Lockdown Diary: I miss my P6 boys and girls says St Clare's teacher Mrs Fox
We ask people how they are faring in the coronavirus crisis. This week, Jen Fox (47), a P6 teacher at St Clare's PS in west Belfast, who lives is Lisburn with her husband and three children
How have you been affected professionally?
I miss my P6 boys and girls! In P6 we're pretty much focused on the transfer tests and, at this time of year, we'd be covering a lot of new topics. I have 26 kids in the class and only 10 of them do transfer. A couple of children from Syria have English as a foreign language; they also bring their own wee gems of culture. My school has been open from the start of lockdown to the children of key workers and vulnerable children. We started with three, after three to four weeks that grew to eight and we now have 14.
And what about personally?
My husband Paul got through oesophageal cancer two Christmases ago and so is vulnerable; he had two long stints of chemo as well as an eight-hour operation. I couldn't go in to teach because of this and felt so guilty as other colleagues were taking up the slack. I've tried to teach using an app called Seesaw which is used by lots of schools. I've made one or two silly videos and posted photos of myself doing water fights with my children (Jessica, in year 10, Hugo, P7 and Lucy in P4) – I wanted to show my class I wasn't cracking the whip with my kids. I felt really anxious in the first three weeks and was home schooling. To be honest, I felt a bit overwhelmed. It was very full on.
How will this change our approach to education?
I think a major lesson has to be learnt. Not enough money has been put into education. Not everybody has a printer or even a PC; we have to make sure there's a hard copy version of coursework which parents collect every three weeks. You have to bite the bullet and, as a teacher, everything changes. I've become more familiar with things like Google Classroom. I am not in favour of the transfer system which doesn't favour the disadvantaged. Some grammar schools have opted out and have said they will refer to assessment by the school and other criteria such as relying on where you live, siblings at the school and so on. Plus we will have to deal with the children's anxiety – my school has already been in touch with counsellors.
Are there any positives in this?
Yes, I can see positives where parents who haven't been that involved in their children's schooling are now involved. I know myself I am putting more emphasis on my year-10 daughter. Also I have slowed down a bit. I don't really miss the after-school clubs. Now we have dinner and still have an evening. I stupidly signed up for the Dublin marathon. It was cancelled but I thought I still had to get my ass in gear so I run, and it's nice to get out of the house, put my plugs in the ears and listen to music – I pound the pavements to a bit of Lady Gaga, David Bowie and Queen.
What keeps you going?
The hope that lockdown will end, though I think English schools are opening too soon. Netflix helps. We bought a four-man tent and the kids have been sleeping in that in the back garden. Then Paul got our touring caravan out – they have their breakfast in it. I've also started reading again – Brian d'Arcy and a Jojo Moyes right now.