I was invited to speak to third and fourth year students in DCU last Thursday night about their upcoming placement. I think teaching in a pandemic is tough and so too is teaching placement. I wanted to write this post to share some things that have been working well for me and to reassure student teachers about teaching placement during a pandemic. Hopefully you’ll find the below suggestions useful and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Looking after yourself
Whether it’s your first placement or your last one, it’s really important to look after yourself. I know how busy it is, I know the deadlines that are constant and I know how much you want to get the best possible grade you can get for applying for jobs in the future. However, I also know that it is really important to take time for you every single day. How you do this – is completely up to you.
For me, I listen to 2fm on the way to and from school, when I get home I have a Freddo and a cup of tea and a chat with my husband and only then do I think about school work or the never ending to do list.
Going for a walk/doing a workout will help you to relax and give your brain a break (you’ll be surprised how many new ideas spring to mind too!).
Catching up with friends and family is also really important.
The most important thing however is asking for help whenever you need it. The best person to talk to is the class teacher, they will know their class best and will be the best person to advise and support you.
Chat to your classmates, share ideas, what’s working well? Did you spot a new transition or a game that your class love? Share them!
There are also tons of teachers like me on Instagram/Facebook who you can check in with if you need some help with something.
It doesn’t matter who you talk to as long as you talk to someone and ask for help anytime you need it!
What can I do?
I found September hard. I found myself constantly thinking oh I can’t do that anymore, oh that’s not Covid friendly, oh that won’t work. It soon became a vicious circle of what I couldn’t do which wasn’t helpful for me or the students in my class. Teachers are innovative people, we adapt to change and we constantly need to do this to cater for the needs of pupils in our classrooms. I think this change of mindset was the first success of teaching during a pandemic. I’ve noticed in my own school just how innovate my colleagues are and how we are now constantly thinking outside the box, sharing ideas and trying new things in our classrooms.
Of course there will be things that will no longer work and that’s tough – I know for a lot of experienced teachers like myself, we felt as if it was our first year teaching all over again. We’re now over two months in however so routines and procedures are up and running, we know what is working so all you need to do as a student teacher is observe and ask and we’ll be more than happy to help!
Remember that hand washing, wiping down tables and cleaning of resources takes considerable time each day!
What should I bring with me?
Masks (at least two every day!)
Dress warm (most schools are leaving windows and doors open throughout the school day and it gets very cold)
The main difference I’ve found is that children and staff can’t move around the classroom as freely anymore. Children need to sit in pods (groups) and they tend to stay there for the full term. (We changed in my classroom after midterm as the children really needed to change the people they were sitting with).
As the teacher, you will spend more time at your desk than previously and you should try to maintain a distance when circulating around the room.
Wearing a mask is difficult throughout the day. It can be harder for the children to hear you. I’ve found a voice amplifier works really well. (Obviously this is an investment but it is something I think I will continue to use throughout my career).
The amount of time spent on hand washing/ cleaning down tables and resources is a lot each day! But it is necessary!
If you can, do P.E. outdoors as it’s likely you won’t be as restricted as you would be indoors. Our school policy is that the children have to be in pods when inside but on yard and for outdoor P.E. they can mix so this makes things much easier for groups etc. I have 6th class this year so the below ideas are what we’ve focussed on and what has worked well so far!
It’s important to have windows and doors open where possible. All equipment needs to be sanitised at the end of the lesson and children should wash their hands or use hand sanitiser after the lesson.
- Basketball skills (throwing, catching, dribbling etc.)
- 5 corners (children are in pods and numbered 1-6. A bench is put in front of them on its side. Each group has a hockey stick. 3 balls are used – a basketball, football and small ball for hockey. Teacher calls a number and throws a ball. The child with the number from each group runs to the centre to get the ball and then dribbles (basketball), kicks (football) or uses the hockey stick (hockey) and tries to hit the bench of another team.)
- Dodgeball (children can stay within their pods – use cones to mark out the area they need to stay in)
Other things that will work well
See some videos below for more ideas!
For me, in my classroom and in my school groupwork has remained in place. It’s changed slightly in that children are only allowed to work in groups within their pods but I think it’s such an important thing for children to be able to do and it really adds to the learning too.
Extra photocopying may be needed as materials can’t really mix from pod to pod unless they’re wiped down after use or left to quarantine for a few days.
There are tons of transitions you can use in class. Here are some of my favourites.
Panic (based on 2fm game)