What a year we have had! Let me give you a run-down of our year to date:
February-March: The year started as any year would. Our team of teachers met up in January to set up the classrooms, discussed pedagogy, set up our spaces and began planning for term 1. The school year began as normal - we welcomed our class of excited and enthusiastic children and we developed a classroom culture and expectations. The year ahead was looking great!
We began to hear talk of covid-19 causing concerns around the world. I remember the shock of hearing that America was closing it's borders to Europe and thinking how 'over-the-top' this seemed! But then we did it too! The reality of the pandemic was reaching New Zealand.
Mid-Late March: Throughout mid-late March, our numbers of children at school began diminishing. On the 21st of March, the government announces the four-level alert system. We were in alert level 2. At school, we began wondering what each new day would look like. School was beginning to look at lot different to how we knew it.
Monday 23rd of March: Now this was a day to remember. We had about 15 children in our space which usually had 60 children. To begin with, the novelty of having such a small group of children was great! The children found it exciting that there were so few of them and we had a great morning of learning. And then at lunchtime, while the children were all out playing, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that schools would be closing the next day and that by midnight on Wednesday, we would all be in level 4 - total lockdown. The realisation of what we had to achieve in such a short time kicked in - we had to get all the chromebooks home so the children would be able to continue their learning. In the hour after lunch, we managed to send all the children who were at school home with their devices. But we still had 3/4 of our space whose devices were still at school. Over the next 48 hours, we worked to get all the chromebooks home. Parents came to pick up the devices and we did home deliveries.
Wednesday 25th - Friday 27th of March: School holidays were brought forward. We spend these three days before the holidays hooking our children into learning from home. We jumped straight into google meets multiple times in the day to support children with their online learning.
After the 2 week break for the children (during which a holiday blogging experience was set up), we were straight back into online learning. Our site changed so the children were accessing all of their learning from the same page of the class site (rather than separate pages for each learning area). We were producing new content each day for the children in our class. Check out my page from lockdown by clicking this button:
On Tuesday 28th April, I returned to school for a level 3 'Bubble School Teacher Only Day.' School felt very different. Not all the staff and children were back. Three bubbles were set up, each with a small number of children. We had about 19 children in total at school.
We had to stay at least 2 metres away from anyone who was not in our bubble and we could be at least 1 metre away from anyone who was in our bubble. We had nine children in our bubble, ranging from year 2 to year 5.
Here is our website from bubble school:
Monday 8th May: Return to school for everyone - level 2!
On Monday 8th May, school reopened for everyone!! However, school still looked very different. Over the next few weeks, the children all gradually returned. For the first few weeks, we were extremely strict with hand hygiene (hand sanitiser and hand-washing) and children were seated at least 1 metre away from each other. Children were dropped off and picked up at the gate. Our doors opened at 8am and children had to come straight to class. Our day began as normal at 8:50am and finished at an earlier time of 2:30pm. Because of the physical distancing rules that were still in place, lunch time was shortened to just half an hour.
Since we returned on Monday 8th May, we have made some big changes to how we run things in our classroom.
Having the shorter lunch time has meant that we have had children who are much more calm, settled and ready to learn in the afternoon.
The children have been so much more settled and focussed in class with everyone having a set seat. It has reduced the amount of walking around and distraction. The noise level in class has been remarkably quieter as well.
We have also changed the way we have organised learning for the children. As a team, our five teachers are collaborating to create detailed independent tasks. Each week, there is a new topic and this topic is developed throughout the week. The structure of this independent task is similar from week-to-week. You can explore our team site here. Hover over the home button in the banner to see the different weeks of work (from week 6 to week 12):
Having well-planned independent work with new content each day has allowed us to have more focussed time with the children we are meeting with in a group. We have been able to focus on the group in front of us.
This has been such a big take-away from the experience of lockdown. Our children were able to manage themselves so well in their learning from home, using our class site. The transition from school to home learning was able to be smooth and they were empowered in their learning. The focus we saw from our children during lockdown was able to continue as we came back to school with a similar independent task model. The only different was that we were able to see groups again rather than being on google meets 4 times a day.
Going into term 3: Going into term 3, it is going to be really interesting to see what we embrace and keep from this experience. The big question will be how we set up out classroom spaces from next term. Currently, we do not have a mat space. However, this has actually been beneficial for our children. The lack of transitions around the physical space has kept our children settled and more focussed. In terms of our online space, we will be continuing with the weekly independent inquiry topics, however this will be based around our school term inquiry.
This 6 months has definitely been a massive year of learning, change, flexibility, resilience and an amazing opportunity to reflect on our teaching to decide what is best for the children in front of us. There have been so many opportunities to make changes for the better in education that have come out of this global pandemic.