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With schools reopening in England this week, it can be a stressful time for parents, children and teachers alike.
As part of our longstanding partnership with Teach First through our 5 Million Futures programme, Deloitte has funded 11 places on the charity’s Time to Teach programme this year.
Back in October, we spoke to Jon at De Lacy Academy in Wakefield. Jon is a trainee teacher on the Time to Teach programme.
Last time we caught up, he shared his experience of switching career from aquaculture to teaching in a year like no other.
Here he updates us on what life has been like as a secondary schoolteacher since then and how he’s had to adapt to remote teaching over the last two months.
When I started teaching science in September, it was a daunting experience. Having had very little experience of teaching a class due to the school closures in the summer term, it definitely felt like a big challenge to suddenly be stood at the front of the class. But with amazing support from my Academy Trust and Teach First, I was able to hit the ground running despite the unusual school environment we all found ourselves in and the COVID-19 restrictions in place.
With nearly two terms now under my belt, I’ve come a long way since then but it hasn’t been without its challenges! After my first term as a teacher, and just as I was finding my feet, we returned to school on 4 January only to hear that same evening that schools would be closed the following day. Overnight I had to switch the classroom for online teaching.
Many teaching techniques and practices I’d learnt for the classroom weren’t applicable in this new situation – suddenly I had to re-think the lessons I’d planned to ensure pupils dialling in from home were engaging with what I was teaching.
Luckily, my school had already established technology platforms from last year’s lockdown, and I’d had some exposure to online teaching in the summer term through my training. I also had the support of my colleagues and Lucy, a Teach First development lead who is also a former teacher. With their help, I was able to adapt.
Small adjustments made a big difference, like allowing a few minutes at the start of each lesson for classmates to chat and catch up, just like they would in a normal classroom setting. It’s easy to forget that developing social skills is a really important part of school, and probably even more so when everyone is apart.
We had to find ways to make the lessons engaging so pupils chose to listen and contribute, rather than play Fortnite. For example, using theme tunes and videos to bring the lessons to life.
As a science teacher, one challenge was that we couldn’t set practical tasks for pupils. Instead, a colleague of mine would go into school and film themselves carrying out the experiment so that I could share the video with my pupils.
There were lots of scenarios which were hard to plan for – pupils going into isolation or struggling to access technology or download the lesson materials as they only have a phone and not a laptop. Our school has been able to hand out devices to some pupils, but like many schools serving underprivileged communities, they don’t have enough for everyone who needs one.
Teaching online also makes it harder to tailor lessons and provide individual support for pupils who need that extra help. On the flip side, some pupils who don’t speak up in a classroom setting have contributed more online. This has definitely been the case for pupils who are easily distracted or feel pressured or stressed to speak in front of their peers.
Despite all of these challenges, I have come a long way since October. Having completed the first term in school (and passing my first term assessment as a trainee teacher), I’m now a lot more confident about my teaching. I’ve got to grips with how the school is run and have even got some parents’ evenings under my belt!
Teach First’s training has also given me a broader perspective on teaching – including what to expect from pupils coming from primary school and what those who go on to study science A-Level will cover, so we can help these pupils progress.
I’m now delighted to say I’m back in school and teaching in the classroom again. I’m feeling positive about the future and enjoying being able to actually set up the practical tasks in the classroom!
Deloitte is a Transformation Partner of Teach First and has worked with the charity for the past 15 years, supporting their work across the UK. Through our 5 Million Futures schools programme, funding for leadership programmes and by providing other strategic support, the firm is committed to helping Teach First tackle inequality and build a fair education for all.
Recently, Deloitte committed to donating 5,000 laptops to schools, charities and those most in need to help address the digital divide so that the most disadvantaged aren’t left even further behind.
Charlotte has been working at Deloitte since 2011 across various marketing roles. She has been part of the firm’s Responsible Business team since 2016, managing marketing and communications for One Million Futures and the recently launched 5 Million Futures programme in the UK.