A small number of teachers around the country have expanded their bubbles by going into the classroom under level 3 to educate youngsters whose parents can't keep them at home.
They have opened up to the Herald on Sunday about the highs and lows including dealing with student anxiety, controlling the rigorous sanitising processes, and the pain of not being able to give a worried 5-year-old a hug.
Some preferred to stay anonymous.
Jake Ryan, Brookfield School, Tauranga
I usually teach Year 3/4 students, however, during level 3 and the restrictions to sizes etc I have five students in my bubble ranging in age between 5 and 10 years old.
A typical day
When they arrive they sit in their allocated areas, walk through the sanitising station, gloves station, signing in station and then follow their directed path to their bubble room. As they enter their room they hang up their bags, sanitise hands again and then sit at their allocated table in the classroom.
Each student's teacher has their own programmes for online learning. The students get stuck into their learning with the support of not only their teacher online but the teacher in their bubble room.
The whole day is taxing and draining on the students as it is all unusual for them. We have to take our hats off to these little legends who are enduring this life-learning experience. Kids are meant to be running around, getting stuck into everything in and outside of the classroom, making mistakes and doing it all together.
When it comes to my own class I am focusing on three areas that drive my programme - connection, play and laugh. I send the students work daily and it involves videos I have made around dancing, interviews with famous people, cooking shows, social action around the house including housework and engaging areas of conversation.
I am not putting stress on anyone. For me, what's important right now is that they are safe and happy and that I am providing enough learning for those who want to engage in it. I touch base with every family and speak to the students weekly to chat and hear what they have been up to. The stories and learning happening at home is great.
The only pro I can think of during this time is that of "reflection". We have more time to step back and take a breath, step back and see what we want to do when this is all over, engage in online conversations with people you haven't spoken to in ages, show Grandad how to facetime and create new and engaging ideas/themes for when school does go back.
• Not seeing the familiar faces we see daily.
• Missing the students running in and saying hi with a smile
• The sporting and cultural opportunities missed out on
• Plus many more that involve social interaction that humans need.
I live by this motto: Opportunities taken provide moments and those moments create memories that last forever.
Nicola Hewitt, St Joseph's School, Nelson
I'm the deputy principal at our kura and I've taught Year 1 and 2, 5 and 6 and most recently 7 and 8.
Now I'm back in school under alert level 3, I am bubble teaching with the support of a teacher aide and we have two bubbles (of a maximum of six) based on whanau/family groups and I'm working with a bubble of students in years 1, 2, 5 and 7.
A typical day
Our students are dropped at the front gate and escorted in by one of our bubble group. We try really hard to maintain our distance - but the first three days kids were so excited to be back at school, they kept running up to each other and we had to pull them back.
We head to class, hang up our bags (2m apart), walk in to class, wash our hands and take the roll and enjoy karakia - everyone on their own beanbag and distanced - on the mat.
Then we split off to a table within the class to attend to the distance learning their teacher has set. We roughly all complete some reading, writing and maths broken-up by "scoot and snack" breaks because the playgrounds are off-limits and these lessons are supported by myself and my valued TA. Learning sessions last for no more than 45 minutes.
We have turned off our school bell. Maria (TA) and I are able to work with our bubble of kids in a way that suits them best. We have one chap that arrives at school and rides his bike or scoots around for a good 10-15 minutes before coming in and settling into his schoolwork - he needs to move. And this is such a child-centred learning experience for him.
As educators, we've been given the freedom from having to conform to a curriculum for the Ministry of Education and reporting to parents on reading, writing and maths.
We have the autonomy to work with kids at their age/stage/level and we're able to have freedom from the curriculum and focus on the "key competencies" of life such as building resilience, working with others, critical thinking and problem solving etc- while building knowledge and skills.
We are giving the kids opportunities to be creative and build on their passions. Our kids are working to their strengths, building their capabilities and discovering their niche.
Not all the kids of Aotearoa have had a good bubble experience. As frontline educators we will need the support of many agencies to help keep some families intact, and some kids protected.
Some of our kids in Aotearoa have had their anxiety escalated into such a high mode of basic function that we as a society will need to become more aware of and will have to support.
Juan Gregan, Fairfield Intermediate School, Hamilton
Seven and eight.
