Remote teaching can save teachers
Ok, yes, I am going to use this blog to argue that incorporating the option for teachers of one day of remote teaching per week into the standard operation of schools should be considered as one radical solution to the teacher retention crisis.
In a recent poll by the NEU, 10,000 teachers responded and of those intending to leave teaching, 51% said it was because of workload, 34% said accountability and 24% said pay. The NASUWT big question survey of 2019 contained similar findings although pupil behaviour took second place as a key concern.
So, why is the option for teachers of one day a week of remote teaching a possible solution to this?
Well, Paul Eatock summed up my own remote teaching experience when he described remote teaching as follows:
"Teaching without interruption, being able to get on with stuff in PPA time, better coffee and lunches, better toilet facilities, no commute. It actually showed me how people in other lines of work live and opened up my eyes to possibilities outside of teaching."
Kristian Shanks also commented on the significance of his commute time being cut out:
"I know I'm unusual in thinking this and with my situation but as someone who has a 45-50 minute drive to work every day, I actually found it less stressful and a lot more family friendly. It wasn't easy by any means, but the commuting is hard work."
Jo Pellereau found teaching online much less stressful, a key component of this was her own tech ability mirrored by that of her students; "It was much less stressful, I’m computer literate and the pupils I teach were excellent at completing and submitting the work on time. Lucky all have iPads."
Adam Preocanin mentioned being able to lean on the work of OAK national academy when adjusting units of work. I myself took this a step further during lockdown by streaming OAK national lessons to students, maintaining "live lessons" but incorporating pre recorded content into them.
I found that this "OAK method" greatly decreased my planning time, the lesson content is generally excellent and I could cut and edit relevant parts of each lesson in around my own instruction and/or tasks including interactive opportunities using things like mentimeter.
Sophie Bartlett was one of those who found it much less stressful, citing less pressure on her as a reason; "I found it a lot less stressful. Later starts, slightly more flexible learning, but generally less pressure. There was no expectation for children to achieve XYZ."
I found that last comment interesting and telling. For many teachers, remote teaching seemed to mean less excessive scrutiny or expectation. This may be because SLT teams simply had less access to classrooms and teachers as well as the "newness" of online teaching means there was limited time to come up with a set of non negotiables to monitor and assess.
Of those that said it was more stressful, two issues seemed to be most prevalent in the comments - 1. Looking after own children whilst trying to teach remotely and 2. Not having the tech skills to manage planning and delivery effectively. Fraser was typical of this, saying " It was a little more stressful as I had my own children at home and it was hard to manage online lessons for all family members plus my teacher wife as well." There were also those who spent a lot of time planning lessons like Rose Alexander; "I found myself spending up to two hours planning and recording each lesson as I wanted them to be as good as they possibly could be but it almost broke me!". I personally think this could be avoidable. I think this is about the perceived or real expectations of remote teaching in a school rather than what is required to make remote teaching work. There were those who understandably mentioned screen fatigue and issues arising with eye sight. I think with this being 1 day a week, this may be less of an issue to consider?
On 1. This will hopefully be eliminated as a problem in the proposal I'm going to outline and on 2. This could be tackled with comprehensive training, an element that I believe was very hit and miss during lockdown teaching.
I think it's important for me to stress here that I am not arguing that online teaching can ever be a like-for-like replacement for face to face learning, what I am advocating is the potentially huge benefits to teacher wellbeing that offering teachers the opportunity to teach remotely for just one day a week could bring.
So, how could this be done?
Let's say "day 5" (Friday) was remote teaching day where those teachers who preferred to teach online could do so. There would be two options depending on the class and the tech context. Option 1: Teacher zooms in on main screen in classroom. I have been doing this recently with some classes I'm teaching in Spain. I could see the whole class through the laptop webcam positioned on top of the chair (see pic). There was also another member of staff circulating in and out of the classroom at regular intervals. Option 2: Each student has their own device with headphones in and accesses the lesson individually. This would probably be similar to what a lot of schools facilitated during lockdown 2 for students of keyworkers. In my school in Liverpool, there were 30-40 students in a single room all with headphones in and on machines. The rule was "silence" so everyone could just concentrate on their lesson.
With either of these approaches, there would need to be adult supervision, not necessarily from an SLT member but from another adult. My solution to this is as follows. 1. Any teaching assistants assigned to classes where remote teaching is taking place would go to those lessons as normal to support. 2. A member of SLT who would otherwise have been "on call" would wander in and around those classrooms with remote teaching taking place. 3. If each individual student has a device, then a larger group could be put into the school hall, say 100, to be supervised by a few adults including at least 1 senior staff member. There would be "exam conditions" with all students expected to have headphones on and only interact with their lesson "on screen" rather than each other. The use of the text chat function could be supervised here.
Of course, for those teachers who hated the idea of teaching online again in any capacity, no change would be needed. This would purely be for those teachers who wanted to do this one day a week. It would have to be on the same day, granted, but still I think this would be a fantastic option for teachers.
I would love to know the thoughts of headteachers on whether this is bonkers or viable. I know Detroit schools did this recently. I wonder if it's something that is being or will be trialled elsewhere? If I'm bonkers, tell me.
In summary, I think the option to teach one day a week online would do the following for teachers:
Save time and money for commute once a week
Potentially eradicate classroom management issues for one day a week