I have purposely not blogged a great deal about the pandemic; so little happening in our lives and such a difficult time for everyone. It is not that I haven’t had time on my hands, but to be honest the dramas have been few and far between. As the restrictions tighten their stranglehold on our lifestyle there is little opportunity for drama that is interesting. I do try to stay loyal to my theme sharing only dramas from home and abroad, and if there are none well… I can hear the Lion sighing with relief on that one… I cannot write too much about nothing, can I ?
Following the Christmas break, life returned to the tight confines of The Danders, and it was becoming dull again. The Christmas Trees were tidily packed away, the fairy lights twinkles doused and abandoned in a box. The flashing strobes removed from the outside walls, their alternating colours no longer suggesting a police car had pulled up outside. Then in a sign of things to come the schools holidays were extended for another week. Parents around the country, stoked up on Gin, home working AND home schooling would surely take them to the brink of addiction.
This announcement actually coincided with an abundant snowfall and suddenly the challenges of being hemmed in the house were forgotten as the air was filled with the sounds of children’s chatter and howls of delight as snowballs crisscrossed the street and sledging replaced Mario Cart. Parents, glad of the period of respite, swarmed around the takeaway coffee shop before heading to the local hill with kids and sledges and dogs in tow. Suddenly the Village was buzzing with life and the combination of sunshine and snow returned a lifeless street to a bustling winter wonderland with socially distant observations. It was amidst these freezing but delightful conditions, the First Minister took the decision to close the schools as the pandemic developed a new and more concerning strain.
Home Schooling was the bane of all parents lives during the last lockdown. The media exhausted the perspectives of parents, teachers and of course children and young people in endless news coverage, confirming what everyone felt last time; home schooling was a difficult job, no matter who was calling it. I paid no heed to this unfolding development taking only a passing interest in something that was likely to have very little impact on me. That’s what I thought, but all that changed as my grandchildren needed to reside with me two nights and three days a week as their parents were both Key workers. Suddenly I was looking down the barrel of the home school vortex but I relished the challenge.
Ironically the house next door in its former role as “The Old School House” was much more familiar with the sound of children reciting their tables than The Danders, but they were doing their own version of home schooling there and we couldn’t join them due to restrictions. I’d never trained as a teacher and despite being a professional trainer for a period there was something a bit daunting about the challenge ahead of me, not least that my grandson was in P1 and my grand daughter was in P6. The last time I was in a classroom it was all about blackboards and desks with lids and fixed seats. Imagine my horror when a series of laptops and tablets arrived along with the usual bags of clothes and games that accompanied the children on their sleepovers. I was emailed the weekly planners for each child all that was required was to organise my classroom.
As with every good teacher I spent the evening reviewing how my day would run, a quick review of the planners suggested a busy couple of days ahead and it is fair to say I had an idyllic concept of how things might work. Then the proverbial hit the fan. The Christmas break had taken its toll on early rises, and the kids seemed to have forgotten to read my plans. I was up and dressed but had to spend the next half hour switching between bedrooms to get them awake and ready for school, as a result we were fashionably late Once I had them assembled and eating breakfast my first task was to delineate the boundaries between home and school. “Welcome boys and girls” I chanted in my best teacher’s voice pitching it at the right tone inciting motivation and and positivity . “Good Morning”. “What will we call you?” piped up the little tiger. After some thought I said Mrs C would be fine, but the mermaid did not like that at all. “Mrs Gran” smirked the little tiger and this brought giggles so it was decided this school would be fun and Mrs Gran was inducted as principal teacher of the Danders Village School.
Lessons in my day centred around jotters and carbon pencils, peppered with playtime, what ever the weather, and toilets with carbolic soap. Now we had SeeSaw and Microsoft Teams, with interactive classrooms and video messaging between teacher and pupil. I totally underestimated the way the little tiger would be able to manage the technology and overestimated how much I would be able to master it. Two calls to my daughter later I was able to open the APP and find the work assignments for the day. I had not considered that time would fly past so much more quickly than I had been used to, nor how much the teacher time on Video Calls would eat into my perfectly well orchestrated plan for the day. “Is it break time yet?” And that was just me. Between calls scheduled with their teachers at different times, coordinating playtime and preparing lunch, I found my hope of achieving any lesson before 12 virtually impossible.
As I attempted to assist the mermaid with her Maths I did not realise that models had been introduced to help with short division, and I don’t mean the Kate Moss variety. It took me nearly a whole hour to get my head around the method of learning to enable us to complete this complex task. Across the table I caught a glimpse of the wine rack and longingly thought of my retirement plans before the pandemic took hold, wistfully hoping they might soon return. Focusing back on the Math the mermaid had completed the initial work but the flashing HAND IN LATE on her assignment sent us both into apoplexy as it dawned on me there was only an hour left in the day to get through the 4 assignments we had yet to tackle. My perfectly styled hair flopped untidily into my eyes from all the fingers running through it as I tried to console her admitting it was Mrs Grans first failure. She sensed I was not coping bless her, and hugged me. “Can we leave it till tomorrow?” she pleaded. “Of course” I smiled, Mrs Gran, secretly delighted; I was exhausted.
Meanwhile the Lion had been left to manage the little tiger who was running rings around him. With horror I realised I had missed the 3pm check in call with the teacher and collapsed defeated into the chair. His 8 assignments had been completed and I reviewed the videos, pictures and answer sheets he had uploaded (largely unaided) to demonstrate he had gotten through the day relatively unscathed. I read with some satisfaction the congratulatory messages from his teacher as the little tiger poked me in the arm to get my attention “Mrs Gran” he enquired “what are we having for dinner………………….”
And I am not working, not a teacher, not even a good pretend teacher, and my grandchildren’s future depended on it. The Danders Village School and Mrs Gran needed to up its game, only tomorrow would tell whether or not we achieved it..