English Eye: Lockdown, by Alan Thompson
A month ago I was writing about how fast people speak – a month later I’m writing about lockdown. I’ve now been unable to leave my flat (except for a few specific reasons) for twelve days. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Many of my friends back in the UK have told me how they wished the British government would take the same measures as the Spanish government has. Thankfully, Boris Johnson has finally announced similar restrictions.
I’ve spent the last week (a holiday from school for Magdalena and Fallas) preparing to begin ‘distance learning’ or ‘home schooling’ – it’s happened so fast, nobody even knows what to call it. I’m one of the lucky ones, being semi-retired I only teach one day every week, Friday. So all this week I’ve followed the WhatsApp group of my colleagues as they’ve worked hard to set up a new system with very little time to prepare.
There’s so much to think about. How do you tell the children what you want them to do? How do you deliver the resources that you want them to use? How do you answer any questions they undoubtedly will have? How do they send their work back to you? What do you do if the children don’t do the work you’ve sent them? All questions that no one had spent very much time thinking about until only a couple of weeks ago.
Thankfully, my colleagues have discovered a variety of methods to achieve these goals quite successfully, and I’m nearly ready to deliver my first classes at the end of this week. I’ll use email to deliver the majority of my lessons to my class, while sending a copy to their parents so that they will know that their children can’t say they have ‘nothing to do’. Luckily, I have a scanner at home which will help me to prepare some lessons. There are also a number of online educational ‘platforms’, with a variety of interesting names, all designed to help a teacher in such circumstances: Google Classroom, See-Saw, Class Dojo, Tapestry, there are more. I have a day or two to decide which one might be most suitable for the age of children I’m teaching.
With a little more time to prepare, I might feel brave enough to attempt a live video-link with my class, so that we can discuss a topic as we would in ‘normal’ school. Half-a-dozen of us experimented with Google Meet for the very first time on Saturday. It wasn’t what you’d call a ‘complete’ success. Now all I have to do is try it with 20 excited children…