Saturday 16 January 2021
Is it only me, or are teenagers not the most tolerant as their mum tries to cling onto the rapid pace of technological change in the 21st century …
Okay, I’m not as quick or slick as anyone else in the house when it comes to texting, scrolling and scanning on the mobile phone. Admittedly, I can whirl around the electronic ether in bewildered circles trying to connect to a friend on Zoom. Yes, I do accept that my failure to ever load more than 2 songs onto the i-pod did, in fact, condemn us all to Robbie William’s ‘Candy‘ and ‘Moves like Jagger‘ on endless repeat during one very long (and tense) car journey to Wales. But the palpable embarrassment, the eye rolling and the mocking laughter from my offspring really does not help. At my lowest, it make me feel old and flustered. And the irony is that I used to be pretty good. I was even whole school ICT trainer about 20 years ago! It was, if the truth be told, three maternity leaves, yes the arrival of the trio of doubters themselves, that threw me off course. By the time I made it back into the workplace, the world has moved on and I’ve been playing catch-up ever since.
Most days I can see the funny side. Nonetheless, I resolve not to tell the teens about my electronic exploits at work…
My first major foray into the wonderful world of Microsoft Teams comes in November with the Year 11 Mocks. A week out from the start of our exams, thirty pupils are sent home to isolate and I take the decision to concurrently run mocks remotely for those not in school. Knowing that I’m not the most confident with new technology, I compensate by being over-prepared and arriving very early to start each session. And all runs smoothly. Numbers wax and wax further as ever-more covid cases hit pupil attendance, but I rise to the challenge. So much so that by the start of week 2, I become a bit blase and that is where things go a little pear-shaped.
It is a ‘double-mock’ day. English Lit runs like a dream and I allow myself the luxury of going to lunch, nonchalantly popping back with only 2 minutes to spare for the start of the Science exam. I find the Teams chat already a flurry of activity,
“Miss we can’t get in; 10 of us are stuck in the lobby”
“Has the exam started yet Miss – I’ve been trying to get in for 5 minutes?“
To my horror, I find that I can’t get in either! Not only that, but I cannot even see the lobby! Battling rising panic, I tap out a reassuring reply.
“Hi everyone. There’s problem at our end, Give me 5 minutes to work it out!“
I hit the edit key and scour my invite like a crazed hawk trying to work out what has gone wrong. Then another message pops up
” Where is everyone? Five of us are in an exam but Miss isn’t here? It does say ‘English’ though, not ‘Science’?”
I gaze in shock at the screen. Where on earth are … any of them? Could I go down in history as the first teacher ever to have pupils floating around lost in the electronic ether? By now I have over sixty pupils doing mocks at home, and, in increasing numbers, they all seem to join the chat with queries and questions. In the growing chaos, one poor trusting soul even types,
“Don’t worry. Miss knows and is sorting it all out.”
Well she had more faith in me than I do at this moment!
And then suddenly, from somewhere, inspiration strikes. My strained eyes notice that I have sent the meeting invite out as a face-to face meeting. I click a button to switch it to ‘Teams Meeting’ and … boom, problem solved! Pupils’ face flood onto the screen. I instruct the famous five sitting in the English exam to leave their exam and re-join us in Science and we are ready to start. I smile, in glorious relief, at the gathered ranks and decide to dodge the blame,
” The school wifi !” I fib , with a helpless shrug of the shoulders, “Thank you all for being so brilliant and hanging on . Anyway. Science. Have we all got our equipment ready …?”
Thereafter, I go back to arriving 20 minutes early for every exam.
One upside of my mock exam adventures is that when we do shift all lessons online, in response to, pupil cases, staff shortages and then Lockdown, I am feeling pretty confident, even proud of my middle-aged voyage on this steepest of learning curves. Until that is a message from a Year 10 pupil pops up at the Leadership Team meeting
“Miss – why is tomorrow’s lesson at 5:30pm?”
“Yikes! ” I confess “It should be at 2. I’ll change it now“
“OK Miss. Thanks -no probs“
Well, on the bright side, at least my pupils are a lot kinder than my own children…