Sue Mordecai, NACE Trustee
Lockdown begins. I self-isolate. I make lots of lists. I am resolute. I agree to help my niece via FaceTime with the home schooling of her 8-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter. After all, I was a teacher.
We established a routine, although I thought my niece was taking it a bit far by wanting to take a register and make packed lunches! Like so many households, the day started with the Joe Wicks workout followed by English and then mathematics. And that is when the problems arose. I could not help with the teaching of maths; both my niece and I plaintively wailed that it wasn’t like the maths we were taught at school. Fortunately the school was providing fantastic online support. And so thanks to the school, thanks to BBC Bitesize, thanks to the virtual tours of the zoos and museums, thanks to David Walliams for reading his stories and Steve Backshall for his Wednesday morning biology lessons, home schooling has gone well. My niece has not had to exclude her children, though her son can’t wait to get back to school – not only to see his friends, but because, as he said to me “Mummy is much stricter than my real teacher!”
A huge congratulations to all those successfully home schooling their children. So many parents have discovered the teacher was not the problem!
I am also a trustee of a multi-academy trust (MAT) of 11 schools and via Zoom and email and even the telephone I have been actively involved with the MAT during this time. On Wednesday 20 May our Trust Board joined in with the National Thank a Teacher Day. We tweeted our genuine and heartfelt thanks to the hundreds of amazing teachers in our trust. But we also emailed our school leaders, who have faced unprecedented and difficult decisions over the last couple of months, because whatever your position: once a teacher, always a teacher.
Teachers throughout the UK have been simply awesome. They have been so professional, caring and hardworking, many combining teaching online and preparing materials with having to do their own home schooling. I have been inspired by the creative, imaginative and brilliant ideas that many schools have come up with, from one school making a video of staff singing Reach for the Stars to tell the children how much they are missed, to sending letters to the children, to having weekly singalongs via Zoom. Indeed, one school sang Thank You Baked Potato and put it on Twitter and the children were thrilled when Matt Lucas retweeted it. The little things can matter during lockdown!
The quality of the materials prepared by schools has been superb. But what has stood out is the dedication, the compassion, the selflessness, the good humour, the collaboration and the generosity of spirit of our teachers.
We have much to learn for the future and there are huge challenges ahead, but this is a time for recognition of the incredible response from the teaching profession to an unprecedented situation for which there was no blueprint to follow. Teachers have not just gone the extra mile; they have run a marathon. When someone asks why anyone would become a teacher, remind them why it’s worth it. Every job has its ups and downs, but not every job can change a life.
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