What is it Like to be in School at the Moment?
Ask anyone who works in a school about things that makes them cross at the moment and they will reply ‘newspapers saying schools are closed!’. We are far from closed and we thought it might be interesting to give you an insight on what is happening in the building at HSS at this time. In this blog you will hear from Claire Tasker (Head), Dawn Rose (Office Manager), Ryan Hall (IT technician), Ian O’Connor (Head of House), Julie McGann (TA) and Bronwen Bradshaw (cover supervisor).
Claire Tasker - Head Teacher
My day in school today started with a rush to get the staff briefing messages out to all staff. We miss getting together in the staffroom to share messages, give thanks and celebrate successes because sadly weekly briefing has been virtual for quite some time. Then I tear along to the Y8 Key Worker room to settle them in a seating plan and register them – I stay there for the first two and a half hours of the day. We do our best to ensure they are all engaging in the different lessons but also have to be mindful to keep our distance to keep us all safe. It is funny seeing my colleagues faces pop up on the screens in the different live lessons and I am impressed by the variety of work (and how well the students are doing). Then I head back to my office to teach my GCSE History lesson. This is hands down the best bit of my day. I love my class and they never fail to make me laugh. They are working so hard despite a crushing lack of certainty. I try to check on other staff in school over lunchbreak (particularly the teacher volunteers who come in to do duties and also the amazing colleagues who have set up and are running our testing centre). Then the afternoon whizzes by – a phone call to a parent, a meeting about staffing, a catch up with a mentor who is supporting students who are struggling and then home ... to my children (and quite a few emails)!
Dawn Rose – Administration Services Team Leader
A typical day during these challenging times has many elements! I manage the hub of the school - the Admin Office and Main Visitors Reception. I arrive early to take incoming telephone calls and deal with a wide variety of queries by e-mail. This can be from parents of students with a plethora of questions e.g. students who are unable to access on line learning, students requesting password changes, problems with SMHW, parents who need to report absences and parents wanting to speak with Teachers and House Offices. The telephone never stops! I also work closely with SLT making sure that all communication is e-mailed out, posted on social Media and uploaded to the website; so that our families are fully informed and kept up to date. Last week and this weekend my team and I delivered exercise books and resources to our student’s homes; which was lovely to be able to support teaching staff and students with their online teaching.
I also volunteered to help setup and run the Covid-19 Testing Centre in school. My role is the Controller/Team Leader to oversee, monitor, report and record the smooth running of the Lateral Flow Test appointments for staff and students that are new to the KW provision. I feel that all the volunteer staff are doing a positive thing and contributing towards returning the school back to normal. I can’t wait to see all our students and staff once again and get back to the laughter, the chatter of everyday education. But, despite all the challenges, we have received some positive and encouraging feedback from families who have just been so happy that there has been someone on the end of the phone to talk to, support and advise them in this time of adversity. They put the phone down happy in the knowledge that their query has been or will be dealt with.
No two days are the same.
Ryan Hall – IT Technician
During lockdown we have managed to update and upgrade the school’s IT infrastructure! So far, we have upgraded all the schools network switches and wireless system which will improve the speed of the system for remote learning and for when students and staff return.
We have prepared over 50 DFE laptops for students as part of the governments home learning scheme as well as getting over 50 laptops ready for staff to help with their remote teaching.
As well as the above on a day-to-day basis we support key worker students in school and make sure all the kit works and they can access all their work. We also deal with the many, many issues that occur for staff and students when remote learning with Microsoft Teams and Show my homework over the phone or remotely.
Ian O’Connor – Head of Merlin House
What is a typical day like for me at the moment? Well, I tumble out of bed and stumble in the kitchen, pour myself a cup of... coffee. As soon as I arrive at school, I start to check through my emails and my plan of the day ahead. Sometimes, I cover a Tutor group; it is so nice to chat to students and find out how they are getting on. Then I start my lessons…
I have been really impressed with my students and their commitment over the last few weeks. I still find it strange (as I’m sure they do) that I can’t see them. There is so much feedback that usually happens in the classroom that enables me to tweak my lesson as I respond to them but with these online lessons, we have had to find new ways to get this vital feedback. We’re all still learning! My students have been helping me to try to experiment with different ideas and they have helped me with my technology issues. Some students have been confident enough to talk to me ‘live’, others have left lots of comments in the chat box. I’m so proud of them; I know how hard it is to sit in front of the screen all day. I usually have some meetings to attend throughout the day, either with the House Teams, or with the Maths Team (mostly on Teams). It’s been great to share good tips and ideas for lessons.
