Keep connected and carry on

In my last column I applauded the work and vision of independent schools in supporting teachers, support workers and families during the terrible drought and bush fires. But little did I know that 2020 really would become the ‘Annus Horribilis’ that it has. COVID-19 has changed everything: our careers, our lives, and our relationships with others may never be the same again.

The school where I work went into remote learning mode quite early. There was the necessary round of technical training, both soft and hardware updates and upgrades, programs, thinking ahead and asking “how on earth do I set up a home office?”. We were all asking, “How long will it be for?” and thinking “I’m not sure I can do this”.

But you know what? We did do it and we will probably keep doing it for some time to come. Why? Because we care for our students and their families, for our colleagues and, importantly, for our profession.

Many independent schools will be rolling out remote learning platforms in some form or another. Here are a few things to keep in mind as we grapple with this brave new world of remote teaching and learning: be prepared; limit your screen time; exercise regularly; eat and sleep well; do things that need doing (especially if you are in lockdown or isolation – my wife and I are painting some of the house and the garden is getting a bit of a makeover); undertake some personal development (I’m brushing up on my Italian), read for pleasure and spend time with your loved ones (albeit via phone, screen or yelling from afar).

Collegially we need to find creative ways to connect with others. Regular email, phone and social media contact should be part of your practice and planning. Write a letter (how novel!) to your colleagues telling them about your remote learning adventures, or send a photograph. Do all you can to keep connected – that’s the key to surviving the current crisis.

As professionals we must keep the learning going, we must maintain the standard and we must keep our jobs. Teaching and teaching support will always be about the relationships we build with our students and their families. We may not be able to see them but they need to know we’re there and that we care. There will be tough times ahead for all of us but with patience and perseverance we will all get there in the end.

A big shout out to everyone in the independent education sector – stay well, stay safe, be happy.

Bruce Paine
Vice President Non Systemic