As September creeps around the corner, the return to college is on every lecturer's mind. With digital learning and lessons from home becoming a regular fixture over the past few months, it’s normal to feel anxious about what the future may hold for the profession.
The ‘new normal’ for marking and planning
Handling books has become a concern due to the risk of cross-contamination. Online resources may be the new normal, alongside digital marking and self-assessment to eliminate this issue. Some colleges may be more prepared for this than others, with access to individual student tablets already part of a college’s toolkit. However, not all colleges will have the funding or facilities to accommodate this technological approach and each learner's access to technology at home will have to be addressed.
Planning has also been a concern for lecturers; questioning whether they should plan an online lesson as well as a traditional structure. One approach could be to create one lesson that can be adapted for a mixed at-home and in-college scenario to avoid additional workload.
It is also understandable that lecturers are wondering how to make lessons fun and engaging, whilst also maintaining social distancing and protective measures. Group work and interactive lessons are now considerably more difficult to factor into planning. Although hopefully not gone forever, these pedagogical methods may need to be benched for the time being in favour of independent learning.
Protective measures and expectations
PPE and the expectations for both staff and students has also been discussed at length. Class sizes may be reduced and ‘bubbles’ introduced to reduce concerns over social distancing, with the recommendation of students wearing masks being left to the discretion of each college. As the government has not issued any explicit guidelines for September’s return, schools and colleges are dependent on their own guidelines.
Throughout the pandemic, the education sector has continued to work tirelessly to protect and care for its young community, and they haven’t stopped now. Throughout the summer colleges across the country will have been creating a safe environment for students and staff to return to. Designated entrances and exits, one-way systems throughout buildings, increased cleaning, bubble classrooms and allocated toilets all part of new safeguarding measures to reduce risk of infection.
Risk of reduced morale
The camaraderie of a faculty is vitally important for lecturer morale, and new regulations and concerns about colleague interaction may have a damaging effect on lecturers’ mental health. There is a growing concern that this may cause a feeling of isolation, especially for new lecturers, as communication may be restricted and the ability to reach out for informal support discouraged. Addressing mental health and providing suitable help is now more important than ever for both students and staff.
Preparing for September
During an unprecedented time, where no one really knows what to expect, it’s important to give yourself a break. Lecturers really are superheroes, but you’re also human. Cut yourself some slack when it comes to preparing for September – you shouldn’t be expected to know all the answers to these concerns right now. In the meantime, create independent lessons that can be adapted for at-home learning; cross collaborate with your department to help each other plan ahead; have online resources available and garner clear guidance from your Head of Department about your marking procedure and policy. Most importantly, make the most of the remaining summer and take time to look after yourselves. At an extremely challenging and tumultuous time, teachers continue to strive for the best for our young people. Your dedication and perseverance should not go unnoticed.
About the author
After completing a BA in Creative Writing and a Masters in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Winchester, Tammy worked as a Learning Support Assistant, with a focus on helping students develop their literacy skills. She then taught as an English teacher at an all-boys comprehensive school in Berkshire. Now she has turned her sights to a career in writing, with education at the heart of it.