A day in the life: Dublin North East ETSS

We’ve been checking in with Educate Together schools to see how they’ve been supporting students through distance learning during the covid-19 restrictions. Here’s an update from principal Ashling Kenevey, and the teachers and students of Dublin North East ETSS: 

As a start-up school who embraced technology from the beginning with 1:1 iPads and the use of Google Classroom, the transition to remote learning was seamless. We continued for eight days with our timetable as normal but then shortened classes from one hour to 45 minutes which proved to be more effective for teaching and learning remotely. Parents, students and teachers are happier with the shorter days. While technology is keeping the show on the road, there is no teacher to differentiate work,  give immediate oral feedback, give words of encouragement to refocus students or organise group work. Recording audio and video has helped to mitigate some of the things we miss about face-to-face school.

“School day mornings kick off with a tutor time check-in with my class “Thunberg”. It’s the highlight of each day and really sets a positive tone – I think getting to catch up, share how we’re feeling, recommend shows or books and see each other (even by distance) is helping keep spirits up. We close these off with songs to boost the mood.” – Niall Daly, Tutor

Our school day goes from 8:30 to 12:40 which includes a morning 15 minute break. All lessons are on Google Classroom, some are live on Hangouts, some contain presentations but the teacher is engaged for the length of the class answering questions, taking the role on VSWare and writing positive comments on VSWare about the work being done.

The iPads have helped us to keep communication channels open and accessible. It lets us facilitate engaging classroom work, stay connected and also to run clubs remotely too so that as much of the school experience can be kept going – Ukulele Club has been a big hit and the school digital assemblies too!

Being able to share in learning a skill like the ukulele has been great as it helps keep students sharing in a common experience and they get to support each other in learning a new skill which we’ll be able to use together when we meet again. We’ve opened this out to staff, parents and siblings too so they can share in a communal activity and the progress from some students in a short space of time is exceptional.

We recently ran our Spring Assessments. The assessments were printed and posted out to every student before the Easter break. Some students actually completed the assessments over Easter and were grateful for the work. I emailed parents telling them that assessments were a choice, that students didn’t have to do them if they caused stress but we’ve had a lot of students completing them.

One teacher offered to do Maths revision classes with students in the evening. We had four who participated and asked if they could continue even after the assessments are over – they just want to connect. I think we underestimate how important it is for wellbeing to keep the students busy and their minds challenged. Parents have all been invited to receive either a weekly, daily or no report from Google Classroom on their children’s progress regarding what assignments are due and handed in. This hands the control to the parents who are best placed right now to know what level of work is appropriate for their child.

We are still running the Ethical Education class each week for students too as this is an important part of their education more now than ever. All students and teachers are a member of a committee – Student Council, Tech Team, Amber Committee, Green Committee and Active Committee. We meet on Google Hangouts once a week to link in with each other. This week the Active students decided to send out a weekly challenge to the whole school community to do – the Plank is up this week!

To keep students busy over the May bank holiday we launched the Great Dublin North East Cookery Competition. Students and staff could cook or bake a dish of their choice and document the process in whatever form they like. We encouraged students to get creative and challenge themselves to think outside of the box. We hope to run even more competitions between now and the end of the school year as these allow students to have fun, be creative and motivated and maybe even win some fantastic prizes.

I think it is an opportune time for us teachers and SNAs to develop and learn so we’re sending out regular CPD links on completing the Google Educator Exams, watching the Apple Learning Series videos and watching the researchEd talks that are broadcast everyday at 11am. Again these are all by choice but most of our teachers are completing it. One teacher completed a UDL course over the Easter holidays.

Helping students who would normally require learning support is extremely difficult remotely. There are 36% of students who would normally complete classwork in class, now not being able to complete it by themselves in the allocated time while learning remotely. Vulnerable students are being more adversely affected. Learning support teachers are checking in with students and parents by email and over Google hangouts.

Example of one English class using Screencastify and Google Slides to talk to his class:

Another of a Maths class using screen record and Google Jamboard:

“I usually start my day at 7:00. I eat my breakfast at around 7:30. I sit down at my desk at 8:15, call my friends and wait for tutor time to start at 8:30. Then, I get on with the work in classes. That’s how my morning usually goes. Being an iPad school is great. We all have access to Google classroom and Google hangouts. I think Google classroom is good because it’s simple to use. Everything works and teachers can send feedback to us to tell us what we’re doing wrong and right. Google hangouts have been a great way to ask questions and keep in contact with our teachers. Thanks to the iPads, going to remote learning has been easier than it would have been. As all our work was on the iPad anyway. There were new things we had to deal with. For example not seeing our friends in person everyday. Otherwise we are all doing well in our new situation.” – Zuzanna Zoltowska, first year student

I think this crisis will no doubt push all schools to embrace technology more. We were lucky to have Siobhan O’Sullivan (PDST Technology) facilitate a staff training session on technology tools in the classroom. Teachers have embraced tools such as Edpuzzles, Socratives, Wizerme worksheets and Screencastify which have no doubt contributed to the high engagement of our students during the last few weeks. However, they are no substitute for face to face teaching and we all long to return to the classroom to interact with the students, to continue the banter that builds relationships that leads to effective learning and teaching. Students are doing their best but they are lacking social interactions which form part of their young adult development and with the increasing likelihood that we won’t return to school this academic year, never has resilience and self-compassion been more important.

Real stories from the Educate Together community

Educate Together’s schools mean so much to the lives of the children and young people who attend them, and to the communities that they are a part of. You can read, watch and listen to real stories from the students, staff and families involved in the Educate Together school movement on this page and at the links above. Do you have an experience from an Educate Together school which you would like to share? Share your story: info@educatetogether.ie