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The Learning Institute

The Learning Institute

14th April 2020

As we are now past the Easter bank holiday weekend and are entering our fourth week of “lockdown” in response to the Covid-19 outbreak I thought now was a good time to reflect on what I have done over these past few weeks.

As I am embarking on the first year of my degree, a four-year path to becoming a teacher, I have found myself receiving an unexpected promotion. I am now not only ‘mum’ and not only a ‘student’. I am now in addition ‘home-school teacher’ and have found myself also having to take on a sort of pastoral role. I have often found myself pondering ‘what is normal?’ and ‘will things be that version of normal again?’

At first, I thought this was brilliant. There can be no better way to prepare for the future than to have to actually be the teacher- not only supporting learning but having to plan and mark it too! Well, firstly teaching your own kids is ten times more difficult than anything I’ve encountered in an actual classroom. What at first was an exciting adventure preparing a mini wall-display, a visual timetable and cross-curricular lesson plans descended into chaos (although it meant I could justify buying the laminator I had wanted for a while...). As I am sure any parent, regardless of any external factors can attest to, teaching your own children is hard. Now, consider the fact one is of reception age (4) where learning through play is the way and that the other was preparing for their Key Stage 1 SATs (7) but just wants to play their games console. Their teachers are definitely being showered in gifts when this is all over!

Nicolle's mini wall and timetable display
Nicolle’s mini wall and timetable display

I decided to take a relatively laid back approach to their home learning in the end, they do what amounts to approximately 2-3 hours per day (Mon, Tue, Thurs, Fri) of core subject learning, with an additional 10 minutes each 1:1 reading each day. Then we shake things up a bit and try do something that is fun but educational. Things like baking cakes (the weight loss plan will have to wait until next year!), colouring, board games (turns out 7-year-olds love chess?!) and then my personal nemesis Arts and Crafts. I won’t lie when we successfully made a butterfly to hang at the window using a toilet roll tube, coloured paper and some paint pens I felt like a genius!

Nicolle's and children's butterfly
Nicolle’s and children’s butterfly

I think the thing a lot of people are forgetting is we parents are not their teachers - even those of us studying to be one are not there yet and actually children’s learning does not have to be worksheet after worksheet (although they certainly help to keep them quiet for 5 minutes when required!!). Play a game of 21 with a deck of cards, paint half a butterfly and fold it in half, let them write a comic strip. If they have an interest use it, it’s still learning, and they don’t even realise it! 

Then there’s the mental health element, now I would love to say my Level 2 qualification in children’s mental health was helping me with this one, but… no! How do you explain for the tenth time to a heart-broken 4-year-old that her first ever birthday party that she’s been planning since mid-last-year probably won’t be happening? How do you explain to a 7-year-old that it’s not your fault his friends/their parents are not replying to his messages? My bright idea to set him up an email address so he can ‘pen pal’ his classmates through this suddenly seems a bit foolish! Oh, and then a personal favourite “The Easter Bunny is over 70, shouldn’t he be isolating? What if he dies?”, cue hysterical floods of tears... I am public enemy number one 90% of the time but I am all they’ve got. With their dad being a ‘key-worker’ it’s down to me. I’ve resorted to just trying to make this as fun as possible for them and answering the questions as and when they arise.

Then there’s the looming double-assignment deadline to factor in. Living in a small flat with two children, a husband and a puppy does not bode well (when this is over I’m moving somewhere with a garden!). I have lost count of the amount of times I have sat down to reply to an email or read a journal article only for a Frozen II sing-along to erupt behind me or an outburst of “BUT I WANT TO GO ON THE XBOX”.

Then there’s the chaotic work-space. What was a meticulously organised space is now layer upon layer of children’s worksheets, then the printouts for the upcoming module and then the journal articles for this current one- all mixed together in a heap on ‘my desk’. It doesn’t feel like my desk anymore. I would like to say it’s organised chaos, but it really isn’t! Imagine my amazement when I hit the word-count on these latest assignments and submitted a week early.

Then there’s the fact, I am actually looking forward to beginning this new module (tomorrow!!) and having something for ‘me’ to focus on again. It’s only been a week since I submitted that last one and I have missed that stolen time where I felt myself ‘growing’. I was doing something for myself. I guess what I am trying to say to my fellow students here is you’ve got this!