Lock it down, skill it up!

Sarah Bedwell
Sarah Bedwell is, amongst many things, a teacher and unashamed geek when it comes to learning and technology. She is dedicated to improving professional learning and has run many events in order to allow other educators to do the same. She recently relocated back to Australia and is looking forward to a new career direction.

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For myself and every teacher friend I have, the end of a term has us dragging ourselves towards the holidays like the bright shiny beacon that is a chance to sleep, eat and use the loo at a time of our own choosing.

Six weeks of summer holidays gives us time to rest, recharge and reset our bodies and minds ready for the excitement of the new school year. Six weeks of lockdown with no definitive end in sight? That’s a whole other ballgame and you can’t take your bat and ball and leave, because you’re already at home to begin with.

So what do you do with all this time on your hands? It seems the entire population of the Western world is baking – if you’re able to get your hands on flour and yeast, that is. Who even knew there were so many things to do with a sourdough starter discard? Every food blogger I follow – and that’s a lot – is spruiking their sourdough, making pancakes, scones and even crepes. Cripes.

Maybe you finally have no excuse to not clear out your wardrobe. You can Marie Kondo your way into a militant row of boxer shorts and t-shirts, precision-folded and standing at attention (with plenty of YouTube clips to remind you how to fold your shirts accurately). It sparks joy to see such uniformity. Personally, I managed to time relocating to Australia with the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, and I’d already Elon Musk’d my belongings and can’t therefore spark the joy of home organisation. 

With the lockdown still in full swing here, albeit easing every week and not to the extent of what it is in the United Kingdom, my time is taken up by alternately re-learning how to live with my parents, the evil nemesis that is the 1500 piece jigsaw puzzle I was silly enough to pick up free on Facebook Marketplace, and re-learning how to live with my parents until my frantic and incessant emails to the Queensland Premier and Australian Prime Minister work and the state borders reopen. Did I mention I’m forced to live with my parents right now??

In lieu of daydreaming ways to escape the familial home and have some adult contact beyond that which exists via a screen, here’s a few things you can consider doing to hone your teaching skills without *actually* doing any real work.

1. Sign up for some free CPD. @researchEdhome (or search the hashtag #rEDHome) brings high quality speakers to your sofa/kitchen/bed/home office. Best of all, if you miss the live sessions, they are on YouTube for catching up on when you wake up from your third nap of the day. Also check out #BrewEdIsolation and #GlobalBrewEdIsolation. There’s no promise of the infamous Rucksack of Sh*te, but there’ll be quality speakers. Just remember though: camera on, pants on!

2. Learn a little bit about dual coding and the benefits it presents for teaching and learning. As a starting point, the great Oliver Caviglioli (@olicav) is your man. His Twitter feed and website are full of free, excellent resources. You can then work on your tech skills and find some icons on a site like FlatIcon (https://www.flaticon.com/) and manipulate some images using Canva (www.canva.com) to create resources and infographics all of your own. 

3. Learn a new subject. Have a look at the exam specifications of various secondary or A Level subjects, and teach yourself some of the content. Connect with some subject specialists on social media to discuss what you’ve learned, ask questions and further your understanding. This is useful for everyone: primary teachers can further their existing knowledge; and secondary teachers can learn more about what their students are studying.

4. Work on your pedagogical skills by curriculum sequencing your mastermind subject. If you can’t be there for game day, you can still practise the skills to keep you match-fit for when the season resumes.

5. Start a professional learning journal. I’m not suggesting you channel your inner Bridget Jones or Adrian Mole (unless you want to, in which case put on your big pants and carry on). A professional learning journal can be many things, including a resource for logging your reading of articles, blogs and books, a register of CPD events you’ve attended and notes from those, and a place to reflect on lessons you’ve taught and conversations you’ve had. It doesn’t have to be a beautifully illustrated bullet journal, either. I’m insanely jealous of people who have the skills to do that, but even a folder on your computer can be a place for such musings.

6. Give your pedagogical toolkit a spring clean. What tasks or activities have you used a lot this year? What haven’t you used for a long time that you could bring back? What have you always wanted to try but haven’t? What does research suggest, being mindful of needing to apply it to your context and not shoehorn entire tricks and gimmicks in, lock, stock and barrel?

Finally, one more thing: keep curating and developing your professional network. When you haven’t had to use your brain for a little while, they’re invaluable for crowdsourcing ideas and being a sounding board. Thanks to my network for being able to virtually bounce the ideas around.


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