Life of a teacher during lockdown

A primary school teacher writes about his personal experience of how he has adapted to the coronavirus pandemic closing down schools

WORDS: Macaulay Ludgate

We all stayed late, and I watched with my colleagues as Boris Johnson announced at 5pm on Wednesday March 18 that schools would be closing indefinitely in just two days. We had as much notice as everyone else in the country, and yet so much more to do.

Although we all knew it was coming, I still felt a strange sense of disbelief. We had endless questions about what we were expected to do going forward and how we could protect the kids and their education in such unprecedented times. A day in the life of a teacher is always pretty unpredictable, but this was like nothing I had ever experienced before.

Before the week was out, we had countless jobs to complete. We needed to sort out our online learning platform and create activities for reading, writing, maths and topics. Then we needed to plan a range of work for the rest of the year that can be completed at home, whilst also figuring out the best way to keep in touch with the children.

Additionally, we had to consider the vulnerable and key worker children still coming into school on Monday morning who needed our support. It’s safe to say that we had a lot on our plate and although the headline ‘schools are closing’ might give off the impression that all teachers were on for a long holiday, that couldn’t have been further from the truth!

As you might expect the kids were delighted with the news that they could spend all their time at home and play Fortnite all day long, as one of my pupils suggested he would do. However, once we had a lengthy discussion about the situation and I said, ‘This could be the last time you get to come to school, play with your friends and see your teachers until September’, the mood swiftly changed.

The rest of our time together was quite a sombre affair, with many teachers already having a significant decrease in class turnout with parents having already chosen to self-isolate their kids before the announcement.

On the Friday it very much felt like the end of year despite the fact it was the middle of spring term. It really hit home for me at the end of the day when my class were lining up to go home and one girl turned to me and said: ‘Mr Ludgate, if we won’t see you until September, what about our end of year class photo?’. I choked up at the sudden realisation that this was the last time this group of 29 8-year-olds would be my class.

As a school we have and we will miss out greatly because of the closure. We cancelled the school play halfway through rehearsals and, sadly, we also won’t be able to enjoy our much-anticipated end of year traditions like Sports Day and Leavers Assembly. We’ve all had to adapt to these uncertain times; at first, we were living day-by-day just waiting on Government updates, but now things have settled we feel it is on us to make the best out of a bad situation.

To combat the disruption all the staff were split into three teams and given a rota to share the responsibilities of caring for the children still in school and setting work for those who are home learning. There have also been other difficulties during this time with our headteacher and deputy both going into self-isolation the week schools initially closed, putting even more pressure on us all to step up.

The hardest part of these new circumstances for me is the fact that I’m not actually getting to teach anymore. I love this job; we all do and not being in the classroom with the daily bustle of excitement that 29 children bring each day has been a tough adjustment. The good news is that now I have more time at home, I can tackle those pesky admin jobs.

What really helps keep my spirits high through the current situation is the positivity I am witnessing in our community and country. With so much spare time, children can be surprisingly creative, and it makes me happy to see them enjoying themselves despite the negativity surrounding them, from seeing their rainbow paintings in their windows when I go for a walk around the neighbourhood, to them sending in pictures of their pets, drawings and baked goods.

At the moment reading the messages they leave me on our online page is the best way to start my day, and if we are indeed in this crisis until the next academic year, then at least seeing my children blossom at home is a good consolation until everything is back to normal.