I have never been so happy to put on my lanyard and return to school.
The night of 7th March felt like Christmas Eve. Whilst recognising that for some, the return to school has been and continues to be fraught with worries and challenges, for me it has been a triumphant exit from the hours spent sitting, poring over screens and battling with mute buttons, going days without seeing a face beyond my home, wondering at times if there really was anyone on the end of my live lesson call, or if they’d all just logged in then gone off to nap or watch Netflix. Personally, I skipped back into school on the morning of Monday 8th, and I wasn’t the only one. The atmosphere that first day was electric.
To say teaching from home was an eye-opener is an insult to understatement - it felt like being hit by a bus. The novelty wore off by the end of the first week as I realised that this was reality for the foreseeable future. My back ached from the unusual hours spent sitting down and I actually missed my commute - I felt the absence of those precious hours of readying for the day, de stressing at the end and listening to audiobooks keenly. But aside from that, most importantly, I missed being able to teach properly. Everything took longer remotely - the explanations felt more arduous, the feedback process clunky and lengthy, the opportunities for group work and discussion largely stunted. I’m so, so proud of our young people (I say ‘our’ collectively here, as I am proud of them up and down the country and around the globe) and how they coped with this learning experience. Again. But I am even prouder of how they have marched back into the classroom, ready, keen and enthusiastic to learn. They are throwing themselves into their work with an unexpected ardour which makes teaching at the moment a real joy.
For my part, I’ve reconnected with pupils I barely heard from over lockdown, and discovered just how tough life got for them. I’ve laughed so hard my cheeks have hurt, every single day. I’ve listened to joyous shouts down corridors and whoops from outside (on the days without torrential rain). I’ve stood (stood!) in front of 100% of my pupils and rejoiced in the variation of masks in all their eclectic glory. I’ve learned to really know when someone is smiling by the way their eyes crinkle just above the line of their mask, and to recognise the slight downwards movement of their cheeks in a moment of deflation and sadness. I’ve started to fill in the gaps and answer the questions left unanswered until now.
Being in school is a privilege and most of us, of all ages, seem to get that now. I’ve never heard so many children engaged with issues of education access, period poverty, living standards, food shortages, water cleanliness, and the myriad other issues we want them to challenge in their world. Like never before, our schools have become places for friendship, talking, challenging, acting, hoping, questioning, pushing and working towards more than exam results. More than ever, I consider it my duty to teach them to harness that power, anger and hunger for change that they have found since they’ve been staying at home. My duty and my privilege.
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