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News > Mill Hill & COVID-19 > Thoughts on Lockdown

Thoughts on Lockdown

Rachel Bradley, Mill Hill School, shares her personal experience of contracting COVID-19 and working remotely.
Mill Hill School
Mill Hill School
When school closed on Friday 20th March it was certainly not ‘down tools’ for the teachers.  Periodically, teachers are told that they can be replaced by online platforms and e-learning but never before have we had a chance to see what might happen.
The first thing that happened was that the online learning platform crashed.  Pupils complained that they were missing each other – and even their teachers!  Awash in a sea of information, they found that they had been relying on their teachers to explain and re-explain difficult concepts and draw their attention to the significance of certain issues in order to guide them towards making reasonable deductions, inferences and analyses.  It turns out that a deep and layered understanding is needed to be able to respond to individual queries – to teach - and that text books are not manuals of self-instruction. 
It was with this in mind (though with a bad headache) that I began the next morning, writing up guidance, tasks and additional information, creating a weekly programme of lessons for each class so that pupils would be able to plan their time and know when they were meeting with me to discuss the work they had been doing.  I wanted to send the week’s lessons out on Sunday afternoon so that we all began the week ‘on the same page’. 
It was just as well that the emails went out on the Sunday as by the middle of the night the headache had turned to a high fever.  What to do?  Well, with 12 A level pupils in the middle of their final coursework consultations and other classes generally bereft and somewhat at sea, it was time to turn off the camera and create my own timetable of resting, breathing exercises, teaching and sleep.
I could not have managed it without my partner – who did all the washing, cooking and cleaning – my neighbour – who did all our shopping  - or even my 76 year old mother, who dropped off food parcels on the doorstep. 
My department was also my community.  As we embarked on a rapid programme of ‘upskilling’ with Zoom, GoogleMeets/Docs/Classroom the History and Politics Department met on almost a daily basis, educating, collaborating and supporting each other with patience and endless good humour with Mark Dickinson our beloved leader in all respects.
The virus is clever and persistent.  It gives you headaches, fever, attacks your immune system to give you sore throat, a cough, makes you think you are getting better and then heads for your lungs and your kidneys.  I lost my sense of taste and smell for 3 days and finished off with a 4 day migraine.  But as I recovered, a colleague, mentor and dear friend –Andrew Granath – lost his battle with Covid19. 
His daughter, Lydia, as many will know, teaches at Belmont.  Andrew gave me my first job in teaching where he was Head of History and Politics at Latymer Grammar School for many, many years.  He was known for his gentleness, kindness and incredible depth of knowledge.  He was witty, thoughtful and very wise.  He was a legend to all those who were taught by him or who taught with him, not least because he could engage and enlighten you on almost any topic – from history to pop music and from architecture to boxing.
We all face struggles and difficulties as a result of this virus, but for most of us this is also a time of opportunity; opportunity to acquire new skills, be a better friend of neighbour and discover reserves of strength and resilience.  We have had the chance to see that a key element in the teaching and learning process is the unquantifiable wonder of human contact, personality and community. Most of us will emerge changed, possibly stronger.  At the moment, however, my thoughts are with those who never will.

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