Resist the urge to rush back to ‘business as usual’. Take the time to reflect on, and recharge your passion for education.

Some have questioned whether we should even be thinking ahead. The urge right now to speculate when so much is unknown can be an unhealthy one – even overwhelming. Focusing on the day to day, on surviving is understandable. But for me, in Lockdown doing the brunt of childcare for my extremely demanding one year old whilst balancing responding to pupils on Google Classroom (Make sure you read the instructions carefully x 10000), I desperately want to think ahead, to ‘when all this is over.’ This series of blog posts will address just that; the beginning of a return to ‘normality’ in education, and what that ‘normal’ may need to look like.

The availability of amazing technology to connect us from our sofas with some of the most prolific experts is surely a gift – and whilst most have admitted that online learning platforms for our students aren’t as effective as being face to face in the classroom, does this online system work for our CPD as educators beyond the confines of Lockdown?

The issues:

  • The experience – Emma Turner, author of the leadership and parenthood bible ‘Be More Toddler’ has remarked that CPD on lockdown is akin to reading lots of cookbooks without actually making any of the dishes – the actual experience and practice of implementing the ideas and theory you are taking in means that actually the CPD won’t progress your development as an educator at all. This is echoed by Mark Enser, quoting David Kolb’s ‘experiential learning’ model, where concrete experience and active experimentation will be missing from the cycle. When all this is over however, surely any CPD taken during this time could be useful?
  • The gender/parent gap – like it or not, it is likely that women will be bearing the brunt of childcare during lockdown, and therefore will have less time to take part in ‘live’ CPD such as webinars and twitter chats. The gap also negatively impacts on parents/carers who are juggling working with full time childcare/home schooling/caring for a dependent and will struggle to engage as much as non-parents/carers. Depending on the length of Lockdown and school closures, the impact of this gap on future careers and pay will be interesting to see. The advantage of CPD at the moment however is that you can re-access a webinar/loom/blog post/podcast/twitter thread at any brief, golden moment that you like, without having to arrange childcare, pay for travel and accommodation, and use your precious free time to do so!
  • The buffet – the sheer amount of CPD on offer at the moment is of course a delight – but also overwhelming. Fighting the urge to fill your plate with a combination of CPD that really doesn’t go together is difficult, but essential to prevent that sickly over-full yet not satisfied feeling. This rate of CPD offering may slow once schools re-open, but the art of picking and choosing the most relevant CPD for you will still need to remain
  • The lack of human interaction and discussion – part of the reason we love conferences and meets like researchED and BrewED is for that human connection. The opportunity to meet, discuss and decipher ideas in person, as well as ogle edutwitter celebs from afar, and forge relationships is best done face to face – just as with teaching. Without this debate and opportunity to challenge and question, there is a risk that we take all the available CPD at face value without fully being able to find out whether or not it is relevant to us, and helpful for us. However, one of the benefits of online CPD is that many of our educational gurus are on twitter and are exceptionally generous with their time in answering queries and joining discussions, so in theory this could work. For some who struggle to meet new people, this method of connection is actually preferred

So it seems that this style of online CPD could be beneficial to educators even when lockdown is lifted and schools return – but perhaps as one choice, alongside the educational conferences and informal meets in person. The real question here is how to make this CPD beneficial for you.

To avoid the sickly over-ingestion of too much irrelevant CPD, you need to focus on areas you are particularly interested in or want to develop in your own practise. Seeking out the key players on these areas will help direct you to research and experience lead reading. I think for school leaders, the urge to continue the accountability of teachers needs to be thought through: please don’t ask colleagues to account for their ‘time’ during lockdown by recording the CPD they have taken part in!

Resist the urge to rush back to ‘business as usual’. Take the time to reflect on, and recharge your passion for education. Remember, you know yourself, your practice, and your school best. Do what it is right for you and your students. I look forward to hearing your thoughts – please chat with me on Twitter @MrsLFlower . Above all, stay safe.

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