Back to the Future- The Return to Face to Face Teaching
This year has been a challenging time for all those working in teaching. All school staff and students have seen their working and learning environments change radically in a very short space of time.
Training to teach online
The Government announcement to close all schools for the spring term meant that the way in which we train to teach had to change. As PGCE students, we are accustomed to feeling out of our depth. The time constraints of the program are some of the most intensive, and we have many skills to acquire in just ten months. The transition to online teaching brought about more challenges and more necessary adaptations to our emerging teaching styles. For many of us, it meant starting our second placement purely online. This meant getting to know our new faculties, subject, and professional mentors and our new students from home.
Different school- different teaching platform
For most of us, we were starting placements in very different schools to our first placement. In many cases, we had to learn to use and work with new distance learning platforms. For example, my first placement required me to use ‘blended’ teaching, giving live lessons to a small group of pupils and live broadcasting the lesson to those at home via Microsoft Teams. To my horror, the new school for placement two used a completely different platform- Google Classroom. This meant that all of my meets and classes, timetables, and class content would be accessed from a platform I had no experience using. It took me a couple of weeks to get comfortable where the icons were for breakout rooms and screen share, how to schedule content to come out at the right time and how to make my lessons smooth and flexible to accommodate my wide range of students. This was the first placement in which I had been given classes further up the secondary school. I now found myself with the challenge of trying to make interesting, inspiring, and varied content for GCSE and A-Level classes, while at the same time, provide interactive and user-friendly content for the younger ones, who found prolonged periods sat at their Chromebooks a great challenge.
Little by little and with the continued support from my dedicated subject mentor, I managed to plan and teach well-structured and good-quality lessons purely online. Slowly I began to build a rapport with the little icons that would populate my screen every morning. Cautiously, they began to unmute and share with me their answers and budding Spanish and French accents. After four weeks of teaching from my makeshift home office, from my rickety computer, I finally felt like I could say that I was making progress as a teacher.
It was at that very moment that the Government announced that they were going to change the course of this academic year again. This time, schools were given two weeks to turn around their schools and prepare themselves for a swift transition to fully on-campus teaching and learning. This required a complete change in mindset for trainees, we now had to adapt to teaching in front of our classes, change the way we plan, even learn how to use the photocopier in our new school (the most daunting of tasks).
Back to the classroom
So it is Monday morning, you arrive with your satnav and shiny new staff badge in hand and realise you have to find your way around another school again. It’s like having your first day four weeks in. You realise you don’t know how tall anyone is, and you wonder if you will be able to recognise your faculty from just half a face.
But you walk in, and you are happy to be here. It is a chance to get back into the ‘real world’. You are excited to meet your students, who are no longer just names on a screen. You will be able to hear them chitchatting, every one of them will be able to answer questions now, the excuse of the broken mic is no more.
So here is to the next chapter of adapting, of learning, and of thriving. One thing is for sure, this cohort of trainees will be one of the most adaptable and resilient yet.
Lily Middleton is a PGCE Spanish trainee teacher at the University of Manchester. She also works as a UoM UniBuddy and is happy to be contacted if you’d like to know more about the PGCE course and being a teacher.