As the coronavirus pandemic continues to run rife in the UK, we’re back in lockdown again. We’ve all been instructed to follow the same rules (more or less) - but how that actually looks from person-to-person is surprisingly unique. With so many different living, working, and personal situations at play, each week Cosmopolitan invites a different reader to share a glimpse into their life over a 24-hour period….
Laura is a 28-year-old primary school teacher living in West Yorkshire and teaching a Reception class. This diary was written just before schools fully returned this week. She's mostly been working in school throughout lockdown, and there’s rarely been a dull moment. No two days are ever the same for her as a teacher - and that’s never been truer than during the pandemic.
6.15am: When the alarm goes off, I resist the temptation to hit the snooze button. I glance at my watch – 4 hours 6 minutes sleep – but I feel surprisingly refreshed and ready to go. Sleep has been a challenge for me throughout the pandemic as I have found it difficult to ‘switch off’. There has been a great deal of news coverage focussed on schools which, in all honesty, has been very overwhelming at times and has created some anxiety, so I've had to carefully manage when and how I catch up on the news.
6.30am: I get out of bed and start my morning routine to get ready for work. My dog-phew sleeps over when my sister, Emma, is working nights, so she pops by to pick him up on her way home and I head into the kitchen for some breakfast.
7.20am: Myth-buster: schools have not been closed throughout lockdown. We've remained open to some pupils and I have been in full time for almost all of the weeks we've been in lockdown this year. As today is another day in the classroom, it’s time to set off to work. Our school Trust quickly set up COVID testing for staff; I did my lateral flow test last night and it’s reassuring to know that I head into work with a recent negative result.
Although teaching 4-year-olds certainly keeps you active, since learning moved online for most pupils my back has been aching because of the larger amounts of time spent sat at my laptop. When time allows, I have been walking to and from work to try to factor in more opportunities to move during the day. So off I go…
7.40am: I am greeted at work by a freshly painted classroom and lots of friendly faces which say “hello” from afar. I live on my own so I feel very grateful to be in one of the few professions still leaving home for work and having some contact with others - socially distanced of course.
I head to an office across school to set up my laptop and, as we are pretty reliant on technology at the moment, I check that everything works. As a teacher you get used to spending time on evenings and weekends making and adapting resources so everything is ready, waiting to be opened and printed.
8.20am: On a Monday morning we have a staff briefing so that key messages can be communicated, and our Head delivers some words of inspiration. We all leave in high spirits and ready to tackle the week.
8.40am: The school gates are unlocked and I love greeting the pupils at the classroom door with a warm smile. This is a small but significant act as it holds the power to set a positive tone for a child’s entire day. The children have been placed into ‘bubbles’ alongside a teacher and a member of support staff. Today myself and Mrs B have 10 children from our Reception class attending and for one of the pupils it is their first day back since the January school closures – the grin on their face tells me how delighted they are to return!
Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to be in two places at once (as much as I wish I could clone myself) so, while I head off to teach my online lessons, my class bubble are left to learn in the very capable hands of Mrs B.
8.55am: Live lessons begin online for the remaining 20 pupils. Our first lesson is phonics and we are learning the ‘qu’ sound today. I decided to dress up as the ‘qu, qu, queen’, naturally! I think I have now exhausted all of my fancy dress attire, but it has the desired effect and instantly engages the children in their reading. Doing these Oscar-worthy performances has never fazed me in a room full of children, and previously the thought of doing this in front of parents would have terrified me, but when the lesson goes live all inhibitions disappear. We do it for the kids and the parents watching too!
Of course, nothing can replace being in the classroom, and I miss the children’s enthusiasm and spirit, but my experience of teaching online has been really positive. At just 4 and 5 years old, I have been continually impressed by their effort and resilience; I am proud of them. That’s not to say it hasn’t been challenging. It’s been heartbreaking to see tears as the children are missing their friends and, sure, I’ve had to pull a few new tricks out of the bag to jazz lessons and keep their attention, which has been exhausting. But, however tiring it may be, it is so worthwhile as it’s meant that, even from a distance, the children continue to learn.
9.30am: We have 30 minutes in-between live lessons so I head back to the classroom to support the learning taking place within my bubble. I find a few minutes to review work submitted online by the children working at home and give them some feedback/ extra challenges. Time seems to disappear within the blink of an eye.
