Home-schooling in the shutdown
Advice from Jeff Pedley, Head of Year 7 at the Gateway Academy.
I first started working in schools in 2003 and it’s fair to say in the last couple of decades I have seen some big challenges within education.
Nothing compares to the past seven days.
And it hasn’t even started yet. An epic shift will need to happen in how education is executed. Parents and teachers will need to work in a partnership, stronger than ever before. Whilst technology may make the transition easier, it will be a steep learning curve for all involved, not least for those within education itself.
With all this in mind, many parents have told me their fears about their child falling behind, or even worse, being forgotten about during these testing times. I can guarantee that teachers will strive to ensure this never happens, but that may be little relief to parents ‘on the front line’, home-schooling on the kitchen table, therefore, as an experienced teacher, I have five pieces of advice
This will be the cornerstone of your child’s education at home. From the time they get up, to the meals and the down time. Try to establish a strong routine; learning is built on it. Whilst having a set time to work the academic tasks set by school is crucial, please don’t forget that time for creativity, exercise, relaxation and even chores is essential.
I’ve seen some parents get on top of this quite rapidly, however many seem to be over-prioritising daily routines. Please remember that routines need to be weekly also. Consider certain things that can break the week-up: family movie night, take-away night, baking afternoon. These little milestones are sure to be magnified in social exclusion. Likewise, we might have to go ‘old-school’ on the weekend with activities like jigsaws and board games once again becoming family favourites.
Teachers in China have suggested in took two to three weeks before home-school routines slotted into place, so please have patience and stay determined to establish those daily patterns.
The internet can be a blessing and a curse.
Whilst there seems to be an almost an unlimited number of apps, websites, and free programmes available to students and parents nowadays, the quantity can be overwhelming and more detrimental than anything else.
Listen to other parents and attempt to find what works for you but ultimately, try and stay as close to the programmes that are prescribed by the schools. Schools may use different exam boards or curriculums which differ in the content required. Consequently, privacy and security are equally important and likewise the school will use established apps and programmes. Whilst venturing across the internet, please bear this in mind before.
Checking your child’s learning
Teaching is a bit like playing Goldilocks. You don’t want to introduce material that is too easy (they’ll get bored) or something that is too difficult (they’ll get disheartened). It needs to be just right. It must hit that sweet spot which teases them enough to keep progressing.
People think ‘assessing’ means slapping an intimidating, formal exam down in front of someone, in fact, when teaching, assessment is happening all the time. Short, snappy questions and responses give an idea of which direction the learning needs to go. Many times, I have changed lesson plans within a minute of a lesson as I’ve realised that the difficulty level needs to be adjusted.
Teachers are going to lose this direct contact over during the shutdown. In a perfect world, all work be individualised and whilst teachers will be trying the upmost to do so, it may be that sometimes up to the parent to change the pace of the tasks that have been set.
In other words, if needed, please get your child to go over the same material (or at a slower pace). Likewise, if your child is finding the work too easy, don’t force them to go through it; zip through it and move on to the next lesson.
Dealing with Behaviour
Whilst a lot of good behaviour habits will be created with established routines, I have no doubt that parents will have some moments when the home-schooling gets tough. It will be extremely difficult to keep patient and with the current context it may also be hard to keep your emotions under control.
However difficult it may be, attempt to focus on rewards rather than sanctions. Catch them doing the right thing and really praise them for it. Try and work out the reason for the bad behaviour; consider the points from the last section. If the work is too easy or too difficult they are likely to get disengaged.
Looking After Yourself
Finally, and mostly importantly, you will only be able to fully support your child’s learning if you look after yourself first. Make sure that within the routines you make time to do things that you enjoy also. If possible, even work it into your child’s learning and it will be very likely that they progress even quicker.
Save time for personal reflection; don’t beat yourself up about things and, crucially, give yourself a massive ‘pat on the back’ as you are home-schooling your child through difficult, unprecedented times.
And remember, don’t ever hesitate to contact teachers who will still be around to help.