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As the schools close for all but the most vulnerable children or those with parents and carers in key jobs, suddenly you’ve become your children’s new teacher.
Your new job could last for many months, so it’s important you get it right. In many countries, my best guess is that we won’t see schools re-opening before September.
So this situation raises lots of anxieties for the adults who are staying at home and teaching. What’s the best approach? How can I be mum or dad and switch to being a teacher? How can I become the best teacher I can be? Will I be good enough for my kids at perhaps a crucial stage of their education with tests and exams in the year ahead?
At the same time, our children are confused, frightened, disappointed and angry by what’s happening and you are likely the people they will look to both vent their frustrations and be supported and loved at the same time.
Teaching in one-to-one or small group situations is intense. When pupils and students are in a normal class there is space for them to self-regulate their learning just as we do as adults. So they will have lots of mini downtimes, go for a walk-in class, talk with friends etc. And the class teacher is constantly scanning to make sure that everyone is on task for most of the time. That’s key – ‘for most of the time’ Classes aren’t (or shouldn’t be) production lines. The best learning comes when the children are relaxed and they don’t learn in a linear, mechanical fashion. 100% on task is a myth.
For those with teenagers, there’s a whole extra set of issues as they ‘individuate’ from parents and become young people in their own right whilst still needing enormous dollops of unconditional love. Their mood swings are likely to be intensified by feelings of confinement at a stage in their lives when they want to stretch their wings and leave the nest.
And those teenagers will probably know a lot more about the subjects they are studying than you do. There will be specialist areas that you won’t be able to help them with – don’t try! They have subject teachers whose professional lives are all about that distillation of knowledge. Plus, things may have changed since you were at school. It’s not just about Google being the default to answer any question. Teaching and learning have become more sophisticated with the kind of performance metrics that you might associate with athletes. It is all much more scientific.
Your children’s school will most likely be offering on-line learning activities and be guided by them in the first instance. They know your children best and will offer a balanced range of things to do based on the syllabus they are accustomed to in class.
Be wary of commercial on-line activities that may claim to turbocharge learning. In most cases, they won’t. There are snake oil peddlers in education just like every other walk of life. The commercial companies are seeing this as a huge business opportunity and social media is already awash with the ‘best ever’ products.
Finally, teaching is extremely hard work and it’s most stressful when you are learning your craft as a newly qualified teacher. Expect to feel tired, with highs and lows every day. Give yourself ‘me time’ and reward yourself if possible as you have taken on a professional job with 3 days’ notice.
Good luck – we might be signing you up for training at the end of this if you get an appetite for teaching. And you will certainly appreciate what your children’s teachers do day-in-and-day-out in school.
If you’d like a more in-depth preparation please click on the link below to find my 12 point teaching from home guide.