Bobby Seagull is a maths teacher at Little Ilford School in Newham in east London as well as a doctorate student in Maths Education at Cambridge University. Here he reflects on being a teacher in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak and how these unusual circumstances have helped him become a better teacher.
When people ask me what I do, I’m always proud to tell them that I’m a teacher. I have a strong feeling of what I call my teacher identity - I am Mr Seagull, the maths teacher.
However, during lockdown I have found I wasn’t doing those everyday things in person that make me feel like a teacher, whether that’s chatting with students about football in the lunch queue or telling them off for going off task! Not being in school and interacting with pupils face-to-face has really challenged my identity as a teacher. But being physically removed from the hectic school life of a teacher has its benefits too. It has allowed me to spend more time thinking about my profession and how I teach.
During busy teaching terms, with parent phone calls, meetings, marking, and lesson planning it can be challenging to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Whilst we have continued educating pupils in their own homes, the chance to step away from the classroom has given teachers the chance to think and reflect on their practice.
During lockdown I have been having conversations with colleagues in the profession about how to make maths more accessible and collaborate between schools and universities more. I learnt to value even more the importance of developing my subject knowledge and questioning the way we, as practitioners, educate young people. All of these conversations have inspired me to inspire my students.
Teaching is always evolving. Not being in the classroom and seeing my pupils face-to-face, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to instil in them my love for maths and keep them motivated. This period has necessitated teachers to improve technology skills, myself included and I have found new ways to connect with my pupils.
This term I have been recording my lessons for some of my pupils which has worked really well. This is now a new skill I have that I didn’t have pre-lockdown and will help me be more inventive with teaching going forward. And I have changed some of my teaching style to improve the quality of my remote teaching. For example, I had always wanted to see how flipped learning might work – this means getting students to watch some video clips for basic understanding before the lesson and then use actual class time to probe understanding deeper.
So, as we start to return to normality and classes are full with students again, I’ll be grateful to have had the chance to upskill my subject knowledge, my technology skills and my ability to reflect on how I’d like to see change in teaching.