Apr 3, 2020
Here's a word for word transcript of the episode:
Hello. It's Martine here. Welcome to the Teaching Space podcast. This is a special episode. It doesn't have a number so hopefully that won't be too confusing when it comes to looking at your list of episodes. I wanted to record a special episode today and the date is Friday, the 3rd of April. I'll be releasing this episode today as well. I don't normally tell you the date that I'm recording because I bulk record my episodes and make no apology for that. It's a very efficient way for me to work. The plus side is it means that I'm able to get out a weekly podcast episode to you during term time. The downside of course is that when something major happens, it's often quite hard for me to give a timely comment, certainly through the medium of the podcast because I'm usually a month or six weeks ahead of myself.
Why I am Recording Today
However, we are living in very strange times and I thought it would be rude of me not to perhaps just record a little audio message in response to what is happening with regard to the COVID crisis and the experiences that a lot of teachers are going through at the moment. I don't speak for every single teacher. I can only share my own experience, but I think what I can do is hopefully reassure you that you are doing your best at the moment. I know you are and I'm going to kind of dig into that a little bit in a moment. That's the plan, at any rate. It's not scripted, today's episode. I've not put any music on it because it is very much a special episode. That's the reason I'm talking to you today and releasing something quickly. There won't be any show notes, although I might upload a transcript at a later date. That remains to be seen. I'll decide on that later.
You are Doing Your Best
As I said, the main reason for wanting to record something is to reassure you that you are doing great. You are doing your best and I know you are because I follow a lot of you on Twitter and I see what you're up to and I think one of the biggest challenges that I've experienced both personally and in talking to other teachers on social media and I was going to say face to face then. I don't mean face to face, you know what I mean. But there's a real sense amongst some people that they want to do more and they're really pushing themselves to do more. But actually I think it needs to be the other way around in a way. Certainly from a teaching and learning perspective, we need to lower some expectations and I'm going to dig into that again in a second.
Follow the Rules - Save Lives
But you need to remember, I need to remember, we all need to remember that actually the massive thing that you are doing at the moment, the massive difference you're making is staying at home and following hygiene rules and social distancing. These things, following the rules are making a huge difference. In fact they're saving lives and sometimes we just need someone else to remind us that that's doing loads and that's fantastic and we should be happy that we're doing that.
I'll just do a very quick update on Guernsey in case you're interested. Guernsey's a very small island, our population's 63,000 or something like that and we have in the region of a 110 cases of the virus at the moment. And as I said, I'm recording on the third of April. We've had two deaths, I'm sad to say. If you think about the numbers of people who live on the island and compare that sort of ratio to the UK, I guess it looks like we're doing very well. We locked down the island and closed our borders and had a strict lockdown policy very early. We've been in lockdown for a week and I'm very proud of the way my island's government has responded to this situation. And hopefully we will benefit from that and I appreciate I'm a lot better off and we are a lot better off than many other parts of the world and for that I'm really grateful. I also feel really privileged that my employer supported the fact that I have an underlying health concern, which means I'm mildly auto immune or immunocompromised. I don't know what the correct terminology is, forgive me. But because of that I was allowed to work from home quite early on in the process, in the situation. I feel very privileged to be in that situation because a lot of people aren't. But I need to remind myself and as you need to remind yourself, that you are doing your best currently in a very difficult situation. Staying home means to saving lives.
Things I Learned Last Week
I think one of the biggest things I wanted to share with you is something that I sent out to my email list last weekend. Last weekend I was at the point where I'd had a week of experiencing a different way of working and I shared with my email list eight things I learned last week and I also popped them on Twitter as a threaded tweet and I wanted to reshare those with you now via the podcast but also elaborate on them a little bit because I've reflected on them since and I have more thoughts and I'm hoping this might be of some use, so let's do it.
The first thing I learned last week and has been reinforced this week is that managing a video conference involving more than three people is quite a skill. I found that setting ground rules or expectations at the start of the video conference has been essential. Things like letting people know when you expect them to mute their mikes and how they should indicate that they want to speak and things like that. We've been doing online tutorials and staff meetings and things like that via Google Hangouts Meet, which has been really effective. We've also been experimenting with Microsoft Teams and both options have a chat facility. I've often been using the chat and getting people to indicate when they want to speak in the chat. The best case scenario, and I appreciate this is not always something that can happen, is if you've got one person hosting and one person monitoring the chat and those two people talk and that makes for quite an efficient to set up, in my opinion.
Also if you're using Google Hangouts Meet, you might have noticed that if your organisation is using G Suite for Education, they've given you a free upgrade and you're now able to record Google Hangouts and as the host you have some control over muting people, so I've certainly found that really, really useful. I'm running a couple of courses online and so being able to record a group tutorial when I've done a flipped learning type situation, having the recording and sharing it via Google Classroom has been excellent. I've also done this with some CPD sessions we've been running.
Number two, super important and I'm so guilty of getting this wrong in week one, even though it's tempting to skip breaks when you're working at home, it is important you don't. You know what? Is more important that you don't get breaks when you're working from home. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to go for breaks. Your mental health will thank you for it. I'm pleased to report that this week I've done much better with my breaks. In fact, I've been really careful to make sure I schedule a one hour dog walk either over lunch or a bit later in the afternoon and that's when I can kind of get my fresh air and exercise and that has paid dividends.
