Back into the Groove

The first day of term is now a distant memory but, for the teachers at Eversfield, the start of this academic year felt very much like a step into the unknown, one we won’t forget in a hurry. We had a limited idea what we would find with our new classes, either academically or emotionally. Of course, we all knew what had been done on Seesaw, and we had detailed discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of individual children in our handover meetings at the end of the summer term. Even so, particularly for the children entering Forms 3, 4 and 5, who had spent the most time out of school, it was very hard to be sure of their depth of understanding in key areas of learning.

In Form 3, we decided to take a deep breath and plunge in and, whilst we have come across a few gaps along the way, we have been delighted with the way the children have engaged with us in lessons. With this in mind, for my blog, I decided it would be interesting to focus on mathematics, as knowledge gaps in this subject can be particularly detrimental to overall understanding, and I asked the teachers in Forms 4 and 5 how they have been getting on.

As with Form 3, the teachers decided that the best thing would be to launch into the curriculum, remaining mindful of any issues that might arise. The mathematics curriculum spirals throughout the school, revising previous knowledge and gaining in complexity as it goes, but it always starts with the mechanics of number. Place value, ordering, comparing and rounding are all topics we study in the first few weeks of term. In addition, this year one of the first things we did was to ask the children to take the assessments we should have done last May. We will study this data very carefully, on both a class and individual level, to help tailor our teaching precisely to the needs of our children.

The children appear to have embraced the return to school with enthusiasm. They appreciated the value of the work set on Seesaw but nothing, says Shriyaa, compares to the ability to interact face to face with your teacher in real time. Aryan agrees, telling Mr Robbins how school provides a much better environment for learning. Similarly, Lucas has found that his focus has improved greatly since returning to the classroom. Sania loves the routine of school, and Luke in Form 5 is finding it easier to push himself with the hardest maths now that he has his teacher there with him. On a more practical level, Lksh and Raina are relieved to have escaped the threat of work produced on Seesaw disappearing into cyberspace before they manage to upload it for their teacher to mark.

You can’t deny, however, that Seesaw has its benefits, and that’s one of the reasons why we are continuing to use the platform throughout the school this year. At home, Anya appreciated having a greater period of time to gain an understanding of the maths she had been set. For Ruben, the calm and quiet atmosphere of his house provided him with an ideal environment in which to work.

The classrooms all look very different now, and that has taken some getting used to, for children and teachers alike. It’s easy to understand why Aidan thinks he is about to take an exam every time he walks into a classroom, with all the desks in rows facing the front. These desks have minds of their own now that they have been liberated from being arranged as tables, advancing relentlessly during the school day and threatening to pin hapless teachers to the interactive whiteboard! One of my first tasks every morning is to move them all back again where I want them.

We take care to avoid the sharing of resources, a problem neatly side-stepped by Mrs Buxton, who used fingers of fudge with her Form 4 maths group to explain the finer points of decimal place value. From my point of view, equipping everyone with their own pencils, rubbers, rulers and sharpeners has been a revelation, eliminating distraction and improving focus. Pandemic or no pandemic, I have retired my shared pencil pots for ever. Above all, despite everything that is going on, we are all pleased to be back doing what we do best, which is teaching and – hopefully – inspiring – your children.