnt how to download their attendance into a spreadsheet. Not sure what I do with said spreadsheet yet, but this whole remote teaching is a learning curve for me too. Invariably, I forget to press record immediately so those children who are too anxious to come online or those children who can’t because their wifi isn’t good enough can watch the lesson later, but I’m getting better. Anyway, the first few minutes are usually spent asking how everyone is and how everyone is coping in these strange times.

So, we’re off. I show them a PowerPoint. I have to assume they’re listening because I haven’t learnt how to split the screen yet so I can’t see them. I can’t hear them either (as in they’re silent. Or have taken the opportunity to play on their phones) so I’m assuming all is good. I have tried to use two screens, but then everyone can hear me twice and nobody should have to endure that. Some forget about the hands up function and actually raise their arms when I have a question. I’ll be reminding them that they are actually capable of this once back in the classroom! I show them the work and where it is. But I have to give some students time to take a screenshot because their device won’t show the work properly. I then have to take a quick photo too so I can add it to the Chat in case.

So that could be a lesson over with for half an hour. I could chill while the kids work. But I can’t. Because children aren’t numbers. They’re individuals who learn in different ways and at different speeds. So after finishing one Maths lesson, I log off then log in to another group and teach them, whilst my phone is pinging from messages from the other group. Occasionally, I do get confused. I mix the groups up and tell Child A from group B to do what group A are doing. But to be fair, my class are used to me forgetting what I’m talking about mid sentences, so they take it all in their stride. So I start again, but then a message comes through from a concerned parent that their wifi is broken so I’m trying to reassure them whilst writing on a PowerPoint that seems to be moving onto the next slide on its own accord. (I need the guy who does Chris Whitty’s slides for him.)

And before I know it, it’s time for the next lesson.

Amidst all this there is one silver lining. The mute button. OMG! And that includes the TAs! Please could this somehow be rolled out to work on real life students when we return to schools?

Six hours later, the last lesson is done. Am I now ‘off school’? No. I’ve my own three children who have been waiting patiently because they need help. Their school is just sticking work online and trusting them get on (it’s like they’ve never met Joel!) Which they obviously don’t because mammy is stuck teaching in the cupboard so they can get away with murder till she’s finished. So now it’s their turn. They do have a father they could annoy but I’ve drawn the perpetual short straw. So I’m now faced with analaysing unseen poetry, translating environmental problems in German, teaching hand sewing (hoping this will make me redundant from altering dance costumes in the near future!), investigating the motives of King Phillip II of Spain (who?), identifying different types of waves in Physics, pointing out adjectival agreement in French, helping with a PE quiz on levers before I scream “just Google it for Christ’s sake!”

Come seven o’clock, homeschooling is over for the day. Time to chill? Nope. Because there is tomorrow to organise. Invites to send, work to be marked, messages to be answered, then lessons to organise. Planning for kids who are spending their day accessing lessons on a 3 inch screen. Planning for kids whose wifi is glitching because they have two siblings also remote learning. Planning for kids who may not even have paper or writing equipment in the house. Planning for kids who won’t have access to a printer. Or books. So that is what it is like to be ‘off school’ during a global pandemic. Oops. Nearly forgot, going to my shut school which has teachers and students in it during my dinner hour to organise resources for a child who can’t access remote learning. To be dropped off at some point by me when I find a minute, which should be easy seeing as I’m ‘off school’.

Anyhoo, back to that mute button. If anyone intelligent (you can stop reading now Boris and Gavin) could have that sorted when the open schools that are shut reopen that would be great.

“No Joel! I don’t know anything about what happens when fecking potassium chloride is added to silver nitrate with a drop of diluted hydrochloride acid!!

And when schools are open, you have pandemic pedagogy!


  1. Oh dear this made me feeling like crying. It’s so good to see a teacher being honest about how unrelenting their jobs our. Between my job and home learning my day’s just the same, but their teachers just seem so calm and collected and together. How you do it I dont know. Mega hugs and energy to keep going. You’re amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

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