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Concerns over On Line teaching

Discussion in 'Independent' started by Countingtosummer, Apr 1, 2020.

  1. Countingtosummer

    Countingtosummer New commenter

    I’m a Housemistress and Mathematics teacher. I hope that you don’t mind me sharing my concerns about online provision for pupils; I’d really welcome your thoughts and advice.

    Firstly, I am really fortunate- my family and friends are currently all healthy which is the most important thing, and I work in a large school that is financially in a strong position (although I realise this is an incredibly testing time for any independent school) and am currently being paid. Some staff such as matrons, maintenance dept, admin etc have been furloughed but teaching staff are being paid. We were just uploading work and providing feedback to pupils to tide us over til the end of term. This has gone well but I understand the pressure the Headmistress was under from parents comparing provision at other leading schools and she wrote to parents saying that we would go to online lessons on zoom or teams after the Easter holidays. This wasn’t discussed with staff and we have received no training on how to do this. As a Housemistress, I have been asked to video call each of my pupils (52 of them) once a week on Teams.

    I don’t want to be awkward or cause a fuss as I understand the real concern of parents refusing to pay fees if we are not providing adequate teaching. The school has provided no staff with laptops so we will be doing this on our own devices, which I am worried about from a security/safeguarding point. I am a member of the National Education Union, who have clear advice on this and say teachers shouldn’t be doing online video teaching from their own homes or calling all of their pupils but I realise that I work in an independent school not a state school and that the pressure to justify fees is great. Is anyone else in a similar situation? I am not particularly tech savvy and maybe my anxiety is more the unknown- this is definitely an opportunity to upskill! The parents at our school have incredibly high expectations and I’m also concerned that live video lessons, when I’m not feeling particularly confident, might make me vulnerable to parental scrutiny but I get that this is an insecurity I will have to get over!

    I know this is a unprecedented time and schools are having to be reactive and make decisions quickly. I feel torn by wanting to do what is best for our pupils and wanting to ensure that it is a safe environment for both pupils and myself. I’d be really grateful to hear of your experiences and of any advice you may have to offer. Hoping your friends and family are all well
    brianthehamster likes this.
  2. Skeoch

    Skeoch Lead commenter

    If you are feeling unsure, best thing is to get back to your Head and also to the IT team. Ther'll be an opportunity to do some practice calls, perhaps to colleagues, so that you can gain familiarity with the process. You could ask for a parent/guardian/whoever to be present when you make the video call. In principle this is no different to the calls you make to your students when they are off school unwell, or at home for other reasons. Remember also that you can record the calls if you wish - make sure you say so at the start of the call.
    You do need to make sure that there is one procedure throughout the school: it's perfectly possible t devise this by email (or even by Skype!) and I think it'd be good to suggest this to your Head.
    My feeling as an ex-housemaster is that these calls are what I'd be wanting to do. And if we discuss the bottom line here, customer service is going to be more important than ever.
  3. Countingtosummer

    Countingtosummer New commenter

    Thanks very much for your response; I completely agree with wanting to contact the pupils in my house as I definitely think this is important for continuing pastoral care during the period we are away from school. During normal working conditions this would be done using a work phone-my concern is the video chatting/ video teaching lessons on my personal device, with the potential security/safeguarding concerns and also whether I should go against union advice (but then I guess being at an independent school is different to the state sector). Ultimately I want to do what is best for the pupils.
  4. afterdark

    afterdark Lead commenter

    Assuming you a laptop or PC that has a camera and will work for video calls...

    Face the camera of your device so that behind you.
    If you can, put a sheet up behind you can check what the camera catches.
    Use headphones with a microphone, if you have such.
    If you can make calls from a room where you can shut the door to your family.
    Ask your family not to be playing loud music and/or anything that purports to be music with swearing in.
    Advise the students (and parents) that this is all new territory and has been thrust upon you by the Covid-19 event.
    Some online conferencing apps allow you to record the sessions, some even have those autogenerated subtitles.
    Record your sessions.

