What we did:
We were given notice on 17 March that normal practise could not continue. Working from home was an option during the Covid-19 pandemic. I decided that it was important to try and continue my learners' education and make sure that they also stayed safe and had an outside link if problems occurred.
These learners are vulnerable at the best of times, and the pandemic could easily make this worse. A number of these people find change difficult and they were about to endure changes that they had never dealt with before.
Although learning was important, their welfare was of the utmost importance. Contact was made with all the learners in my groups, a total of thirty one. It was agreed that contact would be made by telephone on a weekly basis, at an agreed day and time. I felt it was important that they had at least one thing that they could rely on and an outlet for their anxieties and fears. The phone is a simple device to use. Most of my students don't have computers or access to them. As no other means of contact was available, this was the best option and solution to the problem.
Resources for numeracy and literacy were distributed. These included booklets, books, and various worksheets all linked to the learners individual needs. Around 160 resources were delivered over a four day period. This allowed work with the learners to begin, week commencing 23 March. The group now had access to material which could be worked on throughout the pandemic restrictions. Copies of all resources were in my possession.
Who we involved:
The program was carried out by myself and students with back up from other members of our team. Problems with learners could be passed on to relevant agencies.
The difference it made:
Learners now had a day and a time when contact could be made. Each had a 1 hour slot. This proved to be very successful. It allowed time for their educational needs along with a chat to alleviate any problems they maybe having. Some of the learners' parents and partners helped them with their studies and seemed to enjoy the experience.
The learners were now in a situation where they had to take some responsibility - to be ready when contacted and be ready to engage. It was very pleasing to see that they did so to a greater degree than I thought they might. During normal times uptake can be patchy.
Over the past twenty three weeks most have engaged at every opportunity. Approximately 560 hours contact has been made, and a willingness to engage shown. Basic maths, reading and spelling have been achieved and an ability to organise themselves shown.
A number of the learners could not do basic arithmetic. These same people are now adding, subtracting and multiplying four and five digit numbers. They are now looking at long division which is a big achievement for them.
It should be remembered that some of these learners are aged over 50 years and for one reason or another, have been unable to engage with learning at any level. On the literacy side, words now have a meaning.
I sat listening on the phone to a forty year old with learning difficulties read me a story about two kids and a horse. Ten minutes later without a break she asked me is that ok. Later the same day a learner read to me the end of her first book - it has taken her over 8 months to read. She celebrated her sixtieth birthday a week later.
These are only two examples of what can be done when a little belief is given. I feel all the learners have learnt something worthwhile.
What we will do differently in the future:
I feel that all the learners will come out of this situation with the knowledge that if they put their minds to it, there is nothing that cannot be achieved. It is hoped that all the skills learned will be brought into their every day life and make their lives a little easier and give them purpose.
I look at my job slightly different than before. Education will always be important to myself and these learners. There is also a need to listen and react to others needs. We may have to adapt our thinking and our ways. Some need a little push. Most only require an understanding where they are coming from. A nudge in the right direction is all that's needed.
The pandemic has shown me the resolution of my friends, colleagues and learners willing to change and adapt to this situation. We deliver the opportunity, we encourage, and hopefully leave the learners with a smile on not only their faces but also ours. As my pupils learn so do I.