Article by Nick Waite for The Times of Tunbridge Wells

16 September 2020

Pupils back in 3D at Beechwood
For three months the venue for our lessons was suddenly changed from a colourful, engaging, lively classroom to a computer screen. Teachers, being a resourceful and imaginative breed, adapted quickly to the technology and embraced this new learning platform to deliver online lessons. As a teacher, I delighted in the use of the ‘mute all’ button – oh! why can’t this be manifest in reality when my own kids just can’t stop arguing over what to watch on Netflix. Other benefits of online learning, meant we only had to half dress for the busy day of teaching and the trip to the photocopier for a class set of worksheets was replaced by the convenience of another cup of tea from the kitchen – although trying to resist a dip into the biscuit tin was perhaps a
trial worse than unclogging a paper jam. Nevertheless, whilst celebrating these trivial delights, why did I feel unsatisfied at the end of the school day? It wasn’t the larger waistline that made me slump heavily in my seat, it was the lack of personal interaction and feeling disconnected from the class even though we were together on the call. From my long experience of teaching and observing other teachers, believe me, you can sense when you’re in a great lesson: there is a buzz, electricity, and those in the classroom are swept along by the collective energy and enthusiasm generated by the group. The teacher moves around the room, prompting, probing, challenging. The really good teachers, those who are masters of their craft, can read the room and are highly sensitive to the mood of the class. Not just the words the pupils might say or the work they produce but all the subtle signals their senses can detect: a facial expression, the tone of voice, the body language, the look in their eye. In great schools, the teachers take the time to really get to know their pupils and use all the signals to understand what makes them tick, to connect with them, and to know what will engage them. Lessons should not become lectures (often accompanied by PowerPoint), and a pupil should never be just a face in the crowd (of other faces on a screen). At Beechwood Sacred Heart School, we focus on getting to know the individual so that we can get the best out of each pupil; a task made very difficult using only a webcam. Which is why we are very excited to welcome all our pupils back to school for the new academic year. We look forward to seeing the pupils in person, bringing life and energy back to the classrooms: where pupils and teachers can interact and work together effectively, thankfully making redundant that repeated plea heard throughout the period of school closures asking pupils to ‘put your cameras on, please’. At Beechwood, we will be very pleased to see our pupils in 3D.
Mr Nick Waite
Head of Beechwood

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