Beginning of the End

Teaching consists of looking at current events, saying that this is not a normal year and that next year will be better, and repeating until you retire.

Spotted on Facebook. If I find it again, I’ll credit the post (and get the words right)

Well, another half-term starts in England and many of us are thinking “Well, I did not expect 2020 to go this way”. To be fair, if you did think 2020 was going to go the way it has, you could have warned us!!!!! (Yes, 5 exclamation marks, Terry Pratchett was right). And, as someone else on Facebook pointed out, we were all way off the mark when we answered those “where do you see yourselves in 5 years time?” questions at interview back in 2015.

I can’t help but wonder what else this year is going to throw our way. Vesuvius is probably due to erupt. Yellowstone certainly is due to erupt, if it’s not overdue. The magnetic north pole is wandering, and we’re about due a flip of the earth’s magnetic poles and field, which would be fun. The USA and Canada have their murder hornets, so it can’t be long before they turn up in Richmond Park. So what are we going to have? Death seagulls? Killer grass? Mass food poisoning from the newly re-opened McDonalds? (Seriously, Peterborough, 6 of them? 6?). The sun is looking magnetically active again, we’re probably due a massive solar flare that knocks out telecoms, the power grid, and takes the ISS out of orbit and crashing into an orphanage. One of the world’s dictators – Putin, KJI, Bolsanero, Trump – is bound to push something regrettable before too much longer… The list is depressingly long. It’s as if each month is trying to out-do the one before it in a cycle of Four Yorkshiremen-esque “You think you had it tough in May, right then. Hold my beer and watch this…” October in the Chair reimagined by Clive Barker and then directed by Quentin Tarantino.

This lockdown has made me appreciate a lot of things. The technology that allows me to do my job every day, hooking me up with colleagues over videoconferencing kit in our homes that, until recently, was the domain of high-end tech in dedicated rooms of big businesses and colleges. 10 years ago I was working in the UHI as they developed their videoconferencing estate – near-identical rooms across all institutions so it almost looked like you were in the same room. Oh, and the PS3s because “it was the cheapest way to get a BluRay player” and nothing to do with network gaming at all, honest! It’s made me appreciate the ease of ordering what you need online, be it from Amazon or from a wonderful stationary shop in Bath. It’s made me appreciate just how damn good our local butcher’s sausages are. And it’s definitely made me appreciate my local village shop, that man and his staff are legendary.

But it’s highlighted problems. We’ve got a government that doesn’t believe it’s own lies. A government who is prepared to throw any profession under the bus if it will save their careers. May 20th marked the day our Prime Minister started blaming the doctors for the problems we’ve been having in care homes. While I do want to get back into the classroom and get back to teaching my students, I don’t appreciate the way teachers have been painted by the government and the media. How anyone can stomach to read the Daily Mail is beyond me. HMGov is developing Shroedinger’s Track and Trace app – simultaneously essential for controlling the virus and not necessary at all. Oh, and they’re going about it in ways that, technologically, just won’t work and run the risk of huge breaches of their own Data Protection Act. The data stored is technically anonymous but it’s not exactly rocket science to take this unique identifying number here and connect it to the phone it was logged from. And the less said about DC, the better.

It’s highlighted inequalities. The majority of the kids I teach don’t have access to their own computer. They can’t do the work I need them to do, they need software we have installed at school to be able to do it. And they all need to be able to do it otherwise it’s potentially giving an unfair advantage to those who have. I know the government claims to be doing things to level this playing field, but those promised laptops haven’t arrived yet, haven’t been configured, haven’t had appropriate software installed, haven’t been distributed…

We’re apparently bringing years 10 and 12 back into school so they’ve got a month of face-to-face time with their class teachers before the summer break. But only 25% of them at a time. My school is working damn hard to try and find a way to make this work but here at the code face there’s no information yet. This is not a criticism of my school, they’re an amazing bunch doing everything they can but when the government are changing the guidelines several times a day (41 times in the week before primary schools were due to go back 1st June) you can’t expect anything concrete until the last minute and I’m just going to roll with it.

Who knows what the next few weeks will bring.

May you live in interesting times.

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