A typical day
We have three bubbles set up in our school each consisting of around 5-7 students. These bubbles are run by three teachers who have rostered days. This allows two teachers to be in each bubble during the day. The bubbles have separate areas for students to have their lunch and also have assigned toilets. This facilitates an optimal environment, ensuring students from different bubbles do not interact. Each day starts with students arriving between 8:30am and 9am at separate gates.
The students go directly to their assigned bubble. Students and teachers sanitise upon arrival in class and throughout the day. Students are assigned a desk or workspace to complete their learning from. With classes of no more than about half a dozen, this is easy to achieve.
All our students onsite are completing learning through digital distance learning. They experience daily Interactions with online and video lessons created by their classroom teachers. The bubbles have separate break times and leaving times. Our senior leadership team has presented concise plans that fit our school environment.
We have a moral obligation as teachers to provide a safe environment for students whose parents are required at work. It has been great to be able to contribute, helping our community and country.
Unfortunately, not all of our students learning from home have devices. Our school has created a range of home-learning packs tailored to our term planning. Last week, two of our staff delivered these packs on bikes to our families. This way we are able to ensure our students are able to learn in a fashion that best meets their needs.
I normally teach new entrants.
A typical day
Children are dropped off at the school gate and are issued hand sanitiser immediately upon arrival.
We do half an hour indoors PE to get our day started on a happy note.
Then it is English time. We choose a story to read and discuss. Now because I have a mixture of 5-year-old, 8-year-olds and 11-year-olds (because siblings are being put in together) this is where it becomes near impossible. I am trying to teach CVC [consonant-vowel-consonant] words (cat c-a-t; hat h-a-t etc) to the little ones but the big ones are obviously bored by this.
We have a dance song at least every 30 to 40 minutes to keep the children focused and happy.
Break time is always a challenge. I have a class of mainly 5-year-olds who cannot understand why they are no longer allowed to play tag, football or any of the normal games they would take part in. Each child has been issued a bean bag, tennis ball and skipping rope for their personal use. You should have seen their faces when we tried to explain to them that they were only allowed to use the ball to play catch with themselves.
After the break we do a daily Te Reo lesson where we are all learning kapa haka lessons as a group.
We then partake in children's yoga, especially if it is sunny outside. After lunch is normally time for a science experiment, art project or if the children are really tired a movie.
Three o'clock is home time and we line up 2m apart near the gate and wait for parents to come before sending them remotely to their parents who are on the other side.
We have learned that you cannot plan for a bubble day. Some days the children need cheering up and reinforcing that the world is still a great place and all they want to do is lie on the carpet and watch a cartoon. Other days we will spend the whole day with them asking for more work and loving the fact that they have learning and a schedule back in their lives.
All activities take part 1m apart from each other so on my first day bubble teaching I found myself faced with a crying and terrified 5-year-old who just wanted a hug and some reassurance that the world was still safe but I was not supposed to go near him. As a teacher, it is one of the most heartbreaking moments of my career to date.
I love that I can be there for the children, some of whom are better off at school than in home environments. The core reason that I became a teacher was to take care of children's welfare with education being a secondary contributor. I love seeing how resilient children can be. They have come up with the most ingenious ways to play and organise their days while protecting their bubbles.
Stress levels among staff on-site are incredibly high with everyone wondering if today will be the day that they become the new cluster and succumb to the virus.
As we cannot swap between bubbles and we are on a skeleton staff we are all becoming increasingly exhausted having to work daily through our lunch breaks and be at 100 per cent energy at all times so children do not sense that there is anything wrong or start thinking too much and get upset.
I normally teach Year 1 and I am working with Year 1s, 3s, 4s and 5s in our bubble.
A typical day
I am at a school of around 450 students. Only seven students attended last week and we have up to 14 attending this week - some only half days.
Our school is broken up into three bubbles with a max of eight students and two teachers in each bubble (with management supporting). Each family bubble has an area of the class allocated for them with everything they need (stationery, devices, play equipment etc) Last week we only had two students from one family in our bubble and this week five students from two families.
School looks very different from a normal day. SLT [school leadership team] meets the students at the gate and are bought in from there (staggered drop-off time for each bubble and no parents can enter the school).
We go through the sanitation processes each day with students which involves sanitising before entering and leaving the class, as well as before and after using the bathroom.
We have sanitation stands set up at each door. I have to say my hands are super dry at the end of the day from all the sanitising.
