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Reflections on the remote learning experience from home and abroad

We reached out to teachers from places as different as Sydney, Singapore and Sudan to find out how they’re coping with teaching amid the global COVID-19 crisis. No one’s situation is exactly the same, but there’s a universal willingness to rise to the occasion, adapt, and look for positives that is indicative of all teachers everywhere.

Read these snapshots and remember you’re not alone: you’re part of a network of educators who are making a real difference to the lives of your students, their families, and the wider community.

These snapshots have been edited for length and clarity.

Image of Sydney Harbour

Susie, K-6 Teacher-Librarian, Sydney

‘My role has been to read great picture books to K - 6 students and ask for their feedback; I read them with Basil (my therapy dog), and students tune in for a giggle and a thought. Then, they respond with questions, comments, drawings, and new fab written endings!

I’ve chosen mostly positive books during this difficult time. We chat about great authors and illustrators, who make great company at the moment, and I’m hoping my short weekly sessions are a relaxing escape and a connection to me — because I miss the kids!’

Abu Dhabi skyline

Tiara, Year 3 teacher, Abu Dhabi

‘I am currently teaching 3rd grade at an American school in Abu Dhabi. We teach every other day; specialists teach on the alternate day. This give us a whole day to focus on marking and feedback, and also to have planning meetings as a third grade team. That planning time has been sorely needed.

Learning to time and pace the lesson was an initial challenge, but what has worked the best is conducting ‘read alouds’ with response sheets for the students. I have learned that breaking into small groups, focused on different aspects, has been most successful for teaching writing. My advice is to keep it simple and keep it easy to check.’

Sudan skyline at dusk

Christopher, Early childhood teacher, Sudan

‘I teach in a Community International school in Khartoum, Sudan and have accepted an appointment at Beijing International school commencing in August. Earlier this year, during a mid-term break, I went to Dubai for a few days’ holiday … and then Sudan Airport closed. And then Dubai declared a lockdown. I’ve been in a hotel for the past nine weeks, and have only recently been permitted to go outside for fresh air. Fortunately, I still have my laptop with me, so I am able to teach my class in Sudan from my hotel room.

I have no teaching resources in my hotel room, but I can sing and tells stories, which engages the children in a lot of rich and valuable talk. With my teaching, I feel I’ve been able to provide some structure, continuity, hope and light in a challenging time — this connection with students is vitally important in making children feel secure and safe. When I see the children’s faces light up when they join in songs and stories, I know that I am making a difference.’

Singapore harbour scene

Angie, K2 teacher, Singapore

‘I am a Kindergarten 2 teacher in Singapore. The children are aged between 5-6years. We are an IB school here in Singapore and so we follow an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning. We set tasks, engagements and activities and pose questions to the children. We are very fortunate to have the use of Seesaw as a tool for students to engage with and communicate with the teachers during these times. Seesaw has been our number 1 platform for all home learning engagements. Most of our activities have been set using this tool; the children are able to respond to us by writing, typing, drawing and recording their voices to share their thoughts, understandings and actions. We also use an app called Reading A-Z, which allows the children to record themselves; we are able to listen back to their reading in real time.

My advice would be to choose a handful of apps or programs that work best for you, and to use these well. It is much easier for the children to become proficient in the use of a handful of apps rather than throwing something new at them each week. This is also true regarding parents. Parents want simplicity — they want something that’s easy to understand, for both themselves and their children.’

Byron Bay lighthouse

Kate, Teacher and parent, North Coast NSW

‘I have three children of my own (aged 5,7 and 9) at home. My partner is working from home and I’m here too, planning exciting and engaging lessons for teaching online. Sharing devices is like a military operation. Home cooked meals have gone out the window. My ‘free time’ is between 11pm and 6am.

Blended learning is even harder; we now have some students at school and some online. But I’m finding positives in the chaos: the recognition and respect now being shown for the things teachers do every day; seeing students and parents working together; watching ‘unexpected’ children blossom in a technology- based learning environment. Personally, I can see that my repertoire of teaching skills has expanded. That’s a gift. Still, I can’t wait to be back teaching my class face-to-face full time.’

Jakarta skyline

Bambang Haryo Pamungkas (Harry), ‘Preschool’ 2–6 years, Bunga Deidra Ken, Jakarta

‘Indonesia is in lockdown so teachers who can are teaching from home. The main objective for us is to connect and maintain contact with the children and their parents. We teachers feel it is very important for the children to continue to learn and remain connected at this very unsettled time.

Most children in this school can access class via computer or phone. ‘Lessons’ have to use simple things from home and are hands-on.

I ran daily 40-minute sessions where students complete activities, from writing to simple cooking, which are not compulsory and as simple as possible. The activities are fun, manageable and can be done at home. They include physical activities one day per week — singing, dance and movement — which the students do online, where they can see their friends. Staff meet online twice each week to plan tasks and then reflect upon them.

It’s been rewarding to the see the spirit of the children, parents and teachers working together, and the children’s excitement when they see us teachers and their friends. The limited resources have opened us up to being more creative, and I’m glad that we can provide stability and routine for our children during a difficult time.’