Well, that was a whirlwind of a week. It was early on a Sunday afternoon when I returned from a weekly Big Shop to have my phone aggressively vibrate on the desk.
The one notification that we all dread had made its way to my Lock Screen, ordering self isolation for seven days. My housemate and I later worked out that it must have been from coming close to somebody at the gym on Wednesday evening, since my school are very strict with following distancing protocols, and the person who I’d contacted must have only just tested positive, since I’d not been ordered home for the full ten days.
I’ll be the first to recognise that I got off pretty well with only having to stay inside for a week, compared to those people out there who have shielded for the better part of a year. Still, that didn’t make what was to come any easier. Here’s how I spent seven days in isolation.
“Well, thank God I had the sense to get the Big Shop in this morning” was my first reaction the NHS Track and Trace app. Once I’d got over the initial shock of knowing I wouldn’t be in work for a week, I broke the news to my colleagues and immediately got on with adapting lessons I’d already planned so they’d be suitable for delivery by a cover teacher.
Luckily, there wasn’t too much in need of changing. My school is pretty forward-thinking in its technology usage, meaning we’ve all got access to the IT systems – cover teachers included. As a result, they could use my Google Slides and print out appropriate worksheets as needed. I also made a pre-recorded message that talked the students through their work, rather than trusting in the internet to hold out on my end and the school’s end for some sort for a live lesson.
Anyway, if I had done a live lesson, when would we start? What if students filtered in late and missed crucial instructions? Would I be able to do learning checks? A pre-recorded message was one-hundred-and-ten-percent the way forward.
I had to assume that all went swimmingly because, in the end I managed to create 19 messages for the students – so here’s hoping that it wasn’t time wasted! Even if it was, though, I’ve got the videos made for next year in case this happens again. That’s the beauty of teaching: building up an arsenal of resources.
Once I’d sorted my lessons, I retreated to the kitchen. I’d planned to use up some chicken that had been going out of date that day, so made up about seven portions of three different meals – all ready to be eaten throughout the week. I am nothing if not a studious meal planner.
I fell into bed, one negative LFT Covid test down and exhausted, but content in a day well spent.
“Josh, where are your worksheets?” Came a call from a colleague at 8am.
I quickly logged onto my computer and, to my relief, saw them there, but buried underneath the students’ instructions.
Following that brief heart attack, I settled at my desk and started planning for Tuesday. Most days were like this, broken up with coffee. I logged off at 6pm, as a useful CPD training session interrupted my workflow. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this week, it’s that good-quality cover surprisingly takes longer to create than you might think. Or maybe I’m just not used to it.
The night ended with an episode of Peaky Blinders. We’re half way through season 4, and loving every second.*
“Okay, code red for real this time, Josh. Where’s your cover?” I knew that today was a busy day for my department, as we all usually teach full days, so seeing that message truly panicked me. Was it not there? Had I not uploaded everything?
Turns out that it really was code red: I’d uploaded an incorrect, original copy of my worksheets for Year 8, rather than the final file. It was a quick fix, since their work – including my explanations and Google Slides file – was ready to go, but that didn’t detract from how silly I felt. It was a real lesson in paying explicit attention to detail, and a mistake that I wasn’t quick to repeat.
I made it up to my colleague with a chocolate bar in the following week, so it wasn’t all bad.
The first thing that I did after waking up on this morning was checking the cover folder.
I wiped the sweat from my brow as I realised that – yes – everything was definitely there and accounted for.
I spent the day planning to mark my year 8 work which I’d taken home with me before having to isolate but, once more, it took a lot longer to plan cover than I’d imagined. I also had a meeting with a colleague who had been off for maternity leave, who I’d not met before, so it was a really lovely way to break up my day from working independently.
3pm rolled around and I clocked off for a tea break, before returning to my desk to prepare for Parent’s Evening.
Turns out, all of my appointments – from a pretty packed evening – had been cancelled as part of an automatic process that takes place if you register as absent for that day. I was gutted but, determined to chat to my Year 10 parents, decided to make time to call them in the following week. Rather than finish early, I continued working until around 6pm, creating a resource for my colleagues and I to use for Year 11s who had finished their assessments, while others – who had been self-isolating too – complete them upon their return.
It turned into a really fun, double-sided A3 sheet, which combined creativity, literacy (a school focus), and of course History. I actually felt quite jealous for my 11s who would be doing this, as one of the tasks involves counter factual History (think Amazon Prime’s Man in the High Castle – which you can purchase by using this link*), which I adore.
I had another meeting with my returning colleague to help her to set up her iPad, which our school provides its staff with. I am honestly so lucky to work in such a tech-focused environment, which regular readers will know that I am obsessed with.
Thursday was an interesting one. There were still a lot of my Year 11s off isolating, so a colleague covered their class in-person while I delivered a live lesson to those away. We then team-taught a combined isolating class, which was a lot of fun! While she led the learning, I provided support – such as gliding over their Google Doc workbooks to assess learning and offer feedback.
After I finished setting up for Friday, I fitted in a quick workout. I was almost interrupted by my housemate, who had come home with a flat tyre, but thankfully the RSC were quick to get it sorted. Crisis averted!
And so the isolation continued!
Another day, another live lesson. The majority of my 11s had returned to school, but a few were still off, so I offered some more live learning. After that, I had the rest of the day to plan for the week ahead and – finally – mark my Year 8 papers, in preparation for a DIRT lesson upon my return.
Though I’d planned another home workout, I ended up working late enough to warrant a contact-free delivery of takeaway food instead. It was a burger and fries with all the trimmings, and made for quite the end to an unusual working week. I was home alone that night, since my housemate isn’t legally required to self-isolate, so spent it getting through more of Resident Evil 2*, a feat I’ve been trying to accomplish since October of last year.
I spent the morning doing my usual cleaning routine, which you can read about here, and then actually started working on this blog post.
With the news that I’d be free from Sunday onwards, I spent the rest of the day marking more papers and finishing my planning for the week ahead. One day to go.
Freedom! With my self-isolation having ended at midnight, the first thing I did was go to the gym, take a walk, and get my weekly shop in. While I’m glad that Test and Trace is doing its job, it’s still frustrating to spend a week at home, even after two LFTs showed negative COVID results. It was made all the worse by society opening back up just as my app buzzed, but hopefully we are now firmly on our way out of this horrible situation.
And, anyway, it was only 7 days, wasn’t it? I may have gone stir-crazy by the end of the week, but I could have had it far worse.
Have you had to self-isolate? What was it like for you? Let’s talk about it and swap stories in the comments below.
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