We go through each students' online learning for the day and group students if we can.
We then set up Zoom meetings for them to meet their teacher before getting them started on other activities while us teachers take turns running our own Zoom meetings.
The mornings are super busy organising each child as well as our own class teaching. SLT are busy putting together hard packs of learning for those who need it. We have two breaks throughout the day, which are staggered.
No PE equipment can be used but student have been bringing bikes and scooters to school to hoon around on. Most of the day we spend supporting children from a distance, which is challenging with Year 1s. Any spare time we have, we are doing our own planning and recording lessons for our own class as well as constantly sanitising surfaces.
• Socialising from a distance with other adults
• Change of scenery
• Understanding what distance learning is like from a student's point of view
• Social distancing is challenging with younger students
• Having to wipe down any surface a student touches that isn't in their bubble
• Sanitising a million times a day
• Juggling our own workload of online teaching as well as supporting students
• Students not being able to play with any equipment they choose
• So far, everything is running smoothly. We have very clear guidelines from management and they are super supportive.
Kylie Bellis, Saint Patrick's School, Greymouth
I usually teach a class of 32 Year 7 and 8 students. During level three I am still teaching my class online but I also have a bubble of 10 children at school, ranging from Year 1 to Year 8.
A typical day
The children are dropped at the gate (no parents to come in) between 8.30am and 8.55am. They enter school through an open door and sanitise their hands. Each child has a named desk and a named spot on the mat to ensure their social distancing is maintained. We begin our day with prayer and then the children get busy with their online learning.
We have two school bubbles, each has nine children, a teacher and a teacher aide. The teacher aides are working extremely hard attending to all the needs of the children.
The teachers are spending time checking in on the children and most of their time teaching their class online. I have been having a whole class meeting every morning at 10am and then we have scheduled maths and literacy lessons.
Teaching online has been amazing, so much time for teaching needs and giving quality feedback. Many parents have been joining in with lessons. It is fabulous to see them so interested in their child's learning. The children at school have many engaging hands-on activities to do alongside their online learning. We have been very inventive, creating games that get them moving but not near to each other. One day we were lucky enough to get to watch a house being moved past the school.
It has been fabulous seeing the children again, having rich conversations, sharing a joke and helping them with their learning.
My bubble is so much larger.
I have not yet seen my parents, sister and niece.
Trying to ensure the children stay away from each other is extremely difficult - particularly with the younger ones.
Nicole Huxtable, Leithfield School, North Canterbury
I have the class of Year 7 and 8s at Leithfield. These are the Year levels I usually teach, junior students are an enigma.
A typical day
I am working from home during level 3 like the other teachers at my school. The students who are going to school - there are not many - are supervised by other staff.
I have tried to keep the students' work similar to what it was before the lockdown as much as possible. This is for several reasons including:
1) keeping the students' minds active will help them not to dwell on the pandemic
2) It will help them transition back to school more easily
3) The students being busy, their minds being active and being in a routine helps to maintain a healthy mental wellbeing.
We are privileged to be a school with 1-1 Chromebooks for our Year 4-8 students. We used them a lot for their learning. This has helped them to do all of their schoolwork on their devices during lockdown because they were already used to it.
We, the class and I, had a circle time - a class meeting where we are all equal and sit in a circle - a week or so before the lockdown.
During this, we agreed how we wanted to structure our learning. This was after we had tried many different ways of learning: groups, whole class, teacher led, student choice, no choice etc.
The students all decided they wanted "morning tasks" - English and maths - sent via email at the start of the school day and they had until lunchtime to complete. They wanted there to be some choice so decided that they should have to complete one fewer than what was set: if six were set they had to do five. Because this was a success before the lockdown, we have been able to maintain this while learning from home. Each morning at 9am I send out a doc with all the tasks for the morning on it. There are usually six or seven. While working from home I have given them PE, art and topic (social studies, health, science) work as well, to encourage engagement and cover things we would do as a whole class throughout the morning and after lunch.
Before I send the doc, I spend between 1-2 hours on getting the tasks ready for the day. The amount of time I take depends on my prep from the day before, how long I talk to my chickens, whether we have a staff hui and whether I make my husband and I coffee and breakfast.
Getting the tasks ready for the day is time consuming. I gather resources, sort out the links, make sure everything works. Make sure there is enough for them but not too much that they will be overwhelmed. I also set and send different tasks for students who struggle with what the other students do. This also takes time.
