3rd March 2021
Teaching is an endlessly challenging and unpredictable career path, and that’s what makes it such an exciting choice for people of any and all professional backgrounds. But during the last year, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed many of the things we thought we knew about teaching.
Of course, remote learning has been an invaluable tool during this period, allowing education to continue safely and keeping pupils on track for success. But in a year of ongoing uncertainty around school closures and reopenings, for many teachers it’s been an extra source of stress and anxiety.
Suddenly the very thing that can make or break a pupil’s experience in the classroom – that personal connection to a teacher that sparks a child’s interest and enthusiasm for a subject – can no longer be taken for granted. Teaching methods that have been years, even decades, in the making have been made to feel irrelevant overnight by the barrier of video technology.
No teacher wants to be separated from their class, and there’s nothing to keep the job inspiring quite like a classroom full of captivated students – so the pandemic has presented challenges that most teachers had never imagined they would face.
But for those teaching SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) pupils the obstacles can feel far greater. For SEND teachers, school is as much about creating a secure learning environment and familiar routines as it is about delivering education. This makes remote teaching all the more difficult, so we’ve compiled some tips on how to deliver the best and most supportive learning experience possible when teaching SEND students…
The upheaval of life we’ve all experienced during the last year has been especially pronounced for children with complex needs. Their education routine, delivered effectively, can provide an anchor during this confusing time.
The specific challenges of delivering remote learning for SEND pupils during the pandemic include:
No two classes are the same and every child has unique needs, meaning you will understand better than anyone what can make the often alienating process of learning from home that bit easier. In addition, after many months of this practice we have all developed our own methods and techniques, but – as is always the case with teaching – there is space to review how you teach and to consider things from other angles.
Lack of structure and familiarity can be upsetting to many SEND pupils, especially when there is not time to prepare for an upcoming change. The sudden onset of lockdown last March meant the Covid-19 pandemic threw out many children’s regular routines with little warning, and schools had to adapt fast.
Establishing routines that can be just as effective online as in the classroom is key to transitioning successfully between the two.
Planned periods of absence like holidays can be easier for children with complex needs to understand because they have a clear end point. However, the lockdown has meant regular periods of upheaval with often indeterminate length – and giving pupils the space to air their anxieties and concerns can often make this easier.
Providing ways for SEND pupils to maintain contact with their friends is key to grounding their virtual education and helping them to feel like they are still at school.
It’s easy to focus on results in education but the learning journey is where the true value is – and for SEND pupils it’s important to reinforce this every day. Positive reinforcement instils an enthusiasm for learning and ensures the effort rather than the result is the subject of praise.
Where children learn to anticipate difficulties or failures they will be put off a subject altogether, so make sure that rewarding everyone’s effort is a central feature of remote learning. If pupils feel guided along the way, rather than simply being expected to deliver a piece of work, they are less likely to approach it with reluctance or trepidation.
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