The following article comes from primary school teacher Lucy Burbidge, who explains why teachers should see the current school closures as an opportunity for self-development.

I am one of those teachers who does not stop; I get into work early and don’t leave until I’m kicked out. I go home and complete any tasks which I haven’t had time to do before or after school, but all of this time is spent on the children, which is how I always thought it should be.

The children are the most important part of our education system, therefore I never thought it was important to make time for my own personal development.

What has changed?

In the evening of Wednesday 18th March 2020, it was decided that ALL schools would close in two days’ time (apart from key workers and vulnerable children).

This was a massive shock. I have been teaching for five years and I have never ever considered anything like this happening. So many thoughts went through my mind.

What will happen to the children?

How will I teach?

Will the children fall behind?

When will we go back?

Will I get to spend time with my class again?

My class are only 5-6 years old, will they understand?

Will the children be safe?

All of these questions, again, were focused on the well-being of the children.

Monday 23rd March 2020 came around; it was a very strange day. All staff from my school were in, and we were completing a deep clean and making decisions about what would be happening over the coming weeks.

I cannot describe the atmosphere, it was eerie. Everybody seemed to be on edge and very anxious. We were all worried about the children and how on earth we would be able to teach them virtually, as I am sure that every other teacher in the country was feeling.

Tuesday 24th March 2020, all staff were sent a list of courses that we would need to complete during this ‘time off’. As a teacher, this CPD was at the very back of my mind. I was NOT going to complete it. My priorities were ensuring all lessons were accessible for the children, phoning all of my class once a week and making sure my year group partner, who is an NQT, was okay.

By Thursday 26th March, I was bored. I was used to getting up at 5am and working until 8pm/9pm every night, with about 15 minutes lunch break. I wasn’t getting up until 8am and was working until around 4pm (at a push). I was taking extra-long lunch breaks and numerous breaks during the day. I could have finished early afternoon if I had wanted to.

What would I do with the extra hours?

I decided to give one of the CPD courses a go. It was called ‘Understanding Dyslexia’ with the Open University; it was a free course with quite a few hours of training.

I was dreading completing this because of how long it was supposed to take. But once I logged in and started it, I couldn’t stop! I’ve not completed any personal CPD in all of the five years I have been teaching – the only CPD I had done was for the children.

I flew through this course and then found a similar one called ‘Understanding Autism’. I loved completing this too! It did not seem like I was doing work, as it was for my own personal development.

The next week, I began making time for CPD during my 8am-4pm working day, so I could still have some time to relax in the evenings. At first I felt guilty for doing this, it still felt strange not being in a classroom all day and actually having time to work on my own professional development. Once I had completed both of these courses, I did a bit of research. I asked myself: what do I want to learn?

I found a British Sign Language course online. It was on offer so I thought I would give it a go; if I didn’t have time to complete it, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

At first I felt guilty – I do not have any children in my class who need to use sign language, but I thought it would be an amazing skill to have. I have always wanted to learn sign language and thought to myself, when will schools be closed like this again? Probably (and hopefully) never!

I have never been so engaged in a course, professionally or personally, like this before. I learned so much and once I had completed it I felt a great sense of pride. I uploaded it onto all of my social media profiles to show it off.

The importance of personal development

This past month has been a surreal experience so far, and there have been highs and lows. But what I would suggest to all teachers is to use this time to enhance your PERSONAL CPD. You may never get this chance again! It won’t be long until we’re back in the classroom, working 7am-8pm with no (or few) breaks. I wanted to be able to look back at this time and know that I not only helped the children, but that I managed to help myself improve too.

I’m not going to suggest any particular skills for you to focus on, because you may not enjoy them. Instead, have a look online for courses you are interested in. The first two I completed, ‘Understanding Dyslexia’ and ‘Understanding Autism’ were very good and I would definitely recommend these if it is an area you are interested in.

The Open University has a wide variety of free online courses at the moment. However, if I had to choose one to recommend it would definitely be BSL British Sign Language, as it was something I had never considered to do before because ‘I wouldn’t have the time’. Now you do have the time, so make the most of it!

Lucy Burbidge

Author

Lucy Burbidge

Lucy is a primary school teacher in Leicester who has been teaching for five years, mainly in Key Stage 1. She loves teaching and learned early on in her career that is ‘organisation is key’! Her goal is to make her lessons as fun as possible for her students.

Follow Lucy on Twitter – @MissBurbidge.