Clara Pay teaches at Tampines Meridian Junior College, and in the current Circuit Breaker situation, has to balance her teaching sessions for her students, with her son’s HBL exercises, and, well, running the household. And she’s 35 weeks pregnant. We asked her what she’d describe as her top challenges (and how she dealt with them…)
1) Making time for work
I normally wake up at 6am on week days to ensure that I have sufficient time to plan for my lessons, mark and do administrative work before my son is awake and before assembly at 7.30am and first lesson at 7.55am.
My child's nap times are also extremely crucial for me as it enables pockets of time for me to do my work.
As I am unable to accomplish much detail work when he is awake (as he is a toddler who needs our attention a lot), I do have to stay up late (sometimes till 12-1 am) to complete work.
2) Managing HBL lessons with a toddler
This has been one of the top challenges I’ve faced since my HBL lessons follow the usual school timetable and this meant that he could be awake during my HBL lessons. It has proven to be even more challenging when my husband has his own video meetings during my lessons and my son ends up next to one or the other of us during our meetings/lessons
My students/our colleagues have a good laugh and enjoy his presence😎. As much as we try to get him to play independently, he still does need our attention very often.
3) Managing my child's HBL [see photos on Child's HBL: Ideal vs Reality]
As my son's school is also affected by the closure, it organises a HBL Webex lesson daily with activities. The activities required parents to prepare materials beforehand like art and craft materials, flour, play blocks etc. so that also means we have to read the lesson plan prior to the lesson – extra HBL for parents!
More often than not, our active explorer cannot sit in front of the screen for more than 10 mins and needed a parental companion. Hence, hubby and I had to take turns for the lessons as there will be times where I will be conducting my own “live” lesson online.
4) Coping with doing additional chores at home like meals preparation
During the school closures and Circuit Breaker period, there are also additional chores like cooking all his meals. When he is in school, I at least get a breather as he have his breakfasts and lunches there.
Hence, I had to design efficient meal planning – one pot dishes with different types of fish for variety, and noodles or rice, pre-measured out on the weekends.
5) Coping with students' individual needs and tracking of assignments
I’ve found that face to face interaction is necessary to provide students with all the support and help they need. HBL takes the physical aspects out of mentoring students – so, to ensure that they do not miss out much, I organise Zoom consultations for individual students who need more help.
Google Classroom (with Kami downloads) is also a very useful tool in helping us track their submission of assignments and allowing us to mark and return it to them virtually. The learning curve during this HBL is steep but it really allows us teachers to become more tech savvy in this period. Could Covid-19 being the real driver behind the tech revolution?
There were still a handful of students who became less disciplined and do not appear on Zoom on time or are tardy in submitting work. I work with my fellow Civics Tutor and talk to these students individually via a phone call, Zoom conference or a text.
I do look forward to going back to school. HBL cannot substitute for the actual teacher presence even as we harness the best of technology available today.