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Primary School Teacher

Rachel Gerhardt, Primary School Teacher at the Josef-Schwarz-Schule in Erlenbach

“From my point of view, the change from direct teaching to distance learning was a challenge. Not only as a teacher, but also as a mother of two small children. Due to also being a parent working from home I was able to have great empathy towards my parents as well. The whole world was dealing with this exceptional situation and everyone was trying to simply do their best.” 

“Not only my students had to adjust themselves to distance learning, I became a student again too. This whole situation was and is a new territory for me and a new opportunity for learning. I strongly believe this will only make me a better teacher. Throughout the time of home schooling, my digital teaching wasn’t perfect from the beginning. I have taught my students that making mistakes are wonderful because I believe in celebrating a growth mindset. I want my students to understand that mistakes are a part of the learning process.” 

“At first, I noticed that I didn’t really know what the right workload for home schooling would be. Luckily, my students’ parents were very open with me about if the workload was too much or too little. I was able to learn from various teachers about creating appropriate work for distance learning.  A meaningful activity does not necessarily mean more work, it’s about ‘quality, not quantity’. I really took this to heart and think it worked out quite well.”

“At our school we use the Seesaw platform, which is an online portfolio and communication platform. It allows the students to post their work and allows the teachers to communicate with the parents. With Seesaw we share what the children are doing, so their parents are aware. You also have the capability with this online platform to post assignments, and videos. And it was, I would say ‘easy’ because the kids already knew how to use the app. Nonetheless, it was challenge for me personally because up to now I just used it as a supplementary tool in my class time because it’s not how my children normally received an input. Thanks to Seesaw, I was able to provide them with enough input easily in the time of distance learning. Eventually, I taught myself how to use another program where I could record myself, speaking over my input to the students to watch and give them different assignments they could do online.” 

“At our school we provide individualised work options for students. So usually in the class, students are having the same goal, but various activities to reach the same goal, depending on their learning progress and needs. I wanted them to feel safe and looked after. Most mornings I recorded a little video message for my students to keep their spirits up and just to let them know that everything’s going to be okay; that they don’t have to worry if they can’t get everything done; and if it’s too much that they'll make sure to tell me. I think it helped them a lot. I have a couple of students who have unique learning needs, and for those students, it helped to see me explain concepts using video chat. The majority of my class was able to adjust well to the change to home schooling.”

“We use SMARTies books to record our weekly goals and reflect on their week. During this time students were also asked to reflect about their week and any ‘marvellous mistakes’ they made. I also offered video conferences. I offered a video conference every Tuesday and Thursday where I did a ‘question and answer-session’ to explain things to them. The students mostly wanted to talk to me and we read stories. We also did a ‘Fun Friday’ zoom conference where we had different themes.  The parents liked that a lot because it made the kids feel really great. The children really needed that social aspect and interaction – because that’s how children learn. They learn through interaction, and through relationships.”

“I think something that I found to be really important through all that distance learning is it really reinforced how important relationships are. It’s the heart of teaching. And that the relationship with your students is very important. I mean a have had a number of children who just wanted talking to me, even though they hadn’t really any questions. They just wanted to see me and tell me about their day, showing me their pets or their bedrooms or their toys – it made them feel a little bit like life is normal. So I was really happy to go back to work and to see my students in the classroom again.”

“When we were allowed to come back to school, my students and I reflected on what we’ve liked, what we didn’t like and what has to change, if we ever have to do this again. A lot of them really liked that they had the whole day and they could determine when and where they did their assignments or take breaks. A lot of them felt that they learned how to work effectively, how to focus on their work and how to work alone. And to be honest: they really liked it to sleep in later (laughs).”