Schoolzone | Reflections on lockdown

Reflections on lockdown

Date: 29.05.2020

In 20 years of conducting research in education, no topic has brought tears to my eyes as often as this one. We asked education staff to tell us about how they were feeling during May, prior to the start of school re-opening and the outpouring of anxiety, uncertainty, anger, confusion and frustration was overwhelming. Those with children had the problem of teaching them too; those without wanted to do more as a result. Some near retirement or with medical conditions were in literal fear of their lives and alomost all respondents were feeling the burden of a much higher workload - some described triple the normal amount, or working 100 hour weeks. A combination of struggling to cope with current situation and anxiety about the alternatives - at least, coming so soon - seem to be generating a lot of very negative emotion.

 

Some of the saddest comments perhaps were from respondents who that said that we were the first people to ask them, 10 weeks in, how they were coping. So, we decided that instead of trying analyse all the emotion, we'd publish all the comments gathered via our survey of education professionals, developed in conjunction with Durham University and completed by 3500 of you, verbatim (with a small number of repeated single word responses removed). We've also included a very small and not necessarily representative selection below.

 

Please share this post - we'd like to make sure that the views of education staff are expressed as widely as possible to encourage others to express their emotions too.

 

Primary senior leaders

Primary teachers

Secondary senior leaders

Secondary teachers

Non-teaching staff

 

Some selected comments - not representative, just interesting:

 

A lot of fluctuation. We have had a fairly intensive work experience as we are using iPads to deliver live lessons. Looking at a screen all day has made me feel almost travel sick. Sometimes there have been new expectations on us without anyone checking if we are happy/capable of doing so. The live lessons have been particularly difficult for those with young children. I have however felt less stressed and have a lot more time for hobbies, cooking, spending time with my husband. The weather has been a big help, I wonder how this would have been different during the winter with short days, cold weather, breaking boilers, cancelled Christmas etc. Reading the news can be stressful, but that is true for anyone. This is actually the first survey I have received asking me how I am, I wish it could have come from my own school/academy trust first. Being an independent school I do have concerns whether the financial crisis will affect pupil numbers and hence staff numbers next year. I am very thankful to have employment and a wage coming in at the moment. Sometimes I look at my school work and wonder if I am really making a difference. There is a monumental international disaster taking place and in many ways I wish I was out there doing my part in the world, helping people who can't afford food or their bills right now. I have to trust the government and local authorities are doing everything they can already.

 

Even little decisions seem to take forever - like whether to go food shopping. I delay and delay until I really have to go. I think it's because I'm really on edge because you sense all this unease. I know everyone is nervous and unsure but I don't think many people are managing it well. Instead of defaulting to being kind and understanding, I sense this power imbalance in over-officiousness and constant disapproval. So I just feel enormous relief and gratitude when someone in a shop is polite or helpful. Once in a small village post office, I had such a miserable encounter I burst into tears, it wiped me for out the rest of the day. I know we tend to focus on the bad, and I have had some very positive experiences out and about but I'm sure it's this enormous shift in social dynamics which has unsettled me...Even though I'm a cheerful soul, and have so much to be grateful for, I've also felt incredibly lonely at times, more than ever before. I have tons of friends and close family, we're always in touch but in the quieter weekend moments, I often get hit by a wave of grief that I'm alone. Going out by myself for a walk or cycle ride has become really hard because it reinforces I'm alone. I think it's really helpful to be honest with myself about this but it's also pretty bleak because I don't see how it's going to change in the near future...I can't wait to get a dog!

 

Feel as if I am working really hard but that most people think that I am on holiday. 

 

I have felt a great sense of confusion in regards to the guidelines in relationship to special educational needs school's and how they have been considered alongside mainstream. I believe that we should of had separating to help with understanding of how we were to operate with every child having a EHCP, a majority having social workers without concerns but rather for support, social distancing with pupils who have the developmental age of a 0-6 months year old and therefore requires close contact to ensure they receive appropriate development., eg through intensive interaction. 

 

Hugely distracted in many ways leading to a loss of focus, concentration and attention - due to e.g., securing food and supplies, old parent (and neighbour) capacity to cope- literally losing her mind in her isolation, immediate family security, home schooling/ health of teenage children, ideas about the future, blocks on current research plans, loss of liberty, plans for the summer lost. There has also been a discernible anger directed at the government due to their apparent inability to set and follow a practical strategy, to tell the truth, their regular exhortations not to criticise at this time and the ideological nature of their communications.

 

A lot of meetings and communications have been perfectly adequate online and it has been easy to use this method of communication but the social communication has been a challenge. The lack of meeting round a coffee table to chat and share things that work or don't has been severely missing and it's a struggle to do those little bits of professional learning that aren't quantified. In addition, spending my time replying to emails of 'how do I access xxxxx again?' and sorting out silly little problems is ultimately quite soul destroying. Every word has to be scrutinised in communications and explanations are a real struggle to do well, especially for Maths, over emails. My time is taken up with a lot of small things.

 

Generally things are emotionally easier, but work-wise I've started to feel very bored of this way of working, really missing student interactions and struggling to stay motivated, particularly as the gaps between students who are and aren't able to engage with school work continues to widen, I worry about how we will come back in a way that fully supports all of them. I'm also feeling frustrated with the government's approach to schools, suggesting opening without any clear consultation with teachers, and therefore without a clear plan of how these things will work. It is confusing for us to have no idea about opening in the near future, the indecision must be even harder on students.

 

I am enjoying the peace. My skin and hair have healed and I am eating and sleeping better than in a usual term time- my brain is less chaotic and I am better at looking after myself and taking time to enjoy my own art. I have pangs of whether or not I want to go back but I do feel grateful, so very grateful, for this job and its security. I enjoy planning for the future and have had meaningful exchange with colleagues and students alike. I have managed not to feel overwhelmed or stressed. I think because I am older and I can prioritise, I get up early and do everything on my 'to do' list. I don't have children at home and my husband is at work so I think that helps.

 

Trying my best to juggle family and work, but always feeling like whatever I do isn't good enough. Especially now the media are back to criticising teachers again. Trying hard to engage as many students as possible to complete home study, but finding there are not enough hours in the day.

 

I am extremely worried about possibly and almost certainly dying if I return to school. I am 66 yrs old and have had 5 3-day fevers since November and been seriously ill when at school but feeling I could be forced to go back. I had a talk with my Deputy Head and she was saying we will be likely expected to return with 10 perclass. I am petrified as I thought I was so ill prior to leaving school I could die and even made my will. This is not something to be taken lightly wit us older teachers but we could be threatened by school to return, she said.

 

Very difficult teaching situation, didn’t have the right work area and equipment. No contact from Head Teacher, and then the school went into administration. A few days later it closed due to insolvency and we were all made redundant. Just great!

 

Trying to remote teach from a corner of the dining room is having a significant impact on me - work load is huge, and my family - who need my attention but I can't always be available. Two children home educating, 5 people to feed twice a day - whilst trying to teach - on top of national concerns over the virus and family concerns over shielding / furlough & loss of income, the pressure is IMMENSE - thank God the sun is shining!