Three months ago, if someone had said to me that in a matter of weeks I would be providing training and support for schools entirely remotely, I would not have believed them. However, here I am, in May 2020, doing just that. With schools in partial shutdown, the opportunity for working directly with teachers and leadership teams within the school is just not an option. Even with the requirements of the National Curriculum having been suspended, school development does not stop.
Providing Support For Schools
The current situation has led to a whole host of new unanticipated questions and requests for support from schools. This is in response to the challenges of running a school and providing learning when the school community are in dozens (if not hundreds) of locations.
The Move to Online Professional Development
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Training and Development Team were planning a gradual move towards offering online Professional Development. The benefits for schools were so obvious. We determined that this was the way for us to develop our support programme. Online training and consultancy offer more flexibility for schools to access support without sending teachers to external venues. It is more time and cost effective as well and supports schools in their development of blended approaches to professional development.
A Rapid Response
The decision was made to restrict (and later cancel) face-to-face sessions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. I suddenly then found that my colleague and I had twelve hours to turn a highly practical, group working and investigation-based mathematics training course into a session that could be run remotely. That is not what I’d call a gradual move!
A New Normal?
We did it. The Training and Development Team is working with schools purely via the medium of video conferencing. Nine weeks on, it is becoming second nature to me. As a team, we are providing training and support for leadership teams, class teachers and LSAs across the country (and beyond). I miss the direct face-to face working with colleagues in school (I thrive on that direct contact). So, part of me is pleased that we will still offer face-to-face training and consultancy alongside our online presence, as soon as conditions allow.
A Great New Experience
However, my experience of leading online training and remotely supporting teachers in school has been positive. I admit there have been little glitches. Hearing a delegate’s dogs barking, a cat walking in front of the camera, or a toddler coming for a hug. All this can happen in the middle of a consultancy session. It’s a reminder that daily life is carrying on despite the current restrictions.
Background noise is dealt with through the mute function or a headset and microphone. I don’t need to worry about the bookshelves in my home office looking untidy – our Juniper Education background takes care of that!
Facing The Future
I look forward to getting back into classrooms again and working with teachers (and children!) directly. My initial (if somewhat sudden) jump to the world of online support has convinced me that this is the right move. I look forward to meeting many more teachers, in many different locations, through my laptop in the future!
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