    Good luck.
  5. SiriusB

    SiriusB New commenter


    I also work at an independent school and we are now finishing our second week of online teaching. All our students have signed contracts about how to use zoom responsibly and their parents have given permission for video calls, including separate permissions for small classes (I teach a subject where I have a class with only one pupil, a class with two etc.)
    It has worked so well so far, I am so impressed with it. That, in combination with Google Suite, which my school was already using, has made my life so easy. I use the 'share screen' option, if I want to show my students something on my computer, e.g. take them through a powerpoint (or Google slide) and they can see me highlighting or underlining things as I explain. I also use a shared document (which I have named after my old classroom hehe) as a virtual board; I have shared this with pupils and they can see what I write, they can add comments etc, so even students with weaker internet connections can still see everything and don't miss out as much.

    I set work via google classroom and mark it there as well. The easiest option for me has been asking them to do their work on Google docs (equivalent of microsoft word), which I then annotate with my comments.

    There is an option to not share video if you are concerned about it, but I enjoy seeing the pupils so we normally start and end the lesson with a brief chat with the video on, then turn it off for the rest of the lesson so we can focus on the work.

    I am also working in my school's boarding house as overnight tutor and our housemaster checks in with the girls once a week during our assembly time. It's been so nice seeing them all and hearing their news!

    I am obviously heartbroken that I can't be in my actual classroom and interact with them (especially as it's my last term in this school) but the technology available to us has made it easier than it would have ever been in the past.

    I hope it all goes well! We will get through this!
    jarndyce likes this.
  6. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    THAT is a brilliant idea. Thank you!
    jarndyce likes this.
  7. willcott

    willcott New commenter

    My advice from being in a similar situation is as follows:

    If you can, try to conduct video sessions from a classroom or work environment, rather than from home.

    As mentioned above, it will work better if all teachers conduct sessions in the same way (and using the same software) and pupils (and parents) are aware of expectations.

    As far as possible avoid using personal devices or personal email addresses.

    Make sure you self declare, from a safeguarding point of view, if at any point you feel compromised by this use of technology.
  8. rachelsays

    rachelsays New commenter

    I work in an independent school and we have been doing zoom lessons for the past two weeks before we broke up for Easter.

    All children and parents signed a contract before we started about acceptable usage of zoom and google classroom (these are the systems we’re using) and we were given clear guidance by the school about how to keep the children safe as well as their/our data before we started.

    I use my personal laptop to work from home. I don’t see an issue with this. I don’t need to download any sensitive data to do my job; everything I need to access is on online only platforms that are password accessible. No one else has access to my laptop and it is password protected. So no risks as far as I am concerned.

    I think you are worrying needlessly about the online provision. Zoom lessons have genuinely been amazing - it’s been lovely to carry on some semblance of teaching, to see the kids and be a reassuring presence for them, as well as help them keep a structure to their days and continue with their learning. They have taken them very seriously and have all loved the chance to stay connected with school life. We use the video throughout the lesson and some teachers use backgrounds if they don’t want anyone to see their house but most of us don’t really care. The parents are so appreciative that we’re continuing to teach and they’re all so busy working from home themselves that none of them have been anywhere near the kids when they’ve been doing their lessons. I also insist on all children wearing headphones when I teach so that we can’t hear any background noise from their house (you can make them mute themselves but all the muting and unmuting can take forever when someone wants to say something!) and this also means parents can’t hear me - so you could do this if you’re worried about parent scrutiny.

    We set and mark work on Google Classroom outside of zoom, which again works really well.

    I am a total Luddite but all of these platforms are incredibly easy to use - zoom is very user friendly and it’s not difficult to work out all the functions. You can do break out rooms to allow students to work in small groups, share your screen to show them modelled examples or images, they can share their screens with you, and if you work with Google Docs, you can get them to share their work with you during the lesson and give them live feedback.

    I’m not really sure why the union is saying we shouldn’t be live teaching. As long as a school has a clear policy and expectations around how online teaching is to work, which has been signed by all stakeholders, and staff and students have been given the required training and have access to necessary equipment, then I don’t see what legitimate concerns a teacher could have. Obviously if your school hasn’t provided any regulations or training, you have a right to ask for these and I wouldn’t be agreeing to start until this had happened, but I would imagine your school will be working on putting this in place over the holidays.

