Sylvia McNeil

NEU Secondary Rep
Leicester

One of the biggest challenges during the pandemic has been “hybrid teaching” – teaching the class in front of you while, at the same time, teaching students isolating at home.

We were not coping.  A typical lesson one week involved seven students in the room and 19 dialling into Teams from home. On top of delivering after-school interventions, cleaning desks, martialling corridors and hand sanitising, this was the final straw and was bringing us to our knees.

There were tears and anxiety and the general feeling that our lessons were awful for the kids in school and those at home. A lose-lose situation but we kept being told to do our best.

Leicester City National Education Union (NEU) has a reps’ WhatsApp group. During the pandemic, it has been invaluable in keeping us all in touch across the city and on top of what is going on in other schools similar to our own. It helps us have the confidence to challenge management.

I called a distanced union meeting in the sports hall after school on a Friday and lots of members came.  Our head is very reasonable, an NEU member, but doesn’t know what it is like to teach a full timetable in a pandemic.

We asked that we drop the concept of “doing our best” as the usual teacher guilt was bringing us all down. We asked that once we dialled the students in, then it was their responsibility to listen in, that we could silence their microphones, so they didn’t disrupt the classroom learning. Our head agreed to what we asked for.

We do what we can, we concentrate on the learners in front of us and those at home listen in and are responsible for their own learning.