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I had planned on attending a CPD event today but I missed it. I didn’t forget or sleep in. I missed it because, after this week of online learning, I needed quiet. I needed space. I needed some screen-free time.

Despite having all the best intentions that “this time will be different”, it wasn’t. At least the first week anyway. Thankfully in Scotland, we had a bit more time to prepare than our colleagues south of the border. We had three days of preparation time where only a small number of children attended school. We are fortunate, in our school, to have stage partners to work with, bounce ideas around with and share some of the workload. During these three days, we planned what our term would look like, broke this down into the first few weeks, shared out the learning between us and started making the resources. We made use of all the new skills we learned during the last lockdown (eg. how to use this tech tool or that one, how to balance the camera so the whole book is in the frame, what times are best to record videos so you can’t hear the seagulls outside, etc) and off we went.

The thing is, even with those three days, as soon as the children came back, it was all go… much like in the physical classroom! The children really are the best part of our job. It is so lovely to see them, albeit virtually. Morning Google Meets where the whole class can chat and play games together (see here for games!) is one of my favourite parts of an online school day, the other is when they see their friends in group chats. Setting up and running these group chats is a lot of work but, in my opinion, is completely worth it. The feedback we have received from parents is that they also appreciate the impact these informal moments of connection have on their children’s wellbeing. I could write an entire blog post about one day of online teaching so all I’ll say here is that it takes time, a lot of which is spent staring at a screen. Whilst tools (like Mote) make giving feedback much (much!) easier, the time taken to create resources always takes twice as long as you expect it to.

After five days of this, the thought of more screen time on a Saturday morning made my head hurt. In the past, I would have forced myself to attend the event so I didn’t miss out. Although the event has been recorded, it’s not the same as engaging in the chat and on Twitter with the presenters and other participants. Trying to live out my word for the year, Balance, I decided to listen to my foggy head and stay away from the screen. I did some housework, drank too much tea and read some books. Then I went for a walk.

I discovered, after my walk, that today’s Action for Happiness calendar suggested we should all “get outside and notice five things that are beautiful”, so here are mine:

  • The laughter of the kids who were skating on the iced-over puddles.
  • The colour of the sky.
  • The fact I have people in my life that will watch short videos I send them from the park.
  • Feeling grateful to live within walking distance of such a calming space.
  • The fact that many other people were enjoying the outdoors on this chilly Saturday in January.

Yesterday, after spending the day rushing from task to task, juggling what I currently had to do whilst also volunteering to take on more, I had an interesting conversation with a colleague about my priorities. I shared that, once again, remote teaching meant being glued to a screen, for more hours than I’m prepared to admit publicly, and that it wasn’t sustainable.

Whilst the children’s learning and wellbeing is my main priority, beyond that I find myself drawn to lots of seemingly different areas. Recently, I’ve been reflecting on my professional interests and trying to identify any common themes. Even before becoming a Google Certified Educator and Innovator, I’ve always been passionate about digital technologies, both improving the digital literacy and skills of our learners but also utilising the digital tools available to reduce teacher workload and improve processes. Any time I hear about a new book club, I want to get involved (is three too many?) and promptly sign up. I love a bit of Saturday CPD on a wide range of topics. I really struggle at the beginning of each school year when we have to sign up for curricular working groups because I want to be involved in everything.

I found myself thinking back to a podcast episode I’d listened to earlier in the week, that my friend had sent me. Two things stood out for me at the time. The first was that we need to “get quiet”, make space and lean into the silence. The second was that when we are trying to prioritise what is important to us, we are often not choosing between “good” or “bad” options, but “better” or “best” which is why this is so difficult for us to do. Taking the example of the curricular working groups, it’s hard to choose just one because there are no “bad” options. I’m interested in them all and they are all working towards the same goal: improving outcomes for our young people. 

This week, I’m going to attempt to make more space for quiet to allow me to reflect on the things that I am drawn to and are important to me. I’d love to hear your practical tips for how you have identified your own priorities within this wonderful, varied world of education! Please share in the comments below or let me know on Twitter, @ClareAnnePirie.

Seven Sparks

Things that have sparked joy’ for me, this week:

What has sparked joy for you, this week?


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