Number three, removing your work email app from your phone is a very good idea, especially when the office is just a few metres away. If you are working from home, this becomes really important. I for years didn't have emails on my phone from work and I don't quite know how that app crept up on me. It just ended up on my phone. I never checked it regularly because it was hidden. It was deeply hidden in a folder and I only ever checked it every now and again when, say for example I was out and about on a work meeting or something like that. I don't advocate putting your work emails on your phone, just full stop. However, I ended up doing it, going against what I promote just because it was convenient at the time and I never deleted it anyway. I've now deleted it and it will not ever be on my phone again and I really recommend if you do have, for example the Outlook or Gmail app on your phone and you see your work emails regularly, it is a good idea to distance, particularly when working from home.
I should clarify that all of these things that I learned are relating to in the main working from home and I do appreciate that you might be listening to this thinking, well I don't have the privilege of working from home. I am on the frontline and for that I am so grateful that you are doing that. And I'm sorry that you don't have the privilege of working from home and I fully recognise that that is a privilege I have.
Number four, teaching online is not a replacement for teaching in person. It's really important that you lower your expectations of what is achievable and I know that's not easy, particularly if you're being pressured by leadership to just carry on as normal. It isn't possible. It's not a direct replacement for in person teaching. If you are able to please lower your expectations, manage the expectations of your learners and if applicable, their parents. If you are in a leadership role and you're listening to this, please support your teachers, support your trainers to lower expectations.
Number five, preparing online teaching sessions takes a lot longer than preparing in person teaching sessions. This very much relates to number four. I personally have taken the approach of doing any online teaching that I'm expected to do as a flipped approach and I'm again, in a position of privilege that I'm technically skilled and it's easy for me to record a video of what I might have delivered as input in my sessions. If you're thinking, you know what? I'd really like to do that, but I don't know how. There are far less sophisticated tools that can help you. I use something called ScreenFlow. It's quite an expensive tool which I managed to get a special deal on and I use it to record my tutorial videos on YouTube, but you don't have to use this. If you want to try a flipped learning approach where you rather than deliver live, you prerecord your delivery and then have a live Google Hangout to discuss the input that you'd given by video than something like Loom is ideal.
You don't have to give a perfect delivery. It doesn't have to be edited because you don't edit your performance in class, now do you? Just do the very best you can with the tools that you've got. It does take longer to prepare online teaching and learning and that is why expectations need to be lowered.
Number six, it's okay to limit your consumption of news and social media right now. In fact, it's probably very healthy. If you're in WhatsApp groups that you find a bit triggering because of what they're talking about then leave the WhatsApp group. If you're finding Facebook or Twitter is just too much, take the app off your phone. That's okay. Just know when you're being triggered by too much information, whether it is related to the coronavirus or not. Be aware and do something about it. I read a really good article which I will try and link to at a later date when I do some show notes and it was all about how there's a load of sort of productivity stuff going around at the moment in terms of Twitter and blog articles and podcasts and things like that about how everyone's got all this free time and they're being so super productive. It is okay to ignore all of that.
We are in a crisis situation. Who's productive in a crisis for Heaven's sake? Ignore it all. You don't have to be that productive person right now. If all you can manage is getting up and doing some emails and maybe putting one session together, that is going to have to be enough. You don't have to exercise every day and in two weeks become a top athlete and get everything for the rest of the academic year done in a week. Be realistic and be kind to yourself.
This one might make you smile because you know I'm a tech girl. I love all the tech. Number seven, now is not the time to try to learn all of the tech tools. Pick one that does what you need. Watch a tutorial and use it. Don't look at this time as an opportunity to do all the professional development. It isn't the time. You're not focused in the way that you need to be. You have a problem, speak to a colleague, get a recommendation, find a solution, learn it, implement it. Tell your students you're trying something new. Hopefully they will be supportive and just do the very best you can.
Finally, number eight, fresh air and gentle exercise can alleviate most minor irritations and frustrations. You know what? Something really good has come out of the past, how long has it been now? Do you know what? I don't even know what day it is to be fair, but something good has come out of this situation for me personally and that is that I am getting out outside every single day and I'm exercising by walking my dog. I'm enjoying the fresh air. I'm relishing being outside and clearing my head, and in just a week or so I've noticed an improvement to my fitness. I just feel so much better and that's a major win for me and I'm claiming that. I'm taking it. I'm not saying, just to go back to my previous point about not having to be uber productive right now, I'm not saying you should do that. That's not something that is a priority for you, but for me it's been a benefit to my mental health without a doubt.
And that's it. Like I said, it's a special episode. There's no music. I'm probably not going to edit hardly at all, so you'll have strange background noises and ums and ahs and all sorts of strange things. I just wanted to get on the podcast in real time and tell you, you are doing okay. You are doing the best you can in a very difficult situation. I've got your back. Look me up on Twitter if you want to have a chat in real time, you'll find me on there, Martine Guernsey. If you're avoiding social media, then you can email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don't forget there's the Teaching Space community if you want to chat in a different format so you can find the community if you just go to community.theteachingspace.com. It's really easy to join. There's a nice, nice group of people in there. We'd love to have you. After this episode airs, there will be a break for two weeks because I don't record over school holidays and we're off for a couple of weeks. If things continue like this though, you never know. You might get another special episode from me. Thanks for listening. Take care of yourself. Goodbye.