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.

10 thoughts on “Lockdown Pivoting in schools

  1. I tip my hat to you and can’t imagine the stress of having to manage a situation where everyone has their own anxieties they bring to the equation.
    The bureaucratic handling of the education system would be a comedy of errors if it weren’t so deplorable. The continued expectation to do unreasonable things WITHOUT consultation of those who work in schools is enraging. I truly believe teacher morale is at an all time low (my evidence -having worked in the system for over 35 years).

  2. Hats off and then some more to all the teachers and educational staff who have had to put up with distance learning and everything else that’s come along with this pandemic. So easy to say “do this” without having any or little understanding for those who have to implement the plans, or deal with changes, etc.

    We helped our grandson with his distance learning before we left Japan in 2020 – such an effort from the teachers, but equally hard for families and students. Our youngest daughter is the only one remaining in school (university) but her school has made Herculean efforts to keep the students and staff safe and it has paid off although it hasn’t been easy for anyone. Teaching is stressful enough without all the extra layers that got added on.

    And a word of thankfulness for all the schools and staff who have insisted on masks, vaccinations, etc. Those areas are doing well/better – areas in the U.S. who have fought ever effort to accomplish these things are still not doing well at all.

    • So hard for kids at uni/college. They miss all the social things which really form so much of uni life and growing adulthood.

      Our Govt has mandated masks in and outside in certain areas. That may change with new leaders. They also mandated vax for teachers. Probably about 5% aren’t doing it. It will be interesting to see if the govt backs down once we hit 90% vaxed in the state which is likely this year.

      Being the home educator changes the relationship between parents/grandparents and kids. Some love it and thrive. Some don’t.

  3. With grandchildren grown and left school I haven’t ‘been in the loop’ as far as education has been concerned, only seeing/hearing what’s been available in the press/online. It does seem as though teachers, parents plus students (of all ages) in all states here have had an awful time this past year or more

    I had a little chuckle at your last para in a comment above:-
    “Being the home educator changes the relationship between parents/grandparents and kids. Some love it and thrive. Some don’t”
    I know for certain I couldn’t have coped being responsible for my children’s education and …..(tongue in cheek…sort of) I’m not sure my children would have survived the experience.
    Good luck with whatever the education dept (courtesy of your new premier) throws at you.

    • Many teachers in Sydney are nervous about the return on site and trying to have teens follow the rules. One of my kids may have survived and thrived, the other would have done my head in.

  4. I join in applauding health care workers world-wide but education staff are overlooked as essential workers. Throughout North America, very few school boards have mandated vaccines for school and daycare staff, and a vocal minority are rabidly opposed, even though children under 12 are at risk and can’t yet be vaccinated. I am appalled that the protection of children is an afterthought. But it’s not all about kids either – kids live in families and each one brings its own Covid risks into schools and childcare settings.

    • In Sydney we’ve hit 90% first dose for over 16s, which means we’ll hit 90% fully dosed some time this year. Much of this is because of the mandated vaccination for some professions. It was mandated for teachers to protect the kids.

      There’s definitely a lot of parents worried about their primary kids returning as they can’t get vaxed. And families are understandably worried if they have elderly generations at home. Everyday there’s been school closures – although we’re remote learning, some students can attend – because there’s been a positive Covid case on site.

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