10am: We are back online. Lesson two: maths. I leave the children some follow-up work to complete before their next lesson. One of my pupils found the work a little challenging so we stay online together for a while and I provide some extra support. Ta-dah, they understand! Achieving those ‘lightbulb moments’ is the reason why I love my job.
10.30am: The ‘bubble kids’ have just finished playtime so I meet them in the classroom to teach maths while Mrs B squeezes in a break.
11.00am: Online lesson three: in this lesson we teach other areas of the curriculum. A few children are having problems seeing the screen-share, but not to sweat, I’ve had to learn lots of new tech tricks over the past few weeks so we quickly resolve the issue.
11:45am: Parents and teachers will understand every child’s unrelenting hunger, so when the lunch trolley arrives the children are eager to wash their hands and eat. As staffing is currently reduced, myself and Mrs B take turns to cover half of the children’s lunch hour. I absolutely hate carrots (always have) but in an attempt to get two of the children to eat their veg I promise to try one if they do too… it works! They discover that they like carrots, I confirm that I don’t.
12:15pm: Lunchtime! The ability to multitask is definitely a requirement of the job so if you can eat and do at the same time, you’re winning. I continue to respond to work submitted online so the children get their feedback as soon as possible and I check emails/messages. I open a message from a parent and it is just the midday pick me up I need; as their child fell asleep last night they said I was the “bestest” person in the world (my heart melts).
12.45pm: During the afternoon the children at home have extended learning activities and reading to complete. As there are no live lessons, I am free to work closely with my bubble.
Spring is springing (I think we all need the warmer weather back to lift our spirits) so we start a new science topic learning about life cycles. Under normal circumstances, we would have eggs delivered to school which are ready to hatch into the most adorable chicks, instead we watch a video and the children start cheering the chick on; “You can do it!” they call enthusiastically. The children are so curious and have so many interesting questions which we spend some time exploring. One of the boys is genuinely devastated to learn that if he had been born a chicken, or if he somehow became one, he wouldn’t be able to lay an egg. Children’s minds are truly fascinating!
2.20pm: It’s tidy up time and the ‘top tidier’ always receives a special sticker. It is surprising how much delight a sticker can bring and what a powerful tool they are for teachers - especially a smelly sticker. Oh, to be 4 again! The classroom passes ‘inspection’ and we choose a story to read before home time. It’s a class favourite: the musical story Pete the Cat Rocking in my School Shoes, and I’m sure my ‘wonderful’ singing makes all the more enjoyable for them.
3.00pm: Time to say goodbye for today. To reduce the number of people in and around school, home time is staggered for each year group. Parents and carers are amused, and maybe slightly shocked, to hear that their children now want pet chickens (oops).
When the door closes, there are no meetings or CPD [continuing professional development] events planned tonight so I log onto our online portal to give the children feedback on their work. A LOT of work has been added since lunchtime, which is fantastic as it means they are working hard at home, and it takes me about an hour to complete. I then spend time doing a whole host of actions: adding observations of the children in-school to their online learning journals, tweaking lessons plans in light of the day’s learning, preparing tomorrow’s resources, completing actions for my subject leadership responsibilities and reading/responding to emails.
5.50pm: Often there are days when I leave school with a few jobs still to do once I get home, but I always try to have a work free evening on a Monday to ease myself into the week. Today, I managed to get everything essential done so I set off home feeling rather accomplished.
6.15pm: Running time. When lockdown 1 occurred, I decided to use it as an opportunity to do some self-care and (over the past year) I have really fallen in love with running again. This month I decided to set myself a running challenge to raise money for the MS Society, a charity very close to my heart. Last week I ran my first ever half-marathon (a bucket-list goal which I still cannot believe I achieved) so for the past few days I have been doing some shorter recovery runs. Tonight, I complete a steady 5 kilometres then jump in the shower before I start cooking.
7.20pm: I cook tea and prepare my meals for the next day. My culinary skills are average at best and I am not particularly adventurous when it comes to cooking. I am looking forward to being able to dine out again!
8pm: After tea I call my parents for a catch-up. I then unwind in front of the TV – I have an episode of Ru Paul’s Drag Race to catch up on – while my friend and I excitedly share ideas for our bestie’s hen do later this year.
11.15pm: I head upstairs and get ready for bed, it’s late but I generally find it is pointless attempting to sleep any earlier. Throughout the pandemic it has become more important than ever to appreciate the smallest of things. As I hope to drift off, I make a mental note of all of the positive things which have happened today… and there are many.
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