This week I’ve been working from home. My principal, like so many other public school principals, has had to make big decisions on her own to protect her staff. At the end of last week, it was decided that we move to a rotating roster for staff. Until this week, all teachers were at school unless they were in the ‘vulnerable’ category. Our rotating roster is probably the same as other schools – each faculty needs to have a representative at school each day, otherwise you can work from home. That means that we are all working from home most days of the week, and come into work at least one day. I chose Fridays to come into work because that is my biggest teaching day. That’s today. I’m feeling both anxious and excited – I know none of my colleagues are sick with COVID-19, but the virus is scary and just being out in public makes me uncomfortable.
(So, the above paragraph was written on Friday morning before school. It is now Saturday morning and I am lying in bed unable to get back to sleep after my cat, Nola, woke me up at 6.05am. May as well finish this blog post now, haha!)
School was actually really great. The day went super fast – much faster than the working from home days! I guess it’s all the ‘getting ready’ stuff in the morning, and then the drive to work – you’re just ‘doing’ more so you have less time to just sit around. Once I got to work I noticed that my office tables has been cleaned really well – that extra cleaning has come into effect at my school finally! I went down to the front office to see if they could arrange for a book to be sent to a student – she couldn’t come in to pick it up (understandably) so I said I would get it posted. We haven’t posted anything out to students as all of ours have access to devices, meaning all work is done online. When I was chatting to the SASS staff they asked me about the PL I was running periods 1 and 2 – they wanted to learn how to use GSuite, specifically Hangouts. We chatted about the difference between Zoom and Hangouts and they decided the latter would be much easier for their less tech confident colleagues, and they agreed to come to the PL. I also caught up with my DP to confirm her would run the Zoom PL in period 2 – until Tuesday I was team Hangouts (so easy, please give it back to us DoE) and haven’t tried Zoom but my DP was team Zoom already so had a couple of weeks experience up his sleeve.
I headed over to the (sadly empty) library and set up the computer and projector. I also grabbed a portable whiteboard from another space. I hadn’t planned anything for the PL, I just wanted to be responsive to what my colleagues needed to know. Once everyone arrived (about 10 people – most staff were working from home and the session was optional), I asked them what they wanted to know and listed them on the whiteboard. We had: Hangouts (for adult live video only, don’t panic!), file management, recording audio over a slideshow, giving feedback to individual students, and the difference between My Drive and Shared Drives. It was a really fun session, where I just logged into my G Drive and showed them how I manage files and communicate with students via comments, how to use suggestions instead of editing a doc, and how to link different types of files to a lesson overview doc. I finished with the Hangouts tutorial and the SASS staff were happy. (Funny thing is afterwards when I went to see them in the front office later they realised that hardly any of them have webcams, lol – audio only will be fine!). My DP did a great job teaching us how to zoom (my son told me we’re all zoomers now, which made me laugh). Features I really like are breakout rooms, whiteboard and co-hosting. The controls are great – mute all will be useful!
Period 3 I set up and asynchronous lesson for my year 10 ILP – they are super independent. I told them to message me on Edmodo if they had questions, and I only got one the whole lesson. I went asynchronous for this lesson because I had a meeting with my boss about our plans moving forward. It turns out she had a lot of phone calls, so I spent the lesson finalising some other admin I had. Period 4 would normally be Praxis iii, but I asked two of my very keen students to run the lesson for me – we are up to the stage where we are allocating artefacts/products to each event in our world’s history and then allocating students to create them. I trusted these two students as they had already taken a lead role in designing the world – their peers look up to them. I (finally) had the meeting with my boss and DP (other DP was home unwell – not COVID-19). When I got back from the meeting it realised that my Praxis iii class had run a Hangout themselves and fully organised the allocation of artefacts and responsibilities. Legends!
The meeting with my boss and DP was (as always) super productive and we are very happy with our game plan for next week. I’m not gonna write it up here because I haven’t checked with my boss that it’s OK, and some of the details haven’t been explained to my staff yet. I will hopefully be able to write it up on Monday. I’ve just been super apprehensive to share our Learning From Home strategy publicly because my context is unique – academic selective public school on the Northern Beaches – and I don’t want people to bag me out and say how fortunate I am and how unrealistic it unviable our approach is for other schools. I understand that – context is everything. I don’t want to be attacked for where I work and where I live, so I’ve been a bit quiet when it comes to sharing what we have been doing. Let me know if you think I still should share, and will if there is interest.
Anyway, the title of this post is misleading because I ended up writing about a school day, not working from home. It’s probably because working from home is really boring. My colleagues give me energy – not as much as my students do, but definitely more than I have just sitting at home uploading work to an online classroom. Like everyone on social media has observed, when you work from home the days feel really, really long. After the banning of Hangouts early on Tuesday morning, I had a tantrum and refused to do any video conferencing with my students. It sucked. I basically just set work and told them I was online if they had any questions. The only class that was busy was year 7 – they just don’t read instructions and ask 1000 questions. This is an experience shared by my colleagues, so we have come up with a solution for Term 2 which I am excited about (but again not sharing yet, sorry). I know I’ll be zooming with everyone else next week – I miss interacting with my students in real time, so even if they have cameras off just having a chance to talk and joke will make each day much better.
Sorry this post is all over the shop, haha. I finally brought home a desk and chair from work yesterday, so I will be able to work more efficiently and not break my neck next week! I had spent four days sitting on my lounge with my laptop propped on a pillow on my lap. Not ideal. My neck hated me! So that’s my hot tip – don’t sit on the lounge and work even if it sounds like fun, it’s not in the end.
I’m going to try to get back into blogging every day – how funny that I started doing that this year and then COVID-19 hit and I didn’t document the craziest two weeks of my career! To be honest, I literally couldn’t. There was no time. Right now as I think about it, was it two weeks of craziness or just one? Was it last week we were at school? With kids? Bloody heck. I’ve lost all sense of a timeline of the past two weeks… I wish I had documented it now. Oh well! It’s probably all over Twitter.