Kate Weatherell, Cohort 2019

“Yeah. Right.” Was the laughing and representative response from one of my Year 10’s when I explained to them in the final week before closure that schoolwork would carry on at home once COVID shut the gates. We knew the closure was coming, but we had no more idea than the general public as to when. Towards the end, keeping going was difficult for everyone. Students were restless, some scared and some rebellious. 

Though it was thought that children were generally less likely to become ill, somehow the vulnerability of teachers, particularly those like me who are - ahem - over 50 was overlooked.  I became ill myself with a cough and a temperature four days before schools finally closed. I wasn’t tested of course, but it was really no surprise that I became ill hanging with those super-spreaders.

Then

Just last year, I made what could now in retrospect be seen as a pretty shrewd move from corporate caterer to trainee teacher. And My God I love it. I feel very much alive, stimulated, challenged and I laugh every day. But make no mistake; learning to teach is hard. It can be exhausting, humiliating, or as one teacher friend of mine described it ‘wild’. You simply don’t know what’s going to come at you next; verbally or physically…

…. And I must confess that (a very small) part of me felt relief at the announcement of closure. At least my taxing external assessor had to be cancelled….and that particularly challenging student…. But now I truly miss everyone, challenging or not. I was developing great relationships with students and with my fantastic colleagues. I hugely miss my weekly Maths SCITT training day with its fabulous bunch of career changers. I was feeling more at ease with my ‘teacher persona’… then bang… it was gone. Now school feels like a beautiful, hazy and distant other-world of interaction and physical proximity.

Now

I’m not doing any remote teaching. As I am not yet qualified, the classes I was teaching have reverted to their original teachers. I have managed to persuade a couple of teachers to take Powerpoints from me for some of the lessons. Teachers have been overwhelmed by setting work on new IT platforms, and by the veritable blizzard of emails from students, parents and colleagues. I feel for my colleagues who are estimating grades for GCSEs and A-levels. Very difficult. Very political. 

I am also not required to be in school for key workers’ children during lockdown. Easy life you might think, but I’m feeling weirdly guilty. I do worry about the disadvantaged students who don’t have ready access to IT and some who don’t enjoy a home atmosphere that lends itself to study for whatever reason.

I feel spoilt here in the comfort of my own home researching remote teaching and putting together lessons without the responsibility of delivery and assessment. And I have so much more time to hone my subject knowledge and polish off that final PGCE essay. But the reality is that I can’t wait to get back to school. And I hope that my Year 10’s feel the same.