Last week I wrote a post about the UK’s response (and my opinions) on the Covid-19 crisis, expecting it to not go any further. I’m currently sitting in the back room of my house, with the back doors pinned open, so Ted can mooch in the garden. It’s a lovely day with clear blue skies, but I’ve never felt so uncertain and restricted. As of 21st March, the number of UK cases were at 3983, with 177 deaths – an almost 400% increase in cases, and a 1070% increase in deaths in one week.
When you look at these (very basic) stats, it’s actually terrifying.
I’ve had a hectic week. On Tuesday 17th, my school announced that it would close to all Key Stage 3 students on the Thursday and Friday. That night, I frantically tried to organise work for them to do on Google Classroom and Doddle (two platforms we are now using to teach remotely) while continuing to plan and prepare lessons, and mark my exam classes’ work.
Then, our worlds came crashing down on Wednesday evening. On 18th March, the UK government declared that all schools would shut from Monday (more on that later) and all GCSE and A-Level exams were cancelled. Not postponed – cancelled. Everything we had spend two years working towards was ripped away in an instant.
I was devastated.
My classes this year were two groups of some of the hardest working young people I had ever met. They had made so much progress from the first day two years ago, and we had built a really strong, trusting relationship. I was not ready to let them go and on this Saturday morning, I think I’m actually grieving for it.
With no idea how the exam boards were planning on awarding students their grades, we rallied as quickly as we could, requesting students hand in all the marked work they had in their possession. Yesterday, Friday 20th, we stood in our classrooms as our students came in for the last time to drop off their work and have some photos. It was with a heavy heart that we said goodbye, and for the first time ever, students I don’t even teach asked me to sign their shirts.
It wasn’t without tears either. One Year 11 girl wrote me the most beautiful thank you letter, and I caught her just as she snuck out of my classroom. She is planning on going elsewhere to study a course we do not offer, and we both had a little cry as we said a premature goodbye for what will probably be the last time.
Our school did an amazing job to give Year 11 and Year 13 a send off they won’t forget, and we won’t forget either.
So what does Covid-19 mean for teachers now?
Although schools are ‘closed’, they are not. All teachers of full health are expected to walk through the gates on Monday morning – unless of course they are self-isolating or on the vulnerable list. As well as providing remote provisions for students who are at home, we are providing childcare to students who are vulnerable or whose parents are key workers. I expect there will be a couple of hundred Key Stage 3 and 4 students present.
Additionally, we have been told to provide this service throughout the Easter holidays. Where teachers across the country would use this time to relax, wind down, and catch up with marking and planning, we can’t this year. This year, we will be in classrooms, logged on, supporting the children of this country.
Schools might be ‘closed’, but teachers are not on a 12 week holiday.
Teaching is a hard job as it is, but in these times of crisis, it’s being proven that we – like the NHS – are the backbone of society. The strain we are currently being put under is immense, and I hope we start getting the recognition we deserve.