We have all been plunged into a period of self-isolation. From our social lives to our working routines, we have all had to make monumental changes to the way we go about our everyday lives.
Schools are no different, with many institutions having to adapt overnight to the new challenge of teaching their pupils remotely. The cherished, historic routines of schools have been challenged in ways unheard of, and a new technological world is being explored by educational practitioners, to find the best teaching system possible. During the first week of remote teaching, I found that perhaps the most striking difference was the lack of social interaction. Teachers and children are social beings, we like to interact with people. This could not be clearer than at Highgate, where our day-to-day is centred around teamwork and collaboration.
But has COVID-19 removed socialising and teamwork from our lives entirely? Well, I don’t think it has and with change comes opportunity. Our hearts have all been warmed by the countless stories from the news and social media of impeccable teamwork from across society, taking the fight to COVID-19. Much of this has been done face-to-face, but new technologies have also allowed society to come together virtually. From ‘Zoom’ to ‘House Party, ‘Skype’ to ‘FaceTime’, people are still finding ways to support each other.
For many teachers, including me, these platforms are new and often provide moments of hilarity when microphones don’t work, and weird filters appear. For our pupils, the time spent on these programmes might not be new, but this time has taken on a whole new meaning and value in their lives. This priceless, virtual social interaction with their peers, has temporarily replaced the co-curricular clubs, sports fixtures, bus journeys, break times and general school time, where most of their socialising occurs. I have been delighted to hear countless stories from pupils and parents of Zoom quizzes, FaceTime FIFA matches, House Party homework clubs, and Skype strength and conditioning sessions. The pupils, predictably, have adapted superbly to their temporary Highgate@Home way of working.
However, if this period of social distancing has one outcome other than defeating COVID-19, I hope that it instils a new appreciation of face-to-face interaction. Time ‘chilling with friends’, to quote a member of my form, is an important part of every child’s development. I cannot emphasise that strongly enough, and I hope that when we emerge from this pandemic, every pupil will take full advantage of their born again ‘real world’ joys, the team sports, the trips for pizza, going to see a movie, or just simply spending time with friends. And perhaps, as we emerge from this period of physical separation, all of us will start to put down technological devices and log out of social media, just that little bit more.
Jack Kenmir has been a SpEx teacher at Highgate since 2017. He’s currently the Head of Co-Curricular and Pupil Engagement (Lower School) and Form Tutor to 8K. He is a valued member of the staff sports teams, a Sunderland AFC fan through and through, and still plays football regularly in the Arthurian League. He has been known to eat ‘cat food’ in assemblies, all in the name of pupil development and welfare.