Teachers: Our Unsung Heroes of 2021

The events of the past 18 months have had an impact on everyone. Many people found themselves furloughed or working from home, while key workers manned the frontlines during multiple national lockdowns.

We showed our appreciation for our incredible NHS workers in many ways, while many shop workers reported receiving expressions of gratitude at work. But one key worker role that may have went under the radar during the pandemic is teaching.

Our children’s teachers have experienced a year like no other. Schools across the UK were closed in March 2020, but many teachers remained on-site to educate the children of fellow key workers. Online learning proved to be a challenge, but our teachers rose to the occasion to keep our kids engaged while at home.

Here, we speak to teachers and parents to uncover how teachers have gone above and beyond to help our children in ways we might never have expected.

Adapting to changing circumstances

With the introduction of multiple lockdowns, teachers have had to adapt to quickly changing circumstances during the pandemic. The first lockdown left many schools unprepared for a switch to home learning because they didn’t have the resources to deliver virtual learning. What’s more, many children didn’t have access to PCs at home.

Caroline, a 28-year-old primary school teaching assistant, said: “We’ve always been good at adapting the curriculum to different children’s needs, but having to adapt to quickly changing situations such as the lockdowns, some children working from home and some being in school, and the rules/laws changing weekly was an added pressure.”

“When fewer pupils were in school, it was great to get to know them in smaller groups, but we also knew there were children at home missing out on this socialising. I’ve experienced a huge mix of emotions, but I’m proud to have been a part of it and to have witnessed how all teaching staff pulled together and made it work.”

Online learning in challenging conditions

At various points in the past 18 months, online education has been the only option for our children. Teaching any young person online is undoubtedly challenging, but holding the attention of nursery and reception-age children proved to be especially tricky.

Many teachers came up with innovative ideas to keep their younger classes engaged and entertained. David, a primary school teacher from Newcastle, says: “We put on fun days and sessions to keep our kids entertained, like crazy hair days. We also incorporated chilled afternoons, where we’d give our pupils a break from learning and let them choose the activities we did in the afternoon.

“Beyond the live sessions, I also recorded myself reading and putting on silly voices. I knew this would keep them engaged and entertained when I was delivering other classes. I also came up with loads of challenges for my pupils, so they’d do them and send in videos that we could share with the class. That helped our pupils connect with each other even when they were all at home.”

Primary school teaching assistant Carolinealso found ways to keep her pupils socially engaged. She continues: “We used Google Classroom like a little social network for one of our classes. Both students and teachers could put posts in so everyone could see what they’d been up to – we had a lot of pictures of cakes as many of our students learnt to bake with their parents. It was a great way to stay connected and take the focus away from schoolwork sometimes.”

Going above and beyond education

The support provided by teachers during the pandemic went far beyond education. Christian, a director from London, said his 11- and 13-year-old daughters’ teachers checked in regularly. He commented: “My girls’ teachers were amazing during the pandemic. Not only did they keep them up to date on their schoolwork, but they called multiple times during lockdown to check in on their well-being.

“Those calls were great, and it really showed how much they cared about our daughters personally. The calls were about everything except schoolwork! My 11-year-old’s teacher also delivered a pack of work to every pupil’s house in the first week of the March 2020 lockdown so that the interruption to their education would be minimal.”

Primary school teacher David also made sure that his pupils could access their online learning when the first lockdown was implemented: “It was carnage when the schools were first shut as we weren’t in a position to deliver remote learning immediately. I did some home deliveries to students that we knew didn’t have access to PCs or laptops, as well as delivering work packs to many pupils.”

It’s amazing to hear how our teachers stepped in to ensure no child went without education!

How can you show your gratitude to teachers?

Teachers have gone above and beyond to support and educate our children throughout the pandemic, so we think it’s a great idea to show your gratitude ahead of the new school year.

Getting crafty and making a thank-you card or present for your child’s teacher is not only a wonderful way to express your appreciation for all their hard work, but also an opportunity to spend fun, quality time together. For a really inventive idea, why not make a seed paper thank-you card and provide them with a little decorative pot so they can grow their own plants? This is a great way to show your gratitude for them helping your young one to grow.

The past 18 months has been a challenging time for all of us. Our children and their teachers have been impacted significantly, adapting in a way that’s never been required before. These instances show how many teachers have gone the extra mile to support our children during these unsettling times. So, when you’re out shopping for a pencil case for the new school year, why not pick up some supplies to make a thank-you gift for your kids’ teachers to really show your appreciation?

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