I try to make sure that I touch base with Mrs Stephens each day (even when I am not in school) – must make sure that she hasn’t knitted herself into a corner – and we catch up about our Merlin flock. Then I can get my list of kids together that I need to contact. It is always nice to hear from parents and students, especially when things are going well and the positive messages that we have received really do mean a lot. Occasionally, there have been some concerns raised by parents, students and of course teachers, but we try to work through them as best we can. The one thing we all have in common is wanting to support students to engage and do their best. Days can be really busy, and it is a very different way of working but we are getting there!
Bronwen Bradshaw – Cover supervisor
Day 22 in the Key Worker rooms…
As cover supervisors we cover the KW rooms full time along with the support of SLT, Learning mentors and SSAs. We generally stay with one whole year group for the whole day, very different to our usual jobs as we are used to running around the school covering a wide variety of lessons and year groups.
Our typical day starts with opening the windows and standing by with a friendly greeting as the students arrive to the rooms, checking they all sanitise their hands on the way in. They head to their designated seat and log on for the day. If the students don't have form time or an online assembly, they use the first 15 mins to prepare for the day, checking SATCHEL one, emails and their Teams calendar or having a chat with a friend. Any issues, and we are on hand to help as well as our fantastic IT support team, who are always around to address tech problems that pop up. There can be four or more different lessons running in the rooms during any one period. It is a little unusual managing a classroom like this, but we have a great system in some of the rooms called AB control, which allows us to see every computer screen in the room from our desks, using this along with SATCHEL one, we try to keep them on track the best we can. This also minimises the need to walk around the room allowing us to stay socially distanced. If students have finished their tasks early, most students in the Year 7 rooms, turn to BBC Bitesize to play educational games, online chess or read a book, as unlike being at home they can't leave the space to break up the monotony. At break and lunch, they all get a chance to escape, each year group given allocated spaces to relax, use their phones, socialise or run around outside and burn off some energy. This week PE lessons have started again; we know they will all benefit so much from this.
What has been so wonderful to see is how they are all helping and supporting each other navigate the new systems we have in place in the building, online learning and submitting work. Some are fast becoming tech savvy and even showing us a thing or two! We feel quite lucky to get to see the students face to face as opposed to supporting them remotely and hope they feel reassured that we will do our best to make sure they get most out of their experience at school during these trying times, even if this sometimes means 'nagging’ them to stay on task!
Julie McGann – Teaching Assistant and member of Learning Support Team
I am currently supervising the day to day running of Learning Support, supporting pupils with educational needs that are entitled to come into school during Lockdown. We have seen a total of 18 cross our path so far, with another one starting on Monday. Some pupils attend every day, some do not, so we have a daily verage of 12 pupils ranging from Y7-Y11, sharing their wide range of amazing gifts and challenges. The team of teaching assistants are on rota where they switch between working in the hub on some days, and then carrying on their vital support working remotely at home. Our fantastic Learning Support space enables us to spread our pupils out into year group bubbles and the rooms are an industrious hive of activity (lots of which is on computers). We have actually formed one big bubble and have tagged ourselves, the “Happy School”.
We have our daily computer frustrations with the array of computers and laptops we offer. We have dysfunctional mice (or is it mouses?!); earphone headache, or is it, headset earache? But, the students and staff soldier on with cries on the computer battlefront of: “It’s another Teams!”, “Can you help me with my science?”, “I can’t hear anything.”, “This laptop’s got no charge.”, “I really have submitted my work.” – really? … really?
When feeling stressed (staff or students), we go on walks around school. Sadly, the classrooms are eerily empty and the corridors are no longer bustling with masked students, but, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to spot one lonely real-life teacher (so much better than the virtual ones!) Also, if computer or study fatigue sets in by last period, we have been known to break out into socially distanced games, socially distanced film watching and even some Greek dancing!
I enjoy my teaching – the 3 2 1 Go! prompt of the voice overs, my students love me to do, still gets my adrenaline rushing. My live lessons last week were all brilliant despite the technical difficulties, (in one lesson whereby I sounded like a transformer)! I managed to get to the end though with students still submitting their work. At the end of the day when I received beaming, smiling images of pupils proudly showing me their work and messages of solidarity saying “thank you for teaching me during these tough times” and “I have learnt something today, Miss”, I can only look forward to another day! Now, shall I learn Nearpod or is it Padlet?. Well done to everyone in Learning Support – staff and students.