My name is Anne-Fleur Lurvink and I am a teacher at Lyceum Kralingen, a secondary school in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. I teach English as a foreign language to students between the ages of 15 to 18. I am also mentor to a group of 21 students, head of department and coordinator for the UNESCO Associated School Network. In addition to teaching, I also work in the field of international development where I act as consultant for youth empowerment and education.
When I entered the field of education I could have never imagined a crisis like the current COVID-19 crisis to knock on our door. Being part of an enthusiastic and energetic team, committed to ensure learning in these challenging times, has made all the difference.
Necessity is the mother of invention
When the news arrived that schools would close, we really collaborated as a team. Teachers came together at school for a brief brainstorm session and started transforming the curriculum to an online one in just one day. Of course we are still learning and figuring it out as we go along, but what makes it manageable is the fact that we are in it together.
Teacher development has accelerated and peer learning has been central to it. When one of us faces some challenges, others step in, organise a team zoom and we learn from each other. We are also drawing on our creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. For example, we have replaced test with small research projects. There is also a range of free online applications for e-learning available. One very useful website is https://www.todaysteachingtools.com/ which offers different flowcharts to figure out which ICT tool is fit for which purpose. It also offers a free online course for language e-learning.
In addition, I try to include my students in the process. They often have a much broader knowledge of ICT and they have given me great suggestions and feedback (such as how to switch off the annotation mode in Zoom when I do not want creative expressions of my students to appear on my PowerPoint).
We also try and keep up good spirits by approaching things with a sense of humour, accept it when things do not go as planned and have a good laugh from time to time. It is also important to give our students confidence that this situation will end that they will be fine.
Despite the many creative solutions and increased collaboration amongst teachers, there are many challenges to be faced. There is the obvious work-home balance, which is hard to maintain with non-stop online availability, and matters of digital (il)literacy.
Online learning is based on the assumption that students have the possibility to follow online learning at home. Unfortunately this is not the case for all students. Less advantaged children have a greater chance of falling behind and the equity gap is increasing during this crisis.
We also worry about the social and emotional well-being of our students. It has become more apparent than ever that schools are more than just places where knowledge is transferred. It is where children socialise and where they grow. Schools are safe places for those who have unstable homes. How to ensure this at a distance? The role of the mentor has become more important because we are responsible for connecting with students and their parents.
In addition to online lessons, we also organise one lesson a week just to chat and to keep up to date on how students are coping. Together with the care-team at school we try to monitor every student and their well-being, but this is extremely difficult. Some students go off the radar and schools can’t get in touch with them or their parents.
Here we have been given the confidence to come up with solutions and ideas and we are part of the policy dialogue at our schools. I believe this to be essential in order to maintain learning at a distance.
As a teacher you know your context, you know your students and you know what they need. In terms of learning and leaving no one behind, facilitating teachers to face this challenge will determine the out-come of this crisis. I am happy to be part of several networks of teachers and educators from across the globe, exchanging experiences and sharing knowledge. I would also recommend this to other teachers.
Join these networks and webinars and let’s bundle our strengths!
Some networks and platforms
This piece is part of the Teacher Task Force’s #TeachersVoices campaign, created to bring forward the experiences of teachers working every day to ensure their students continue to benefit from a quality education despite the COVID-19 pandemic. To participate, go to our dedicated webpage.