COVID-19: from the perspective of school leaders
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 125 No 6, 14 August 2020, page no.18
Organisation appeared to be the main key to staying on top of things, along with an awareness of what you felt could be delivered to support the learning@home process.
Quickly our school realised that the technological platform needed to support students wouldn’t hold up (most days a class of 15 students cannot connect to LOTE).
Consultation led to a decision that we would provide a written-based program supported by teacher, teacher-aide and principal telephone support.
Programs were drafted and prepared, teachers quickly inserviced, and then the program writing began, followed by the immense task of photocopying and collating.
Management stayed behind during the school holidays to ensure that deliveries of the papers took place.
This turned out to be the easy part…
When school returned, teachers mourned the lack of voices in the school. Then teachers complained about the workload, and as more students returned to school, expectations from parents became greater.
Parents initially cheered to have their kids home. Then the gloss wore off, and daily phone calls were greeted with “I can’t wait for my child to go back to school”; “My child won’t do any work for me!”; or “My child can’t read so what do teachers do all day?”.
Now we add in the media response! Educators were inundated with the fallout from the media hype around “teachers aren’t doing their jobs”; or even worse, the Department not acknowledging that what teachers were doing was above and beyond what they had signed up for.
Back in the schools, principals were trying to hold things together by counselling teachers, parents, students and the community, while keeping community leaders off teachers’ backs.
The first wave of COVID-19 has passed and restrictions have been eased. Parents are now ringing the schools to tell them how disconnected they now feel from the everything that is happening: "We really enjoyed the daily phone contact from the school. Can you ask teachers if we could all have an individual phone call each week?”
Will we do it differently next time round? Not likely! We think we did a great job. We worked like teams have never worked before; we found a new appreciation for the skills that different people brought to the table – some were good at technology, some were great with parents on the phone, some were just nice to be around.We supported each other and the students who attended. Whether they are essential workers or not, parents have found a new appreciation of what teachers actually do.
QTU member and principal of a remote P-10 school
As a school of distance education based in a western town with zero cases of the virus, our experience of COVID-19 was “business as usual…except…”
Except – the final week of Term 1 was hectic, planning and preparing for two scenarios:
- all staff would be working from home, or
- we would continue with our normal delivery of curriculum on line.
The first scenario would mean that most staff (over half have children at school and day-care) would have children at home, there would be technical and internet difficulties, and all resources would have to be sent home to families. A nightmare, and some parents were scathing of the possibility. The second scenario was all staff at school, practising social distancing.
Term 2 found us with our curriculum delivery continuing, with all scheduled lessons and contacts online and all staff attending school each day. Exceptions to normal were the cessation of field events, minischools, multischools, sports carnival, cluster musters, family visits to the school etc., and our face-to-face meetings and social activities in the school. Our families and staff felt this lack of contact greatly. With staff meetings online and no opportunities to check in with students, assess their reading levels, conduct GO testing and the many other extras, the school community was left grieving for face-to-face contact.
Our regional support was constant and our communication from the local disaster management group and South West Health was constant and up to date. The QTU, as always, was at the forefront in addressing members’ concerns and advocating for support and realistic expectations.
And that brings us to now. It is still not business as usual, as we run virtual sports carnivals and camps, and tentatively look ahead to the end of year celebrations…Will we, or won’t we?