Our leadership team meetings had one vital focus – the welfare of students and staff. Our student cohort does consist of some very vulnerable young people, many of whom rely on school for sustenance. Plans were made, adapted, shared so that by Monday 23rd March we were ready. Texts, emails, website messages had all been sent out so that parents were well informed about what was happening. The catering team had a plan to feed those in need, a large donation was made to a local food bank – after all many of our students relied on this and we would not have the 1,400 people in school for the next week or so that we usually did.
We had a well distanced leadership team briefing on Monday morning. The Principal and other members of the executive team had been working all weekend. There were three tranches – welfare, education, admin. Teams of colleagues were briefed and ready to go. A four week rota was in place. All non-essential staff were to go home after their briefing. Plans were put in place and executed to feed our students, to educate them online and to keep everyone informed.
We are a “Google” school – we use Google platforms such as gmail and already had Google classrooms in place. These were adapted so that students could access home learning over the first week (as long as they had access to the internet). We became more proficient at using Google Meet – a bit like Facebook messenger or Zoom, this means we can have online meetings and we do. Each morning at 11am there is a virtual coffee break (I have to confess I’ve missed the last couple) and we’ve had leadership team meetings with the usual routine, the Principal chairs the meeting, we have an agenda, when you want to contribute you unclick the mute button and then when the time is right you can share your information, we have minutes and follow up actions. It is a virtual meeting and instead of being around the boardroom table we are in our own homes. I’m lucky as I have a study, my bargain desk (25 quid from the British Heart Foundation shop, rubbed down and painted grey) is large enough to hold my laptop, chrome book and i-pad as well as notebooks and a basket of stationery. Phoebe helped me to realign it so now it looks out over the garden, the wisteria is in bud, Spring is springing and it has not been onerous to sit at my desk and contribute remotely.
Teaching is a sociable profession, you have to like people – young, middling and older as you work with several hundred. I was very worried about the impact of social isolation, I like people, I found it hard to be at home when recovering from the mastectomy and rebuild, however, with everyone in the same boat it might be easier to tolerate.
This is the end of the second week of being at home.