After I send the doc, I usually have a quick coffee break and light the fire if it is cold. Between 9.30am and noon I have Hangouts - an online video calling tool - with my students. I try to see each student three times a week: once for a maths group, once for a reading group and once for a general check-in, play games and allow them to connect with their classmates who aren't in their maths/reading groups.
Between my Hangouts, I fire back answers to questions from students who need support to get their tasks done or colleagues who need an answer right away. When I have finished my morning Hangouts, I clear my emails that I tagged as "they can wait but I should reply when I can". Among that, I send a noon email with "after lunch tasks".
These are a list of options, usually 4-6, of things they could do for the afternoon.
They are meant to be a wee reward for working hard in the morning to get their work done. There is often still an element of learning to them. These range from me sending them a video of how to make a paper aeroplane and challenging them to how far they can make one fly, a drawing or Lego challenge, a video of a fellow classmate making and riding a homemade bike track and challenging them to give it a go. Today's one was to lie outside and find patterns, shapes and animals in the clouds. I ask them to video or take a photo of their afternoon activities so I can see what they are up to and it is pretty cool to see them thriving and learning at home.
Around 1pm I stop for lunch, I sit outside with my chickens or relax in the lounge with my feet up - a luxury. Good time to hang out that washing I forgot about and do the morning dishes.
Back to it. For the remainder of the day I reply and send emails, make/find resources for the next day and mark/give feedback on students' work. I could spend until midnight on this. Usually I stop around 3pm. I have a couple of hours' break to do housework, talk to family and friends and think about dinner. Back to it around 5pm for a few hours until my husband gives me that look to say "you have done enough now, close that school computer". Anytime between 6pm and 9pm I finish, tell myself there's always tomorrow and get ready to do it all again the next day.
The pros of being at home during level 3: this is a really interesting question. The opinions from the teachers I have spoken have been varied. Some have loved it and don't want to go back, some hate it and are itching to go back. Some of us are in between.
• The luxuries - I can take breaks when I like. I like stopping for a two-hour break mid-afternoon and pottering around at home. I like wearing my slippers, having the fire going and having my pot of tea next to me.
• Learning focus - I like having set reading and maths groups where the students come and that is all we do. Just focus on the learning. In class there is always something or someone to distract us. The rest of the class being noisy, students not wanting to sit next to someone because they have had a falling out, students saying "is it lunchtime yet?". Because they only get two learning-focused lessons a week - one maths and one reading, they are keen beans.
• Student feedback - Research shows that students getting regular written feedback on their work positively impacts their progress. In class with 27 students it is so hard to give students written feedback. There is always another group to take, students to quieten down, students to help and students to encourage. I have really enjoyed and appreciated the time I have had to sit at my computer and read their stories, reading responses and maths questions and give them detailed, constructive feedback and encouragement. I even bought personalised digital stamps to put on their work. I have already seen learning progress in response to my feedback. I have had several students email me to say thanks, and what good ideas and no one had suggested to do it that way before. Not because their previous teachers were bad, we were busy.
• My learning - I have learned so much about online curriculum delivery and implemented skills and methods I forgot I knew. I have also learned a lot from the students about them and their worlds.
• We have shared funny videos with each other, I have nearly downloaded the dreaded Tik Tok because every Hangout someone wants to talk about or show a new Tik Tok dance.
• I have met a koro, mum and siblings I would never usually meet. I have seen their houses, backyard and living rooms. Learning has never been so connected with home and as a teacher, I feel privileged; privileged to be given a glimpse into their lives, into their whānau, as a kid, son, daughter - not just a student.
• Relationships and laughter - I miss seeing them. I miss giving them a high five, chatting to them, seeing them grow and blossom as young people. I miss them laughing, laughing at me and me laughing at them.
• Our class is one of positivity, trust and relationships. We all laugh at each other. When the class and I didn't know why two boys came back from our class fitness run-around, we hear a knock at the top window. We see two boys grinning ear to ear, we laugh as it starts to rain and they are in a tree and we are warm inside. We laugh when I try to draw a scene from a story on the board. I am not very artistic at all.
• Collegial support - There are no morning teas in the staff room where we gather and debrief our mornings and build each other up for the rest of the day. There is no one to share funny stories with or bounce ideas off with.