Teacher Appreciation Week
4 May 2020
My son’s teacher is in contact at least once a week: using apps to send work through and to engage with her class. She checks in with all parents and kids via a weekly phone call and we’re somehow getting through this together.
The stories of local teachers’ dedication have blown me away.
I’m by no means a stand-back-dad but, honestly, I just need him to come home from school smiling, possibly a little smarter, and without any official-looking letters.
When the lockdown order came through a month ago, it looked scarily like all-change. But the attentiveness of my son’s teacher means that he - and his working parents - can keep calm and carry on.
So I start this piece by saying I’m massively grateful - not just for his teacher’s resolve but also for the time we live in.
What if it was 1995
Any good creative’s two favourite words are what if…
And recently, I’ve been on what if Coronavirus struck when I was at school?
It’s a scary thought.
When I was eight, the age my boy is now, it was 1995. Kung-fu Cantona … Bearings Bank … the Queen Mother’s hip. 1995. The Spice Girls weren’t yet a thing.
Back then, just 1% of the UK (600,000 people) had internet access - roughly the population of Manchester. Barely 7% of Brits owned a mobile phone, in fact the first mobile telephone call was made only ten years prior.
For more context, we were five years off 7kb/s downloads on Napster. Myspace was eight years away, YouTube ten, Facebook eleven and the first iPhone twelve.
That idiot frog
To school - and in my day I’d help some idiot frog cross a busy road in the name of digital entertainment. Progress was learning to save documents on a thin plastic square.
It seems like another era because it was.
So what if students in that era had been locked down? Here’s how it might have panned out:
1) Ms McLaughlin miming through kids’ windows.
2) Mrs Lamb, unused to being on camera, hacking together unedited, uncomfortable, grainy VHS lessons (then copying and distributing them x30).
3) Mr G driving house-to-house, dumping work on kids’ doorsteps (then coming back the next day for pick-up).
The only viable go-between I can think of is the fax machine. Or a combination of fax machine and constant (landline) phone calls. But in 1995, only one in ten families actually had a fax machine - probably because they RRP’d at about £300.
Would the government have distributed fax machines to every school pupil in all the land? Probably not.
Life finds a way?Thinking through the practicalities, it’s hard to see how lockdown students in 1995 could have continued learning. Naturally, expectations were different back then - school wasn’t an on-screen deal - so the Encyclopaedia Britannica could have soaked up some of the burden. A big movie hit in that era was Jurassic Park so, to quote Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm: ‘life finds a way’ … and I’m sure the 1995 brain trust would have figured something out in the short term.
But over a solid stretch of time, the coordination effort required to keep a class of 30 in their books would have been immense. Probably beyond what was possible.
I can’t imagine Mr Phelps stepping into the logistical nightmare of remote-schooling 30 kids using only analogue/ manual tools.
One thing to say for 1995, however, is that there wasn’t 24/7 news and there wasn’t apocalyptic social media, so even more kudos goes to today’s teachers who, despite the bleakness, haven’t thrown in the towel; haven’t lost motivation and haven’t viewed this time as paid-leave.
So on this National Teacher Day, there’s a little extra gratitude required. Women and men up and down Britain are quietly and tirelessly giving of themselves to maintain our kids’ educations …
And while I’m sure there’s stories to the contrary, the parents I know share my awe and admiration for the unflinching way our local teachers have stayed on their game. My little one might have been looking forward to indefinite Fortnite … instead he’s on track with his maths. (And a little Fortnite to stay in contacts with his pals…I’m not a monster!)
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