Why I beat myself up over my job role during lockdown.

When we first heard that we may go into lockdown, there were honestly various reactions from staff. This was a few weeks upcoming to the Easter holidays and I, admittedly, was naive and thought, “We will have an extra couple of weeks off at Easter - fab!” Then, as time went on, I started realising it was more serious than any of us had anticipated. Then certain staff members started showing true colours. You’d hear staff saying, “Well, I’m not coming in regardless of what Boris says” or even more transparent, “Lets just not come in”. I understand people feeling anxious or scared but this wasn’t that. They saw an opportunity to get more time off work and latched onto it. This didn’t sit well with me.

Lockdown began. We had an early year eleven leavers assembly, said our goodbyes and then said goodbye to our form groups or at least the students that came into school that week. Our headteacher and the senior leadership team have been phenomenal.They have been completely supportive, understanding, honest and worked their socks off to ensure we are as safe as possible. Our head allowed discretionary leave to many of the staff that live far away and would prefer to be with families during what is an extraordinary time.

Much to my parents dismay, I did not take the discretionary leave. My parents are like no other. There are no words to describe them as other than just the best. The weekend Boris had announced lockdown, they asked me to stay with them but I couldn’t. I would have loved too, I really would have and as time goes on, part of me regrets my decision more and more. However, when they asked me to stay, I didn’t know what the school situation would be. All I could think of was those children coming into school because their parents are either on the front line or because they need taking care of. I couldn’t let them down. I also thought about the sassy looks I had given the staff who took advantage of a very serious situation. I had already made my bed.

"I am trying to be as useful as I can, so why do I feel like crap?"

When we first went into school, there were quite a lot of students. More than we expected. Maybe about 30? It was a very surreal experience. All students are between 11 and 16 and there would be various students from each year group, but it appeared that none from the same friendship group. I felt awful for them. The next day about 6 came in. I cannot say I was surprised in the slightest, but at this point the staff out weighed the students. Our head then put the staff on a rotation so we did not come in unnecessarily. I now go in once a week and for a full week every three weeks. I am trying to be as useful as I can, so why do I feel like crap?

As a practical subject, it has been a really hard adjustment to home learning. We usually do group tasks and yet they can’t see one another. We usually perform each lesson yet they can’t see one another. I usually go round and give them verbal feedback, yet I can’t see them. We quickly adjusted lesson plans to fit with home learning, but as they cannot practise these, I don’t feel these lessons are beneficial. Each week we are in lockdown, I feel the students' passion for the subject slowly slipping away. There are KS3 students who I really put on a pedestal. They were so talented and each lesson I praised them and each lesson they were engaged. I haven’t heard from them since home learning. It’s been radio silence. As I am new to teaching, and not yet fully qualified, I currently teach KS3 and one year nine class, I then help with year ten and eleven. When assigning home learning to my year nines, I have tried to make it as beneficial for them as possible. I really cannot let this group down. We were studying Blood Brothers when school closed, so we continued to look at it theoretically. Once we finished Blood Brothers, I decided to move onto looking at the exam paper. There are some of my students who wow me every week and continue to do so. There are the students I knew wouldn’t send any work. Something that has really stumped me is the lack of work from a couple of students who tell me Drama is their passion, but they haven’t sent me a single thing. I keep questioning, “Is it me? Have I lost their interest?” But I have to keep reminding myself of the unbelievable circumstances we are in. I cannot help but think about how their attitude to the subject may change when we return.

"it is something I have really struggled with, that feeling of being useless."

I am a form tutor. I have a group of lovely and loud year tens. As much as I yell, as much as I tell them how annoying they are. My god do I adore them. I miss them so much. They are the students I would see every single day. If I had a bad day they would come and sit and ask me what has gone on. They’d be silly, make me laugh and cheer me up, no matter the day I had. They are the ones I have real bonds with. We share. We talk. Everyday. Now what? I call them every week to see how they are and see if their families need help with anything. It is great to talk to them, it gives a sense of normality back. It’s great to hear them talk, to laugh and be silly. However, after nine weeks of lockdown, some parents/carers still haven’t answered the phone. I can’t help but think about them. How are they? I’ve had my students email me, upset, they’ve lost loved ones. I can’t do anything to comfort them and it is something I have really struggled with, that feeling of being useless.

Something that I have to keep telling myself is that this is a really weird time. I can’t go to their houses, it would be breaking government guidelines as well as safeguarding concerns - I don’t want to be a weirdo! I am doing as best as I can, no, it doesn’t feel enough but it is what I can do.

Be kind to yourselves. You are doing what you can. The students' grades will naturally suffer after this. That is inevitable. Yours and the students mental health is the priority. Be kind.