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It’s OK if it feels uncomfortable

As teachers and school leaders are currently working hard to prepare for this new and challenging world of online learning and school closures, I just want you to know that it’s ok if it feels uncomfortable and overwhelming. 

There is a lot of great content, support, advice and tips on the internet and social media about how to learn in an online world. Added to that, I am seeing schools doing their own amazing things as they prepare to best support their own community and try to find something that fits their needs. 

There isn’t a perfect model and like the reality of the classroom, you’ll have good moments and moments of absolute disaster. And that’s ok.  

While at times, things may feel like they are falling apart around us, I am a firm believer that eventually it will make us stronger. I think we will come out of this mess as better teachers and stronger school communities.

Even if you are only taking little steps at the moment, that’s ok. 

There is no handbook or guide to learning in this environment and no-one to lean on who has ‘been there’ or ‘done that’. 

If I can be of any help, I can only draw on the time and my learning from when I stepped away from my post as a principal and into my current job at Real Schools. Now, I accept that it’s not remotely close and it wasn’t at all stressful, but I do see some parallels in the challenges.

The part of this role that I had to learn about was working online. Online meetings, delivering online PL, making video clips and webinars were all new experiences. 

Initially, it was uncomfortable and overwhelming, but it gets easier. It’s uncomfortable for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, we don’t get immediate feedback on our delivery, we feel that people can watch and re-watch with judgement, we can’t read body language and the interactions won’t nearly be to the same level. 

So, if I can be of any assistance, here are my top 3 tips to help you along the way:

  • Try and be authentic. It’s late in Term 1 so your students know your style. Being natural will reassure them that you are fine and that they’ll be fine.
  • Don’t aim for perfection. It’s alright to not follow a script and to make mistakes. It’s not a fully edited video. Being vulnerable will help consolidate our relationship in the absence of physical presence.
  • Don’t beat yourself up or compare yourself to others. We all have different strengths and skills.

I was the type of teacher and principal who loved personal contact and face-to-face interaction. I’d rather walk to the other side of the school and deliver a message before I would send an email. Why? It gave me a chance to ‘check-in’ and find out a little more about my colleagues. In the current situation, we’re not getting this. As humans, we are hard-wired for social connection so in the absence of this physical connection, we need to find a way to meet our needs. For now, we will have to settle for online.

If you are like me, you would be riding the rollercoaster of emotions on a daily basis. At times we are doing well but that positive emotion is quickly destroyed when we scroll through social media, watch the news or even worse, think about the vulnerable child from our class who we just want to check to see if they are alright.

More than ever before, the last week has reminded me that our families, friends and virtual networks are a force of support and strength for each other, especially when the shit hits the fan.

Together, I reckon we will come out the other end bigger and better.

Good luck and take care.