Archive | October 9, 2021

Lockdown Pivoting in schools

I generally don’t post about my work, except to talk about how I won’t be doing it soon. (Have I told you lately I will have next year off? Pop over to my other blog which is about my adult gap year.) Partly as an explanation for my ongoing absence from blogging, and partly as a record of this time, I am going to write about work.

During the Term 2 break it was announced we were going into lockdown, for the first four weeks of Term 3. Staff left work on the last day of Term 2, thinking they’d be back for the start of Term 3. Yes, we were told to anticipate a lockdown and be ready for remote learning. And there was that feeling it’d be coming, so we told staff to take their laptops. Still, to be able to teach without resources and collegial support is pretty amazing. Teachers at my school did amazing work. Parents were overwhelmingly appreciative.

Anyway, it was only going to be for four weeks. Right?

No, it was extended without an end date. All of Term 3 was off site. Teachers were struggling as much as families. They wanted to be with colleagues, onsite. Early career teachers were without the daily support of colleagues and their supervisors. To answer questions or plan something as simple as an assessment or to access IT support, it all took much longer to do.

By the end of Term 3, things in the community weren’t looking good. Infection rates, ICU admission rates, numbers on ventilation, deaths were all high. The Premier announced return to school dates “to give parents and schools certainty”. But the talk among parents and principals was that this was optimistic, given the numbers.

Still, we planned for the announced staggered return of students and mandatory vaccination of all staff in mid Term 4.

And then things looked better. Not the deaths, they were still up. But vaccinations were going great guns.

So the Premier brought the return forward. Announcements (including a Year 12 study bubble lauded publicly and with spin but without the details that schools had to provide making the whole thing not as it was presented) were made during the holidays cause, you know, teachers should be working through the break. Yet, the top bureaucrats told us not to work because we’d been working so hard and we’d be putting in mental and emotional efforts with long hours next term.

Oh, but still those same bureaucrats emailed us in the break to plan for changes. (Later saying they respected us by not holding any webinairs during the break. Mmm.)

Politics rolls on quickly and the premier was replaced. New premier makes new announcements, “sensible and measures ones”, bringing the return to school dates forward again.

So hours spent in planning, wasted. Dates for mandatory teacher vaccination no longer meeting the new dates. Parents not feeling certain. Staff not really able to say we’re prepared. But hey! There’s pages of checklists to check off and proformas with vacuous words that schools have to fill in the important detail.

Pivoting. Schools do it and make it look easy, even though leading and organising schools and teaching and nurturing young people is incredibly complex.

Managing emotions and anxiety of staff, students and parents. Soothing nerves. Calming fears. Helping families through tough times. Reorganising the school to meet the new COVID safety requirements. All while, continuing with all the normal business: teaching, assessing, reporting, child protection reporting, building upgrades, parent complaints, filling vacancies, departmental data and evidence collection, reviews, etc.