Staying sane as a teacher in a pandemic

Niomi Clyde Roberts

Currently Assistant Head, teach a Year 3/4 class of 36 and Curriculum Lead. I'm in the process of writing a book for Bloomsbury - which is due out in January 2021. I'm incredibly passionate about Emotional Intelligence within teaching and leading. I've been lucky enough to win two Nexus Education awards for 'Health and Wellbeing' and more recently 'Improving School Leadership.' 

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As of writing, we are now approaching the sixth week of lockdown, and I can imagine teachers, leaders and headteachers are pretty exhausted. I know I am. I’m normally full of energy and raring to go, but this pandemic has definitely taken a toll on my energy levels. I think we are all working off of adrenaline at this unpredictable time. 

The list seems endless: the free school meal vouchers fiasco, COVID-19 safety precautions, members of staff becoming ill and unable to attend work, rotas, rotas, rotas, trying to keep track of the latest updates and ensuring our children / families are safe and finally… ONLINE LEARNING! Plus the unfamiliar nature of recording clips of ourselves setting tasks, and responding to parent queries all hours of the day. 

We are used to going a hundred miles an hour in the workplace, instead we have ground to a sudden halt and most of us are stuck on the laptop, day in day out and my god I miss my classroom so very much! I miss interacting with the children, seeing them complete their learning, helping edit and improve their writing and celebrating when they have persevered in Maths - eventually achieving the correct answer. Actual teaching. 

I have been aware of some schools that have gone down the route of judging the content of the lessons that are being sent home to parents. This is causing direct anxiety to their teachers. What I would like to say to those leadership teams who have allowed this to happen: We are in the middle of a global pandemic with some members of staff experiencing family members that are ill or have sadly passed away, and you are analysing the standard of online learning? Teachers are normally very efficient in triple checking what they have sent out, and I can completely understand a quick once over, to check for typos – but judging the content? This shouldn’t be allowed to happen, and it makes me really quite cross that it has. 

Anyway, moving on…

Our roles at the moment have completely altered and we are providing support to parents who are struggling to encourage their children to learn. We are also ensuring that those key workers who are working all hours of the day and night are safe, well and that they are coping with the new norm and added pressures.

I have been so proud of the children’s efforts and how well many of the parents have responded to this temporary measure of learning from home. It is not an easy task. Especially when one or both parents are working from home. I think it is safe to say lots of us are all having a little tipple in the evening, just to keep ourselves remotely sane. To those who did a dry April, hats off to you! I’ve been going on many long walks to ensure I get that much needed headspace, and because I know I am a deep-thinker, it helps to clear my mind. I know many others have been coping in different ways – baking banana bread, tidying bookshelves, daily fitness regimes, rigid timetables, Tik Tok videos and countless Zoom quizzes.

What I have found tricky with ‘slowing’ down and everything changing all at once is that we didn’t get the time to adjust our thinking. The government instructed that we close the schools and so preparation began. There was speculation about the schools closing, but until it actually happened, I was carrying on as normal. I watched that news conference with my headteacher and we both just stared at each other as if to say “Wow, it is actually happening” with which my head said “Right, we’d better get to work then!” No-one has had time to fully switch off as we have all worked through the Easter holidays and I would say this online learning is very much more intense than classroom learning – I think we can all agree there. 

What I have loved is that educators have been so supportive towards one another, during this tough time, and really are checking to see if everyone is as okay as they say they are. We need as much compassion as humanely possible at the moment, because I think in our own ways, we are all struggling. 

Stay upbeat and keep smiling – this won’t last forever! 

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