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Our team during lockdown

July 2020

Since the lockdown in the UK, the majority of workers have shifted to working from home and that has brought a whole new set of challenges. For some, it’s been the challenge of juggling work with home-schooling, for others, it’s been sharing limited work space with family members and for a few crazy individuals, tackling major home renovations!

So, let’s hear from our team about their experiences during lockdown.

So, Rob, we hear you and your family are in the middle of major renovations? How is that all going?

We’re the crazy family living through a big home renovation during lockdown: no kitchen, no washing machine, and a big mess in the back garden! Working through this has been a challenge, but we’ve coped pretty well, and are relieved that the work is underway again after a hiatus of about 10 weeks. My top tip is to buy good noise-cancelling headphones!

And what’s next for the Teacher Success?

Our work on the Teacher Success has actually been busier than ever, and the online Teacher Succession and development tools we’ve been testing for the last five years have met the needs of the ‘new normal’ really well. We’re very thankful for our continuing partnerships in the UK and Australia – our partners have been fantastic and supportive of our main goal – to improve educational outcomes by transforming Teacher Succession. Our main funder–the ERC–has generously agreed to extend our funding period until 2021, which is great, and we’re also exploring ways to keep the project going post- ERC through commercialisation and new partnerships.

(Rob Klassen is the Principal Investigator on the Teacher Success and EduSelect)

Helen, we know you have two small children at home. What’s it been like juggling home-schooling, with fulltime work?

Well lockdown has been somewhat of a rollercoaster for the four of us here. As a very active family we have enjoyed adapting our normal fitness routines to become more family-based activities, the kids haven’t missed a single ‘PE with Joe Wicks’ and my 6-year old can run a 10k in a pretty decent time! He is also a fun companion to have during my online circuit training, quizzing me on the characters in Star Wars whilst I’m holding myself in a side plank. Working from home and home schooling has been a catalogue of disasters, not sure who has cried more to be honest. My daughter has excelled at ‘food science’ making carrot cakes and raspberry and white chocolate muffins. Oh and then there was the moment that she shut the cat’s tail in the door while I was in an online school governors’ meeting….. many distressed shouts and a cat walking past me with a bent tail which all fortunately happened outside of the view of the laptop’s camera.

How do you think covid-19 will change teacher education in years to come?

Covid-19 brought about the suspension of placements, and the teacher training sector had to move quickly to ensure that a cohort of trainees were as well prepared as possible for their NQT year. Adopting an online approach and realising its potential has certainly opened our eyes to how a more blended approach to teacher training can help increase our capacity to offer bespoke support and development. I am looking forward to being part of this transitional and adaptive time.

(Helen Granger is an Education Advisor on the Teacher Success)

Jade, we hear you will be starting a PhD remotely soon. Tell us about that.

Through the project’s collaborative partnership piloting situational judgment tests and scenario-based learning activities with Dr Tracy Durksen at UNSW, I was informed about an exciting PhD scholarship opportunity at UNSW which I subsequently applied for and was lucky enough to be awarded. My PhD will start in September and is closely related to the work the Teacher Success has been doing to create Teacher Succession and development tools that aim to improve teacher effectiveness and student outcomes.

What do you think some of the challenges will be starting a PhD remotely?

It has been a really challenging time for universities due to COVID-19, but it is amazing how quickly universities have adapted to working and teaching online. Like many students starting courses this year, I will initially be starting the course from the comfort of my own home, and it will be a slightly different experience with orientation week taking place virtually.

Lucky you moving to Australia! So, what’s the link with Australia?

My partner and I met while on working holiday visas in Australia, and we are looking forward to returning to Sydney and exploring the city and its beautiful beaches once travel restrictions have been lifted. Hopefully the time difference won’t mean too many mid-night zoom meetings or lessons in the meantime! I’m really excited to start working on my PhD and hope to continue working closely with the team at the Teacher Success.

(Jade Rushby is the Research Technician on the Teacher Success)

Lisa, what are your top three lock down tips?

Among other things, such as truly enjoying my work in the TSP project, these three tips helped me to stay (relatively) happy and sane during the lockdown.

  1. Become obsessed with something completely unaffected by Covid and all related changes–After the lockdown I can call myself a geese and ducks-expert. All kinds of birds, especially geese, can be found everywhere in York and it is very relaxing to watch them.
  2. Eat well (having an Italian partner who is a passionate cook helps!)
  3. If you have to travel: Invest in a comfortable and well-fitting mask! (Unhappy me in this picture wished I had always followed this recommendation)

(Lisa Bardach is the Post Doctoral Researcher on the Teacher Success)

Liz, what’s been the biggest change for you during lockdown?

The biggest transition was when my 2 student children decided to come home. My partner and I had become used to our previous empty nest, but suddenly we found no food in the fridge, dirty washing up lying around, and an internet that kept crashing in the middle of video calls when someone logged into Netflix or started on-line gaming. Ground rules had to quickly be established. One pleasure in having the chicks home was the long walks with them in the local countryside looking out for the painted stones and fairy doors.

What’s next for EduSelect?

My work on EduSelect continues and the current situation has given me a great opportunity to discover more about the potential market for EduSelect products as teacher training institutions are having to dramatically re-think their Teacher Succession and training so are interested in talking with me about their current needs and how EduSelect might be able to help. I am looking forward to being able to launch EduSelect as a viable commercial venture some time next year.

(Liz Hooper is the Project Coordinator for EduSelect, the commercial arm of our work)

Liz, what’s keeping you sane during lockdown?

When I’m not working at the university, I love trying new cafes and restaurants and lucky for us here in York, we’re spoilt for choice really. Many of the top restaurants, such as Skosh, Le Cochon Aveugle, and Roots have been offering delicious dinner packages, either delivered to your door or for collection, oh, and let’s not forget York (pink) Gin! Daily walks with our dog Bailey have been a godsend.

Any predictions about what you will be doing when the ERC grant ends?

Hopefully, my work on the project will continue beyond the ERC grant. One of the things I really love is working with partners across the UK and internationally. We may not be able to travel at the moment, but we’re really keen to work with new partners (virtually) in the future.

(Liz Maxwell is the Project Coordinator and an Education Advisor for the Teacher Success)