Toria Bono is a primary school teacher in the South East of England. Through her blog Teaching Others & Learning All The Time, she shares her experiences, opinions and lessons learned in the classroom. She also empowers other eduleaders on Twitter via the #TinyVoiceTuesday and #TinyVoiceTuesdayUnites hashtags.
Follow Toria on Twitter – @ToriaClaire
Learning to ‘Bubble’ – A Teacher’s Experience
Last week, as you will know if you read my article ‘Mood Makers’, I began teaching a bubble.
When I went into school on Monday, having not slept on Sunday, I was really anxious. I was only going in for an Inset, but I was worried about:
- social distancing
- one-way systems
- where I would be teaching
- who I would be teaching
…and so much more.
However, I had no need to worry. My Head, the SLT, the Business Manager, the Premises Officer and the Governors had done such an amazing job preparing and making everything ‘safe’, that by the end of Monday, I had figured out all of the above and was ready to welcome in my ‘bubble’ the next day.
Helping pupils to feel special & safe
My headteacher, John Gadd, was clear that our sole purpose was to, “focus on welcoming the children back first & foremost (helping them to feel special and safe), rather than catching up on missed learning.”
This really helped to alleviate any pressure with regards to teaching and learning expectations.
On Tuesday morning, we went out to the playground where the children were lining up in pods (John isn’t a lover of the word bubble) and each child stood on a red, socially distanced, dot. I have to be honest and say that I found this the most emotional part of the week. After many weeks of being apart, Year 6 children came onto the playground, stood on red dots and waved at their friends from afar. The children’s brilliance at doing this made me feel overcome with emotion. They were entering into a different world and so were we.
Once my pod (no I am reverting to bubble – sorry John) were all there, we trooped off to the classroom. I reminded myself that ‘we are the mood makers’ and greeted them with verve and zest. However, I then had to tell them to sit down in socially distanced spaces and not move from there.
The atmosphere at that point was sombre so we lightened it – we went for a tour of the one-way system and laughed. They wrote ‘Top Tips for Mrs Bono’ so that I wouldn’t get lost and we laughed. We discovered a place on the field and played silly games so that we could all laugh. My LSA, Emma, lifted their spirits and mine because what we needed to do that day was laugh!
As Tuesday moved on, so their spirit and confidence increased. We figured out a hand-washing rota and what we could and couldn’t do in the classroom e.g. if your friend drops a pencil on the floor, don’t pick it up. At the end of the day, we saw them out and checked that they all left with smiles on their faces – they did!
”Focus on welcoming the children back first & foremost (helping them to feel special and safe), rather than catching up on missed learning."
Routine is key; familiarity vital
On Wednesday, we did ‘real learning’ and they loved it. Routine was key! Familiarity was vital!
They wanted to do maths and English and they didn’t want to discuss their feelings and that was okay with me. I went with what they needed and not with what I thought they needed. This worked wonderfully well. They all went home with smiles again!
On Thursday, we had a new child – she entered looking nervous and we all welcomed her. “Hello!” I said, “The children have told me so much about you and we are all so pleased that you are here!” Her shoulders visibly relaxed and a smile spread across her face.
That day we discovered that play-times can be challenging when there are so few people, as it is easy for someone to feel left out. So, we went out in the afternoon and made up the most bizarre game of football rounders! Emma and I ran around with the children and we all laughed a great deal! I can’t say how relieved I was that everyone went home smiling on Thursday.
Friday came around quickly and by then we had mastered the one-way system, hand-washing, football rounders and each other. We had only started working with each other on Tuesday, and yet by Friday it felt normal. The children knew all the systems, I knew how I could and couldn’t teach, Emma and I had figured out how we could cover each other and everyone’s shoulders visibly relaxed.
Top tips for bubbling
Teaching a bubble has been new, different, bizarre (according to Toby I say that a lot), but it has been utterly rewarding, joyous and wonderful. I am lucky because I have fantastic colleagues and we have come together to help and support each other in new and different ways. Our leadership team are always ready to help and support and the premises staff are phenomenal! Our school veritably sparkles with all the cleaning and ‘making safe’ that they are doing.
I wanted to provide those who haven’t taught a bubble yet with some ‘top tips’ to reassure and support, so on Friday I asked Twitter for theirs – the results are to the right and I hope that these tips help anyone who hasn’t taught a bubble yet!
Before you look at it though, I want to share one last thing – the ‘Bubblees’ thoughts (I have named my children the Bubblees)! I asked them on Friday what advice they would give to their past selves regarding coming in and they said, “don’t worry, you will really enjoy it because it will be so much fun!” And they were completely right. Don’t worry, you will all utterly enjoy ‘bubbling’!