Skolan och COVID-19: del 2

Vi har samlat ett antal exempel och reflexioner från människor som arbetar i skolan, ett försök att spegla den här tiden om än i begränsad omfattning – från när och fjärran, högt och lågt, negativt men också positivt ibland – och vi publicerar några i taget och detta är del 2. (red)

The World Turned Upside Down

When is a school not a school?  

When it is closed during lockdown but at the same time has to remain open for vulnerable students or the children of key workers?  When it is partially open but still closed to more than half of the students because they are not in an exam class?  When grades are given without examinations being taken?  When an algorithm is seen as the fairest way to award grades but then throws up distinctly unfair outcomes for two thirds of our students?  When the delight of accepting teacher assessment grades is immediately displaced by the complaints that these are unfair for some who never had the chance to prove their teachers wrong in the crucible of an exam hall?  When your school fully reopens for two days but on the third is required to send some students and staff home again because of a positive coronavirus test result? When meetings don’t actually involve meeting anyone or where the virtual world is your last foothold on reality?  

When is a school not a school?  Never. 

What the past six months as headteacher of a school has taught me is that school is not a place but is instead a set of relationships. Bricks, chairs, computers, books, uniforms and the bric-a-brac of ‘normal’ school life are no more than the mental crutches that help us to pin down the ephemeral concept of a ‘school’. But perhaps we ought to seek more meaning from the aquatic world. Like shoals of fish, the schools of humans are little more than a collective noun for the interplay of movement and interweaving of intentions, needs, wants and hopes that are part and parcel of any community.  It was always thus and always will be thus. 

The glinting of light off the shiny scales. The shimmying of gauze-like fins. The murmuration-like rippling of multiple bodies revealing the hive-like mind of the collective. Shoals of fish and schools of humans. It’s all the same. When is a school not a school?  Never, no matter what nature or politics or economics throw at it. A school is always a school. Still, it’s good to be back and to see the people as we swim both with and against the currents of the coronavirus, together.

Keven Bartle

Headteacher, State Secondary School

London, England

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Det mellanmänskliga mötets betydelse

Under det första pandemihalvåret arbetade jag som gymnasielärare, som lärarutbildare, bland annat med kursansvar för VFU, och som forskare i samverkansprojekt med lärare. Mitt intryck såhär i början av hösten är att problemen som pandemisituationen förde med sig för dessa olika verksamheter i mycket liknade varann. Som lärare, föreläsare, handledare är du väldigt beroende av den respons som mötet i det fysiska rummet möjliggör. Samtal mellan några få personer kan fungera digitalt, som handledningen av studentarbeten eller samtal med VFU-handledare eller enskilda studenter. Men skolverksamhet är i hög utsträckning en gruppverksamhet, och där fungerar det digitala mötet inte alls lika väl. 

Det har också blivit tydligt att det vore förödande att ersätta skol- och campusförlagd utbildning med distansutbildning i större skala, även om möjligheten till framförallt universitetsutbildning på distans är viktig. Särskilt lärarutbildning syftar till att arbeta med mellanmänskliga möten och behöver därför genomföras just genom praktiska övningar och diskussioner i fysiska rum.

Det andra som blivit tydligt för mig är hur enormt viktig skolan och den högre utbildningen är för vårt samhälle idag – de många lärare jag mött, som kollegor på skolan jag arbetat på, som VFU-handledare och som medarbetare i forskningsprojekt, har alla arbetat hårt för att upprätthålla något av kärnan i undervisning som verksamhet, men ju längre tiden gick utan elever och studenter fysiskt närvarande desto svagare brann lågan hos dessa eldsjälar. Att få återvända till klassrummen har varit enormt viktigt för gymnasieskolan, och vi på de universitetet som ännu inte släppt tillbaka studenterna längtar!

Malin Tväråna

Lärare, lärarutbildare och forskare

Stockholm och Uppsala

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Finding a Way Through

Being a teacher for the last twenty years or so has programmed the rhythm of the school year deeply into my sense of the circadian. September is the great beginning, Christmas not a religious festival but a peak in the year that must be crossed with the baggage of carol concerts, nativity plays, trips to sing at the old folks home and visits from Santa.

As lockdown crept closer, becoming inevitable as February wound on, and becoming overdue as we stepped into March, we wondered amongst so many other worries what would happen to the rituals and markers of our school year. Secondary schools formed guards of honour and clapped out the children who would have finished that year. Bemused, those pupils walked out onto the street wondering what would happen to them with this rite of passage whipped away. 

In my school when lockdown hit our annual Easter Hat parade was just days away, an unbroken tradition since the school’s founding nearly fifty years earlier. We quickly formed a scratch band from the children attending our key worker provision and made the parade go ahead online but it was an odd feeling of being cast adrift from tradition and having to find a new thread. And, of course, the UK government’s beloved tests which, like it or not, shale our education system or bend it out of shape – however you prefer to look at it – we’re now out of the picture. Those children were at home and, however effective our school’s home learning package was to be, they weren’t going to feature in standardised tests for the year. They weren’t going to be processed into data and used to rank us against other schools. In our weekly phone calls home and our frequent home visits we were looking at real wellbeing – was there food in the house? Could we signpost to support? Could we sense stress in the air?

In school each day I was teaching groups of children whose parents worked in key professions – health, midwifery, supermarket logistics as well as children that we judged were safer with us at school than they were at home, or whose parents desperately needed respite. With shift patterns and our understanding of parent wellbeing moving fluidly we couldn’t plan beyond the day. We tried to engage those pupils and certainly to teach them something but as much so that the day would have a kind of normality to it as to progress their education. We needed to get through together and we did that with real contact, real relationships and real care. 

Finding ourselves back in the classroom with full classes this September, however unwise that is, my key takeaways from the lockdown experience is that the absolute heart of the contract between school and community, between teacher and pupil, is that of service. Lockdown turned on its head that creeping sense that schools owned the narrative, owned the curriculum, drive the relationship. We put ourselves at the service of our communities and, over and again, we were moved by the authenticity of our relationships.

I feel that we may well find ourselves locked down again – as I write my hometown of Oxford has been placed on an ‘amber warning’. We will carry forward a sense of humility and of service. And, here’s the important bit, we will have less patience than ever for institutions, whether at government or administrative level, who would seek to intervene in that pact with our community.

Ed Finch

Teacher, State Primary

Oxfordshire, UK

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