Disclaimer: This article was written at the time of the COVID-19 globally pandemic of 2020 when schools around the world are closed to help deal with the virus. Although such scenarios are (hopefully) rare, school closures may also happen due to extreme heat, snow or other unexpected reasons.
When sudden unexpected school closures happen, what tasks and opportunities can teachers and school leaders undertake to keep active and engaged with the profession? Below, we share ideas that can be undertaken when unprecedented circumstances result in the need to work from home.
1. Keep your body and mind active – self-care.
You’d probably be surprised with how many steps you take during a normal school day and staying at home can negatively impact on your physical health. Try not to fall into the sloth trap. If possible, go for regular walks, runs or undertake an exercise routine that you may be familiar to. In fact, there are a growing number of online gym classes that you can try out to get your heart racing a little more. Additionally, try to keep your mind positive, busy (see ideas below), and connect with others. By suddenly becoming isolated can impede on our mental health, so try to keep communication channels open, and discuss any anxieties or worries that you have.
Essentially, GET OUTSIDE. Do some gardening. Go for a walk. Whatever you do, don’t feel guilty for taking some time for self-care. Could you undertake some local volunteering to help others?
2. Do some online certified CPD training.
When all other tasks are completed, working from home allows for the opportunity to get some high-quality professional development, with a plethora of online training courses that provide certified evidence that can be shared during progression meetings. See the growing number of online courses on our UKEd Academy website (see https://uked.academy/online-courses/ ) or search around to see what is available. Be careful about the quality and cost of online learning among all suppliers and only part with your cash if the promise of the course will meet your professional development needs. Alternatively, get updated with the latest recommended reading by looking through our comprehensive resource of books that can support professional development – see the UKEdChat bookcase by clicking https://ukedchat.com/bookcase/
3. Catch up with your assessments and reporting.
Depending on the time of year, working from home can allow for you to get up-to-date with your assessment strategies, and gather evidence to back up any teacher-based assessments that you have made. Alongside, you can also make a start on the dreaded school-report writing that often needs to be done each year. Having time to work from home can allow for more personalised comments about your students which can save a lot of time when the actual deadline looms.
4. Consider online meetings with colleagues.
Formal wear optional, but modern technology means that most of us can stay connected with our colleagues through technology. Assuming that the broadband is up to scratch at home, it is easy (and free) to have online meetings using resources such as Zoom, SKYPE, Google Hangouts, Teams etc. If you are going to still be in your pyjamas, at least brush your hair 🙂
Explore other ideas shared by @ICTMagic below:
5. Undertake a curriculum audit.
How long have you been teaching the same thing, in the same way to different groups? Undertake a curriculum audit working out what works well in your classroom, department or school, and explore areas that could do with a little bit of attention. Collaborate with your colleagues (see #4), or collaborate with other teachers across the globe (see #6) who will be trying to teach the same content in their own unique way. You never know, you may inspire others, and others may inspire you to ultimately improve the teaching and learning sequences in your classroom – making everyone happy.
6. Stay in touch with colleagues globally on social media through Edu Twitter chats.
You probably know about the popular synchronised #UKEdChat Twitter chat that takes place each Thursday evening at 8pm (you really should get involved you know!), but the whole idea of setting up such chats is about sharing ideas, resources and making connections with teachers who may geographically be a long-distance away, but share similar classroom challenges as you. Build your networks, but be minded of your school policy on social media. Some people like to hide behind an anonymous name, which is fair enough, and always consider if people could identify you by what you are sharing.
I don’t mean to make you paranoid, but many teachers have been caught off-guard by comments which end up on the HeadTeachers desk that can be used against the naive individual, and often taken completely out of context! Don’t let that put you off. The key is common-sense. Seek out like-minded communities on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook (although activity on Facebook required careful considerations on the privacy settings you create).
7. Listen to podcasts.
There are a plethora of educational podcasts which, when all’s said and done, are much alike. Yes, we do a UKEdChat podcast, but so is everyone else! However, go outside the educational sector and you will find a great collection of professionally produced documentaries, stories and inspiration that can help you broaden your thinking beyond education – well, it is good to keep your options open. Some favourites are produced by the BBC here in the UK, but (if you can tolerate the adverts) there are many other great podcast series that can engage you with that hobby or interest that has fallen behind thanks to your professional career. Reconnect with those old passions and enjoy a bit of ‘you time’ by getting lost and engaged in some great podcast series. Most smartphones have a Podcast app, so explore Apple Podcasts, podcasts on Spotify, Downcast (app) or many others freely available in your App Store.
8. Consider writing online articles, or making online lessons.
You are an expert. Like it or not, you are. You are an expert in your subject. You are an expert on how to manage behaviour situations. You are an expert in ideas on how to improve the curriculum. Well, don’t be selfish and keep your great stories and ideas. Set up an online blog or write for publications that welcome content from active teachers (nudge nudge, see https://ukedchat.com/writing/ – you would be very welcome).
Additionally, why not make online lessons. There is a lot of free software where you can go through key learning elements available for your students, or to inspire other students globally. See the video by Martin above for some examples on how you can do this. Create revision videos, podcasts or articles all to help the teaching and learning continue whilst the school is closed. Who said schools are a Monday to Friday 9am-4pm thing anyway? Time for us all to move on, be more flexible and allow learning at times that suits our learners?
Again, consider your school’s procedures and policies in terms of how you should promote yourself.
9. Clear out your professional to-do list.
You make lists in your notebook, or on your smartphone, and they just seem to be ongoing and you never really get chance to plough through the tasks and get up-to-date. Well now’s the time to get things done (sorry, didn’t mean to sound like a politician there!). Focus some time on clearing the list so that you will feel more refreshed once the inevitable return to school occurs. If you still have items on your to-do list, refresh it on a new page and make completing them more manageable for you and (if applicable) your colleagues.
10. Do those jobs you’ve been putting off (which includes spending quality family time).
Procrastination, whilst working from home, is one main barrier in completing jobs. Don’t feel bad about this, but see lapses of concentration as an opportunity to undertake those household jobs you’ve been putting off for ages. I don’t mean building an extension to the house, but the little jobs. Essentially, you should not feel guilty of doing other things whilst you are tasked as working from home. I mean, how many hours do you spend doing school tasks in the evenings and weekend? Do the little chores and tasks that the house needs, and see such times as an opportunity to spend some quality time with family.
Working from home should not feel like you are under house arrest, with an ankle tag strapped to you so you can’t leave. If your boss makes you feel like this, then are you working for the right boss? As frustrating as it might feel at first, see the opportunity for working from home as a chance to catch up with yourself, your to-do list, and your family.