14 things teachers want you to know about lockdown learning

Teachers lockdown learning truths
Last-minute changes of plan, supporting children at home and in school, and battling tricky technology: here’s what it’s like to be a teacher in lockdown, and how we can support them as homeschooling parents.
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It’s safe to say that even though we know lockdown is necessary, the vast majority of us are daunted by the prospect of more weeks of home learning for children – and that includes teachers.
 
At a time where it’s more important than ever to work as a partnership with your child’s school, we asked seven primary school teachers – many of them parents themselves – to share the challenges of lockdown teaching, and pass on their words of advice for making it work for you and your child.

1. ‘It’s hard to teach your own children’

It’ll be no surprise to any parent, but it’s very, very hard to teach your own child. As an experienced professional, I know how to teach and what to teach, but does my child want to listen to me? No way!
 
R, primary school deputy head

2. ‘Despite difficult circumstances, students will flourish’

Children are resilient, and while parents may worry about them falling behind, they will flourish despite these difficult circumstances. Their ability to navigate a digital world, collaborate using virtual platforms, and take on new responsibilities at home will all contribute to their growth and development.
 
C, primary school principal

3. ‘Teachers worry about their students’

Most teachers will honestly say that the most important thing at the moment is that young people stay happy, safe and healthy, including their mental health. At the same time, we know our students’ performance will be monitored, and we’re having to deliver online lessons in new and demanding ways.
 
My advice? Take care of yourself and your family; sometimes this will involve putting work away. Write a schedule, but be flexible. Prioritise positive and supportive time together, like mealtimes, exercise and social time.
 
M, teacher, trainer and coach

4. ‘We’re not “having another holiday”’

It’s heart-breaking to read articles slating teachers, claiming we’re ‘having another holiday’ or ‘sitting around doing nothing.’ This couldn’t be further from the truth. We do more than just teach: we’re supporting vulnerable families, applying for more devices to support home learning, providing food banks and vouchers, and trying to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.
 
Juggling online teaching while also teaching key worker and vulnerable children at school is a very difficult and time-demanding task. We’re still learning how to record lessons, upload work and provide children with digital feedback, so please be patient with us.
 
A, primary school assistant headteacher

5. ‘There’s no such thing as a silly question’

As with many things in life, we all need to understand that everyone is doing the best they can. The emphasis on providing three to five hours of teaching every day provides unnecessary stress for us all.
 
Teachers understand the pressures of life and how this impacts the time that can be given to quality home learning, so provide support as and when it fits in with your family circumstances: this may not be during the school day. And if you need to ask for support from school, then do: staff are there to support the whole learning journey, and there’s no such thing as a silly question.
 
P, primary school teacher

6. ‘This sort of home learning isn’t a choice’

This is home learning, not homeschooling: parents who electively home educate do so through choice, but this isn’t something that you have chosen to do.
 
Parents aren’t teachers, and we don’t expect you to be. All we ask is for your help to engage your child, and we’ll do the magic. Don’t get involved in live lessons, but leave them to the teacher, as we know best what works. And don’t moan or gloat to other parents about your child’s progress: children all learn at different rates.
 
B, deputy head

7. ‘We didn’t get any advance warning’

When Boris Johnson made the announcement about schools closing immediately, teachers found out about it at the same time as everybody else: we had no advance warning. Suddenly, all the teaching we’d been planning over our Christmas holidays went out of the window.
 
My colleagues and I spent the night on a Teams meeting as we desperately tried to come up with a plan that would once again sustain home learning while also supporting the kids in school – and we did it, because that’s what we do.
 
We are trying our absolute best, so if we make a mistake or you need more help, please talk to us about it rather than ranting in a WhatsApp group, because we always get to hear about it, and it hurts.
 
C, KS2 teacher

8. ‘If something is great, please let us know’

We are as nervous as you about this. We’ve never had to teach online, and the most important part of teaching is human interaction, which we don’t have at the moment. So please bear with us: it’s intimidating knowing we’re teaching in front of parents as well as children! This will work best if we’re a partnership, so if you have questions, ask; if you have concerns, raise them; and if something is great, please let us know!
 
B, primary school headteacher

9. ‘Don’t compare your child’s school to others’

Every school is different, so try not to worry about how the school next door is dealing with the situation, or if another school is doing it differently. Each school is managing the situation in the way it thinks is most suitable for the education and safety of its pupils, so please trust teachers.
 
A, primary school assistant headteacher

10. ‘Many teachers are parents too’

During the first lockdown, it was very hard as I was trying to work and look after my children at the same time, and they were struggling. I had a huge amount of guilt as I was overwhelmed with schoolwork and felt like I was neglecting my own children.
 
This time, my children are better prepared, which really helps, but I have a dilemma about whether I should send them to school as key worker children, balancing the risk of them catching Covid with the pressure on schools and the benefit of them allowing myself and my husband – also a teacher – to work. So we really do understand the challenges you’re facing.
 
 R, primary school deputy head

11. ‘We’re worried about staying safe’

Many teachers have underlying health conditions, or are going home to loved ones who are at high risk. We’re trying to keep ourselves safe, and it’s a scary and anxious time, but we still continue to go above and beyond to ensure children’s learning continues.
 
A, primary school assistant headteacher

12. ‘Talk to your child and read together’

The absolute number one thing you can do right now is talk to your child. Talk about your day. Share how you’re feeling. Read with them, even if it’s not the reading scheme books that they use at school. We know you’re juggling, so just do what you can.
 
This will not ruin their education or their future because we won’t let it. The very second the government tells us it’s safe, we’ll be back at school, teaching your kids: that’s what we do.
 
C, KS2 teacher

13. ‘It’s a great opportunity to learn life skills’

Use your time wisely. Although teachers are uploading work to be completed, children don’t work well if they’re sitting at their devices for hours on end, and neither do parents. Lockdown is a great opportunity to teach your child other life skills: teach them to bake and load the dishwasher, play a board game or watch a documentary together.
 
A, primary school assistant headteacher

14. ‘If it’s stressing you out, stop’

Your and your child’s wellbeing are our priority. If it’s stressing you or them out, stop: it won’t help anyone. We’d rather you were happy and calm than stressed but getting the work done.
 
B, primary school headteacher
 
With thanks to Ask a Teacher: a Facebook group for parents and teachers to ask and answer questions about children’s education, with free Facebook Live lessons on weekdays.