A teacher’s insight into COVID-19, online learning & students returning to school.

A teacher’s insight into COVID-19, online learning & students returning to school.

A different kind of celebrity has emerged throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nurses, doctors, supermarket employees, and indeed all frontline workers have been praised for their efforts during this time of great uncertainty.

Also high on the list of the lauded are the teachers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant a transition to online learning and home-schooling for many.

As the seriousness of the crisis became clear, teachers worked to transition entire schooling curriculums to an online format, with many still turning up to the classroom each and every day, even if only for the one student whose parent couldn’t stay home with them. 

With Australia beginning to ease COVID-19 restrictions, and children returning to school, there seems to be a collective sigh of relief from parents and guardians.

No more home-schooling.

Journalist Carrie Bickmore reflected on dropping daughter Evie back at kindergarten, stating in an Instagram post, “Every time I started to say thank you to her teachers I choked up (didn’t help that they were playing You’ve Got A Friend In Me’!!) What our teachers have done over the past few months (and always) has been amazing. I feel so so grateful. Tonight on [The Project] we say thank you to our teachers across the nation.”

For many teachers, connectedness and face-to-face communication is key to the craft.

Having to so quickly adapt to the prospect of online learning can’t have been an easy feat, and handling student reaction and behaviour upon the return to school seems another challenge altogether.

We sat down with a South Australian junior primary teacher to discuss online learning during COVID-19, how the teachers have actually been coping, and what it’s like to be back in the classroom with close to full student attendance.

What were your initial thoughts about what would happen to schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Fear of the unknown quickly switched into preparedness for what might be. The strategy really was to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Initially, we did think online learning might be in place for a full term.

How did your school prepare for online learning?

We prepared an initial response package for four weeks of learning. This consisted of both online and supporting printed documents suited to a home learning setting. We had to implement new platforms and apps and organise teacher rosters.

As a junior primary teacher, what were your biggest fears about online learning?

I was most concerned about ensuring the students still felt a sense of connectedness with their teachers and each other. At our school, we prepared Happy Birthday videos for students and teachers that we could schedule via the online learning platform we were using. This was a simple yet easily personalised gesture that hopefully made those on the receiving end feel a little bit special on their birthday.

There was also a sense of fear regarding the somewhat unfamiliar technology and how well it would work. Students who didn’t have access to the necessary technology were offered school laptops on loan to ensure they were able to utilise the online learning resources. We were very lucky to have such fantastic resources at hand.

How did the children and parents adapt to online learning?

Everyone responded very well. It was a real credit to them as to how well they did adapt. We are continuing to stay connected to parents through our online platforms even though the children are mostly back at school.

Now that most students are physically back in the classroom, how have things changed?

Parents are respecting social distancing by dropping students at the gate instead of coming into the actual grounds of the school. The children have been resilient and are showing a lot of independence.

We have been continuing to deliver authentic gatherings virtually, with assemblies and staff meetings currently being live streamed.

Vigilant handwashing and hygiene are of course, prioritised.

What is the general student attitude towards COVID-19?

It’s been interesting to see the students develop a knowledge of the language of COVID-19. It is important that the children are informed with the facts, as this is really helpful in assisting their understanding of this unprecedented time in history. Information also gives the students more of a sense of control, and informs their attitude as to the importance of hand hygiene.

What do you think the next few months will look like in schools?

I think it will remain as it currently is for some time. I think everyone is looking forward to school sport and music lessons starting again. That will do wonders for general spirit.

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