Since schools closed on March 12th, I’ve been creating content to help teachers and school leaders in terms of distance learning. There seems to be a huge amount of information out there so I thought I’d just pop up a one-page website divided into my 6 Rules for Distance Learning to let people know what I’m doing in my school and any tips that might be of use. I’ll also happily answer any questions.
Over the last few weeks you’ve been bombarded with free offers from companies, lists of resources, and circular after circular from the Department of Education (and one from the FSSU for good measure!) As the school leader you have to move your school to an online entity, and you have to do it without being allowed in the school or without any established online platform to do it on. You have to ensure that you look after learning and the well-being of all your staff and pupils and their families. If some of the families don’t have Internet access, you have to organise worksheets to be delivered to them. You also have to organise food provision for many of your pupils. You were given less than 2 weeks since the schools were asked to close with 3 hours of notice. Every day you get new rules which often contradict previous rules. Oh… and there’s a world pandemic going on too.
So take a breath before you do anything. You need to give yourself some space before you can lead.
As you’re moving online, you’re going to have to find ways to communicate & teach. Which of these can you already do?
Don’t be tempted to dive into using a new platform if it isn’t something you’re already using. Remember everyone is already overwhelmed. We don’t want to make things even more overwhelming.
Ensure that there is agreement from staff that this is all that is expected from them and they shouldn’t be panicking if they hear of other teachers doing all sorts of magical stuff online. Everyone’s main job is keeping everyone safe and healthy. Let’s make sure that’s the number one priority and, if this goes on for longer, we can always learn new skills together over time.
I know I said do nothing new but using video was a game changer for me in school. It’s the only new thing I’d recommend for schools to embrace. While it doesn’t replace a face-to-face scenario, it is the next best thing. While there are a number of platforms available, we’re mostly using Zoom because we find it easy, stable, and once you change a few settings, so far, we’ve found it secure. Here are some tips I’ve been sent by different school leaders and teachers.
Once you have all the plans in place, it’s time to let the community know what’s happening. In our school, these are the 5 questions we answered.
On the evening of the Easter/Spring Break, the Department of Education released a survey to parents asking how schools were engaging with them since we were forced to close with 3 hours of notice. How many school days ago was this? 14 School Days. In the equivalent of a fortnight, school leaders and teachers have had to move from being a face-to-face entity to learning and becoming a completely online entity. It is amazing what we’ve already achieved. It is worth also remembering that on an almost daily basis, the way we’ve been able to live has changed with new laws and new research being released. And we already know the worst has yet to come. Staff are going to become ill. Families in your school will become ill. Sadly, some will be in critical conditions. Many schools will have a critical incident for the first time. So, remember, this is, at the end of the day, completely out of our control. All we can do is our best. I hope this helps.