On 25th March 2020 the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced that schools would be closed until further notice from the 27th March 2020 due to the imminent spread of Covid- 19. This news sent teachers and school staff throughout England in to a spin. ‘I haven’t had time to prepare, how will we teach from home? What about the vulnerable students?’ were just some of the phrases bouncing around offices and staff rooms. The uncertainty that lay, and still lies, ahead has caused anxieties that were well hidden by staff as they attempted to ‘keep calm and carry on’ for the sake of their students; and that is exactly what we have done. Indeed, being a teacher during a pandemic is something I never thought I would see written down in black and white but looking back at March and the months prior, it really was unsurprising that we reached this stage.
The way teachers complete their jobs changed very swiftly in the weeks after the Easter break as ‘home learning’ became a common expression. Learning how to set work remotely and quickly adapting lessons to suit students at home wasn’t without its adversities and was certainly not a job for the faint hearted. I think many teachers will agree that the workload increased tenfold and attention soon turned to progress and how it will be negatively affected in the months and years to come. This will certainly need to be addressed for the students of 2020 and to what extent their learning has been affected in the short term and for the long run.
As the weeks (and months!) of teaching virtually have rolled by, I think it only just to acknowledge and praise the students for their resilient approach, with the exception of very few, they have taken the reins on their own education and this is a skill that will serve them well in the future. I am sincerely proud of my own students, but I cannot wait to be reunited with them, hopefully sooner rather than later. Equally, staff have been admirable. I have heard many taunts from those who are ill-informed about teachers ‘having an extended holiday’ but this is not the case. The teaching community, which I am honoured to be a part of, have pulled together in true education fashion to ensure that in this uncertain time things can remain as consistent as they possibly could. I am truly grateful for the amazing team I am a part of and the support they have provided.
As a History teacher, I cannot help but refer to the past during the present time. During my undergrad I studied the Great Pestilence of 1348-49 in depth and while it is unlikely that the current infection will kill half of the population, this is something we can compare it to. There are many similarities between our modern society and the medieval one of the Black Death when it comes to reactions to disease on this scale but also some significant differences, mainly due to science. Although during the 14th century acknowledgement of germs was not wide spread infected families would isolate together, much as we are being told to do so today by the government. Albeit, in the 21st century we are not boarding up windows and doors, instead communities have pulled together to help neighbours, friends and relatives. Moreover, during the Black Death many theories emerged as to how and why the disease spread; the rat-flea idea, the alignment of the planets, the miasma theory and so on. Nevertheless, this remained a mystery for medieval people, much as the origin of Covid-19 remains one for us momentarily in 2020. Comparatively to 1348-9 science will prevail for the modern society in the end, the origin will be revealed and we shall learn from this to help create a Covid-free world in which we can live and Covid-19 shall appear only on the pages of History books.