Tell us about Term 3

The recent round of sub branch meetings provided an opportunity for dozens of conversations with members about their work and what they see as the ever increasing demands on them by their principals (often driven by their employers), by school systems, by regulatory authorities, by parents and school communities and by government policy.

We asked, you told us. In September, we put out a call on Facebook for you to tell us about your Term 3: the highlights, the lowlights, what worked and what didn’t. Here are your responses, compiled by Katie Camarena and Monica Crouch.

I work in a small special needs school with students who are disengaged from learning with a wide range of mental, physical, and intellectual difficulties. Many have drug addictions and unsafe home environments. With a large number of socio-economically disadvantaged families with no ability to email or Zoom, we went the paper and phone call path for Term 3, focusing on keeping everyone afloat as much as possible. Productivity for everyone was squashed under the weight of anxiety and fear [with] increased drug use as family bonding or conflict resolution. I worry for our return to school, the work completed (or not) but mostly for the mental state of the cohort, and the behaviour that will arise from ‘weaning’ them off their current lifestyle and back into ‘school mode’. Term 3 was a major bump in the road for what we were building (in terms of personal health, happiness, and empowerment) for our students.

Try teaching a practical PE class online with Zoom – doesn’t happen!

As an Italian teacher I was able to cook ‘spaghetti al pomodoro’ live via Zoom with all my students – something I would not have been able to do at school.

I’m a teacher of the deaf and online learning has been even more challenging for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. We continue to innovate and stay connected with a vulnerable group of children. Going back to face-to-face will not be easy if face masks are mandated, as many students need to lip read. We continue to advocate for them and their families.

I love Zoom lessons to teach maths. I use a Wacom tablet and teach the same way I do in the classroom. I have found it exhausting however and I don’t get 100 percent attendance. It is demanding and sometimes the technology lets me down.

I joined the teaching profession because it is relational. I thrive off the daily interactions I have with my students, and the staff at my school, many of whom I am blessed to call friends. Term 3 took the best part of the job, screwed it up and threw it in the bin. I felt for the students in our preliminary and HSC classes, who didn't get the full experience of the final term in their particular courses, or the all-important experience of sitting a big exam. So many learning gains happen as you wander around the classroom while students work and offer a suggestion here and a redirection there. I was grateful to have reached the end of Term 3 and to have had the opportunity to offer the best possible learning experience under the circumstances.

Some things I valued about my work community were really brought into question. Other aspects absolutely shone. What worked? Reaching out, and not backing away because it’s easier or we're just so unbelievably busy. Remembering that school is a 13-year marathon, and this stage will pass.

As a Learning Support Officer, it has been a steep learning curve. We have been more like teachers, we've worked on site all term, working one-on-one. It has been challenging, with Zoom meetings, coping with network issues and helping kindy kids come to grips with computers. It has also been rewarding, seeing how all our students stepped up to the challenge, with care packages from parents and an amazing team to work with.

Term 3 took the best part of the job, screwed it up and threw it in the bin.

Last year was like the practice run. This year we were a bit more prepared and able to keep communication happening more often with families and with each other. Exhausting, no doubt, but also uplifting, finding new and unusual ways to keep the connections and resilience going.

Aides to teachers have really stepped up this term. Praise and thanks.

Term 3 was my last term of teaching before I retired. Who would have thought my last lessons would be from the spare bedroom in my own home? An odd end to a long time of teaching. I’ll miss my teacher friends and my students, but I won’t miss Zoom lessons.

Teaching music had its challenges but with mainly well-resourced families, most students were engaged. We found some amazing cup, bucket and body percussion resources last lockdown and used them again, often getting other family members to come and join in.

Term 3 was long and relentless but our school was well organised. Many changes from NESA made things hard for Year 12, including dates shifting and online Trial exams. But we still managed to get the HSC artworks in, and I was pleased the students had that chance of completion with each other due to the two-hour blocks allowed. Online learning amplifies the need for differentiation and flexibility in your classes.

You can’t win with remote learning: it’s too much work for some families, not enough for others, and too hard to engage for some. The workload is intense and exhausting. The younger students still need a human there with them. We won’t be replaced with robots anytime soon. Despite the flaws we innovate and learn with our students. At times I felt like a performing monkey, dressing up and playing silly games, but we did what we could to keep the connection alive and make our kids smile. To all my fellow teachers out there, juggling, like everyone else, hang in there.