Heartbreak, and hope

Today has been one of the worst days of my teaching career. While I have been a tutor in different areas of schools, I’ve never had to face the hardest components of pastoral leadership, thank God – the loss of a child or parent, or some of the awful safeguarding concerns that must inevitably be shouldered and felt by so many of my colleagues. I’ve been shielded.

Today was hard for all of us. We made a decision to close our school early, on staffing/ratios. It was, and is, the right call.

But we ended on a real note of despair. Somehow, I hadn’t read it, and hadn’t expected it. Students weren’t celebrating; there was no release of pressure or tension or stress – only heartbreak.

That their Ball was cancelled.

That they were leaving, likely now.

That they weren’t ready for this – emotionally, or in any way.

I understand – and completely sympathise – with the fact that the Government doesn’t have a ready made contingency plan for what they mean when they say “exams won’t happen this academic year”, but that awful uncertainty has meant a real loss of direction for students. I don’t blame them for that – this isn’t that kind of discussion!

I had four out of my five lessons today with “exam classes” – who hadn’t a clue what to do. Some were in tears. Many were drifting.

I know that we’ll have time to talk strategies, and how we’ll respond to exams later. I also do some work with co-ordinating UCAS & Higher Education, so the chance for me to be positive about admissions and the hope that Unviersities will all come together in this was a settler.

But the thing that offered the most hope was to talk, with love, about subjects and learning. Okay. We might not have this hoop to jump through for exams – but that was never the thing we loved anyway, was it? What excites us? What do we want to read? What do we want to find out? Over the day, my stack of “interesting Geography” books in my classroom have been depleted – as staff and students alike found a glimmer of ‘oh, I love that’, or ‘that looks cool’.

For Year 11, it’s about what can we do to inspire you for Sixth Form. For Year 13, what can you do to inspire yourself for your chosen university or post-18 pathway.

I want to do more.

I want to collate a list of online FREE education resources. Not for exams, specs and A Level subjects – but for joyous, specialist, high level things. Harvard’s amazing EdX resource, FutureLearn’s platform – I want to be able to share with students, and say – here is a world, and you’ve got time to play. I want to be able to give them new worlds to conquer, skills to learn – and to be able to talk to them in September, and say “what did you learn this summer? What are you proud of?

I’ll collate a list here – please add your suggestions in comments or on Twitter!

What else?


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