Unchartered Waters – It’s Okay Not To Get It Right
Schools without children are very strange places. These past few days will have been difficult for teachers, parents and children. Teachers are already missing children and regular interactions and it is especially hard not knowing exactly when schools will be back. All the same, there is no point in worrying about something which is beyond control. We must look forward positively and consider how we best move our school communities into the unchartered waters of virtual learning. It is this new phase of the educational journey that Phillip Evitt, Highfield's headmaster and Sophie Baber, Brookham School's headteacher, reflect on here.
“The first point we need to emphasise is that we have to be prepared for glitches, and many changes of course along the way. The work that schools across the country are sending out assumes many things, not least that the internet will take the strain! Much more important though, are the pressures that home learning will have on parents and the most important thing we wanted to emphasise is that parents must not assume it is their absolute imperative, duty and responsibility for everything to run like clockwork. Equally, this isn’t about assessing them, or about competition, or getting everything right. There is a great deal to take on board and this will take time.
Some children will take to their new way of working readily, others will not. Some parents will find balancing the demands of helping to oversee their learning, while juggling working from home and managing a household easier than others. Where parents have more than one child to look after, some might be co-operative, others might not be. Following a timetable at home may be easy for some, but challenging for others.
Essentially, we want parents to understand and accept that this just might not work in quite the ways they or us teachers had hoped, because we really are in unchartered waters, but that this is okay. We will adjust and adapt. At Highfield and Brookham Schools we are encouraging parents as we move forward to communicate openly. The process will evolve and adapt as we discover what works and what doesn’t.
We will also come to learn what really matters and what doesn’t. At Highfield and Brookham School, we are increasingly of the view that it is our sense of community that will come to mean so much more to us all than whether a particular piece of Maths or History work has been completed on time. It will be finding the right ways to keep us and children connected that will really matter. It is so important not to underestimate the importance of this while potentially overestimating the importance of academic learning. There is a balance to be struck and it will be in finding this balance that presents us with the most exciting of challenges in the weeks ahead.
We have to recognise that we might be facing weeks of this new living and learning, it is a marathon not a sprint. Whatever we feel the answers are now, experience will probably teach us otherwise. From reading of the experiences of schools in other countries that have been ‘virtual’ for some weeks, it is clear that there is a limit to the stamina and tolerance of the children learning day after day in front of a screen. It is also clear that finding the right balance in families living cheek by jowl for many weeks will present its challenges. We need to allow time for us all to adapt to our new and altogether unique circumstances, cut one another more slack and really choose our battles, if indeed we want to battle at all!
Do not worry if you child is uncooperative in getting work done one day, chances are they will be more cooperative on another. Establishing a routine is important, but it won’t happen immediately, or if it does, it might unravel later, in which case one has to ‘flex’ with it. Different approaches will work in different households, there is no ‘right way’.
Don’t be dismayed if you can’t get the technology to work. Don’t worry if the supposedly ‘helpful’ guides schools have sent out don’t make sense, people will be there to help. If it’s glorious weather outside let the children enjoy it, their work can wait. This is a learning process for us all in a time like no other we have lived through, and it will be patience, honesty, good humour and dialogue that will help get us through to the other side.
We do hope that you will find our thoughts helpful and that you will maintain the dialogue that teachers value so deeply and recognise is going to be so very important in helping us all through the weeks ahead.”
See the remote learning at Highfield and Brookham Schools in action on: