Welcome to SEJ Digital December 2020
A Welcome Break After a Difficult Year
As we move into the Festive period, the thought of the winter break will be even more welcome than usual. 2020 has been a quite remarkable year for many reasons – mostly bad and many sad, but also with some positivity mixed in.
When the year started, few of us could predict or even begin to imagine the devastating impact that the COVID-19 pandemic would have on every aspect of our lives.
The virus has touched many of us, either because we have suffered from it ourselves, or because it has struck our family or friends. Far too many of us have lost loved ones to this terrible disease, while many more have seen people close to us suffer to recover from its impact.
Even if we have not been personally touched by the virus itself, it has hit us all in many other ways. It has made impossible many aspects of our lives that we normally take for granted, and has increased the feeling of isolation and loneliness for many with significant implications for our physical and mental wellbeing.
The inability to be close to members of our own families, particularly those who are more vulnerable and in need of care and support, has been an intolerable burden for many of us. The impact on our children – both those within our own families and, also, those we teach – has been extreme. For those children who are unable to understand the current situation, either through age or for other reasons, this period has been even more difficult.
Of course, for teaching professionals – like other essential workers – the pandemic has brought many professional challenges, in addition to the personal difficulties that we have all faced.
From re-designing methods of teaching and learning following the lockdown, to supporting young people remotely in their home learning, to planning for a return to school on a blended learning basis; from the sudden swivel to a full-time return and the challenge of working in classrooms all day with little or no physical distancing in place, to the pressure of maintaining a quality educational experience in the midst of a rising number of infections across the country – Scotland’s teachers have delivered for young people.
That they have done so – despite growing questions over the safety of their working environment, and legitimate concerns over the impact on their own health and wellbeing – speaks volumes of the commitment of Scotland’s teachers, and the importance of their role to the whole of society.
As our recent national survey confirmed, many teachers do not believe that schools are currently a safe working environment – yet the vast majority of EIS members still support schools being open to provide the best possible learning environment for young people.
Teachers should not have to put their health, and the health of their families, at risk – but they have done so, in the interests of their pupils.
The Festive break will offer a welcome respite for teachers – a chance to get away from the stresses of teaching during a pandemic and to relax and enjoy time with friends and family, in so far as the current restrictions will allow.
The development of vaccines for COVID-19 offers hope for a gradual return to some type of normality in 2021. We are not there yet, however, and will not be for several months into the new year, even based on the most optimistic projections.
As ever, Scotland’s teaching professionals will go above and beyond to provide a caring and nurturing educational experience for all young people throughout it all. The greatest gift that government could provide is the necessary support to allow teachers to do so safely, in an environment that does not place the wellbeing of pupils and staff at an unacceptable level of risk.