What an uncertain few months it has been for teachers all over the world! Here in Australia, we watched the world bunker down a few weeks ahead of us, and consequently started preparing for online learning ourselves for much of our winter Term 2. Thankfully, we have weathered less of a storm here so far, and a lot of us have ended up back at school in recent weeks, which was much sooner than we all anticipated.
If you find yourself in a phased return to schooling soon, here are 5 things I have learned so far from my experience…
Each family’s circumstances are different, and if your phase-in looks anything like ours, it will be a soft or staggered start. Senior school students returned first, and we used a hybrid model of face-to-face teaching and online learning. I found that utilising my online learning programs with both groups was the easiest way to manage. I had pre-recorded demo videos, and students at home and at school were completing the same practical and theory tasks at the same time.
2) We need to lower our expectations.
This has not been a time for rigorous assessment and high expectations for practical projects. Anxieties are still high, and the community at large is navigating unknown territory. We need to provide routine, structure and meaningful learning experiences, but let’s not climb a figurative academic Mount Everest right now!!
3) School needs to be a safe and happy place for staff and students.
This speaks to rapport, relationship and pastoral care. Creating a safe space for fellow colleagues in our staff rooms, and our students in the classroom is so important. Art rooms are fantastic spaces for meaningful chats, self-expression and…dare I say it…much needed FUN!
4) We as teachers need to concentrate on self-care.
I don’t know what your personal situation looks like, but in the past few months I have been juggling a pretty crazy workload! From facilitating online learning for my own two children at home, whilst meeting students online for classes multiple times a day, to restructuring and re-writing programmes, keeping on top of the usual marking, keeping my house from looking like a pig-sty, to trying to find toilet paper, and managing my own uncertainties and anxieties about what tomorrow will look like!!! It’s been a lot. I have really tried to make sure I’ve gone for a walk outside once a day, and figure out what activities I can do to re-charge myself to stay afloat. Which leads me to my last point…
5) Let’s remember how powerful Art-making is for our mental health.
Whether we’re encouraging our students to visually process what has been going on, or trying to distract ourselves from the seemingly never-ending bad news, let’s not forget the amazing resource we have in the art-making process. I have barely had time to feel inspired in my own art practice, but it’s so important that we remind ourselves, and our students to tap into the mental health benefits gained from creativity and self-expression.
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