When last I blogged, I did so from my office in a very much still open, though poorly attended, school. That same day the government decided to close schools, although they did give us the remainder of the week to keep things ticking over, which was nice of them. It was not at all challenging with most of the staff already ‘self-isolating’ and the added bonus of having to manage the behaviour of some now very disaffected year 11 students who had just been told that the exams they’ve spent their entire secondary education working towards, would now not be taking place.
And then on Friday, we closed the gates indefinitely (I mean I didn’t help with the closing of the gates, the people who usually close the gates did the closing of the gates) and all staff, bar the few who have been requisitioned to continue working with the children of people who find themselves included on the government’s list of ‘key-workers’ (which is a list that is open to interpretation and could include more or less anyone who has a job), have been instructed to work from home. Which I started doing in earnest yesterday.
Working from home does present some challenges. My current role doesn’t involve any teaching (though I feel I should point out that I am a fully-qualified and vaguely competent teacher and should the need arise I’m as capable as anyone of boring a room full of teenagers on a range of topics) so, unlike many of my colleagues, I don’t have to learn how to deliver lessons remotely to our students. Which is a relief, because it seems like something I would be quite bad at. Not that the vast majority of pupils will necessarily be availing themselves of any online learning opportunities that are provided. And not just because they can’t be bothered (though that will be true of some) but more likely because I work in the kind of school where social disadvantage is prevalent and a lot of the students won’t have access to the internet.
And actually, for a lot of those students, the lack of access to an education is the least of their worries. Schools are far from perfect institutions, but they do provide a place of safety and a continuity that is going to now be absent from the lives of some of the most vulnerable young people in our society.
But, under the current circumstances, it’s hard to argue that closing schools wasn’t the right thing to do. And it’s hardly the only thing that’s impacted on our lives as we all wake up to daily to what appears to be an ever-worsening crisis.
And working from home, in the sense that I can do a lot of my paperwork from home, is hardly the biggest inconvenience, all things considered. Indeed, it seems like an opportunity to catch up on said paperwork, given that I rarely get any of it done when I’m at school.
Despite not actually teaching, I do still work with students quite a lot when I’m at school.
I also have to attend a lot of meetings.
Many of which appear to about other meetings.
Without these other demands on my time, you’d imagine I’d be tearing through the paperwork at home. However, it turns out that working from home is not without its difficulties.
My wife and daughter might seem like the most obvious distractions, but actually Mrs Proclaims and I have managed to be come to an agreement about how we’re going to manage this unheralded state of affairs and we do have one room in the house that can function adequately as a home office. I have custody in the mornings, while she has custody of our not-undemanding toddler (which is even more challenging without the usual plethora of toddler groups, which have helped my wife maintain some sense of sanity for the last nineteen months since our offspring entered the world). We switch roles in the afternoon, so she can work on her PhD while I manage the childcare. Which works in my favour as this incorporates my daughter’s nap time, but, it does allow me to attempt to continue working while she sleeps and try to complete what is essentially a full day’s work.
I’m sure as time goes on, we’ll all get on top of each other, but I think that, despite living in a house that is very much smaller that would be ideal, we can make it work for the most part.
No, the problem with working from home is…
…well it’s me.
I’m quite good at working at work. There really isn’t much else to do there.
But working from home presents so many opportunities to not work at all.
And I’m not very good at ignoring them.
So yesterday I accomplished very little of what I set out to do.
And I almost felt guilty about that.
Fortunately by around midday I’d received a flurry of emails from people who needed answers to questions that they believed I could clarify.
I admire their faith in my knowledge but I could not answer their questions.
What I could do is consult a database that they also had access to and tell them what they could have easily found out for themselves.
It was, for a few hours, like actually being in work.
Because a lot of my days are spent telling people stuff they could easily find out for themselves.
It’s not how I meant to spend my day, but it definitely was work and so my guilt was appeased.
Today, however, I must do better.
Although, as I have spent the first part of my ‘working day’ writing this, I would say the signs are not particularly promising…