    As far as I’m concerned, I’m being paid a lot of money to teach my students, whose parents in turn pay a lot of money for them to be taught. I see it as our duty as a school and as individual teachers to provide as close to a normal education as we can virtually until we can go back to physical school. We owe it to the students and parents, and I am more than happy to do it. I care a lot about my students and I love teaching them. I certainly don’t expect to be sitting at home on full pay just putting a few worksheets online for them to do for the next three months!
  9. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I think this paragraph is key.
    The people worrying most are almost all from schools where they are asked to just get on with it. Unions need to protect all members and so saying no makes it easier for those in schools with no policies and procedures in place.

    My school, like yours, has been amazing with training and informing parents. I'm quite excited for term to start again and to be able to do some digital teaching.
  10. br0wnsugar

    br0wnsugar Occasional commenter

  11. br0wnsugar

    br0wnsugar Occasional commenter

    I posted a reply but it's hidden somewhere. MS Teams seems more cumbersome which is what we use.
  12. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    don't use your own device, the school needs to provide you with one,
    install and ajrowing like this.
  13. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I think that...but it is what we are using and, once you get used to it, it works well enough.
  14. jarndyce

    jarndyce Occasional commenter

    @Countingtosummer, if you're working on Teams, you can record all 'meetings' (video chats/lessons). It's our school policy, for safeguarding reasons, that all of ours are. Maybe you could suggest that?

    EDIT - just to point out, recordings are stored online, not downloaded to your own computer.

    For academic lessons, your Director of Studies/Deputy Head Academic really should be taking a strong lead in providing training/encouragement/examples.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2020
  15. nixmith

    nixmith Established commenter

    We have been setup with MS Teams - but so far just for staff meetings to plan. There have been problems though.... the first time we tried it about 9 people were in the virtual meeting, but only 4 webcams showed up at anyone time, is that a limitation of Teams (I have seen politicians using zoom with many, many people on the screen). People kept popping in and out depending on who was talking and it was very distracting!

    Any advice on this, much appreciated.
  16. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    We don't necessarily have everyone on screen at once.
    For staff meetings we just had one person on screen, whoever was talking. Not everyone had cameras on, so you might just see their initials.
    Then, to all look at a document, the person leading simply shared their screen.

    Seeing everyone at once seems a good idea, until you realise you'd be looking at 20-30 tiny squares, so couldn't possibly monitor what anyone was actually doing anyway.

    Probably why the NEU and similar aren't recommending live lessons for primary.
  17. Boardingmaster

    Boardingmaster New commenter

    I have a separate (relatively large) screen provided by the IT department which is just for the pupils. I think it works better when we see the kids (Though admittedly my largest class is 20), especially when they ask questions, and I know that younger colleagues in particular feel much more comfortable being able to see what the teenagers they are talking to are doing, if you catch my drift..

    Our school decided to go with zoom rather than teams, and you can just set it to automatically record everything to the school drive to protect yourself

    SEBREGIS Lead commenter

    My school has not asked us to run online lessons because they are not confident that all students will be able to log on when we are doing this. They have asked us to make sure that resources are available online for when students are able to use the. For example, if parents are working from home and they have two children but one computer, they can't all be online at once. They have told us that if we want to, and feel comfortable doing it, we can record video messages or lesson introductions. I'll be doing that, but I know many of my colleagues are not.
    install likes this.
  19. Boardingmaster

    Boardingmaster New commenter

    As far as you are aware are parents happy to continue paying fees for this level of service? I think that would be a major concern for many independents
  20. install

    install Star commenter

    I wouldn’t use your own home device to record or have video lessons with students - even if pressured to.

    I wouldn’t use zoom or online class video packages either.

    I would set up high level online reading and learning tasks. And regularly do ‘timed tasks’ sent out via school email to students at the same time and then to be sent back after say 60 mins each time. The email from the student would also need to confirm it is their own work and has not been copied from the internet.

    I would design high level and engaging power points to send to all students to do with timed tasks on also. And encourage personal progress with independent research and learning.

    I would email back (via school email) the marked task with advice on how they can improve and then request a polished version taking my advice into account.

    I might consider doing a ‘verbal feedback’ but I’d record it first and send it via email too.

    For me, learning is about reading and writing and improving. There is no need for regular live video lessons at all. What matters is learning.

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