It’s School Kids…But Not as we Know it – Primary School During Lockdown
By Ann Creaner, Principal of St Columba’s National School, North Strand.
[This article first appeared in the May 2020 edition of The Church Review, the Diocesan Magazine of Dublin & Glendalough. You can read the full magazine online free of charge here.]
At St Columba’s NS North Strand, we got very lucky the day of the closure of schools. The teachers had been planning how they might manage to provide work for about a week before, but it was our secretary who was quickest off the mark. When the announcement was made, she quickly alerted the teachers and sent messages to parents making them aware of the situation. During breaktime, she collected any photocopying which teachers needed to send home. After break the children were brought up to speed. They responded so well with some very sensible questions, which teachers answered as honestly as possible. Then there was the mammoth task of loading textbooks into their bags as we had no concept of how long the closure would last. Off they went, like little pack horses into a whole new world.
Our school uses Aladdin for communication and teachers have access to email addresses for their students as well as class group mails. What followed for the three weeks before Easter were emails from teachers sending out suggested work based on what would have been in the teachers plans for that period. Children were invited to send completed work for correction by email. For the senior children this was not a strange idea, as they often engage in project work involving home research which they send to school. What we quickly realised was, more important than any academic work we might provide, the element of life which the school provides is social interaction. To that end, we have a thrice weekly newsletter to the whole school community featuring photographs and news from the children themselves. This has probably been the most popular initiative. We have explored a number of the interactive platforms such as Zoom and See–saw but we have a number of concerns regarding security and more importantly disparity of access. Over the Easter break we carried out a survey to find out how families are getting on and it would seem that while they are sometimes finding it tough, they are also being creative in finding ways to entertain and educate their children.
The most difficult aspect for teachers, apart from missing the children, is pitching the level and amount of work we send home. If we could get parents to understand one thing it would be to realise that getting through academic work is not the most important thing. Communication is key and the teachers are very happy to answer questions and offer suggestions when they are asked. We know that this is very difficult for parents trying to work and engage their children at the same time. We know that access to resources varies from home to home, so our advice would be KISS (Keep It Simple Sweetheart) and keep in contact with your class teacher.
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