Case study

Undergraduate student — Martha Kay

Martha is studying for a BA (Hons) Primary Education with QTS at the University of Bedfordshire. Discover what she's been doing during lockdown to further her career

When lockdown was announced how did you feel about studying from home?

Initially I was fine with it as I had completed all the required days in a primary classroom setting for that year, although I was not sure how home-learning would work for the children, let alone myself.

Have any of your placements been cancelled as a result of lockdown?

Luckily, I managed to complete the required placement days in second year, although changes have been made to the final year placement. It has been pushed back by a week and we will have to abide by the COVID policy within individual schools and work to achieve the targets we would have in a 'normal' placement environment.

What are the benefits of studying at home?

I can get up and walk my dog at any time, I can help myself to tea and biscuits and I can wear whatever I like without judgement. Although these are natural home comforts, I don't believe that work should be brought into your home. The same way it is encouraged that teachers should not bring marking home with them; it's important to keep work and play separate.

What are the challenges?

It all became a bit stressful when there were deadlines to hit, online meetings that always ran over, and household tasks to complete. There was nowhere to relax in the house as I began to see it as a place of work.

Another challenge was the fact that normally, after a lecture or seminar, if there was something you wanted to clarify you could have a scout around campus and find someone to talk to. In today's climate it’s all done by email.

A more pressing challenge and something that has caused controversy among students is the fact that full tuition fees are being demanded for an incomplete and occasional lacklustre service.

Why did you decide to set up a YouTube channel?

I decided to set up a YouTube channel making arty videos back when lockdown was announced as I saw how upset and confused children were first-hand, so I wanted to keep morale high. Initially, I had only intended for it to be used by the children at my placement school, although bizarrely it has spread and looking at the demographics, people from India, New Zealand and the United States have seen my channel. One of my most successful videos is about making a dinosaur from a milk bottle. I am proud if it and I am proud of myself for having the confidence to get it going.

What else have you been up to during lockdown?

Having time to sit and reflect has been extremely beneficial to me. I built a really great rapport with my recent placement school and they have asked me to go in and create their displays for September.

I also noticed that many of my peers were creating Twitter accounts, so naturally I did too. There is a section on twitter called 'edutwitter' and it's a community of teaching and educational professionals all sharing their advice and resources. This, my interest in education and holding the government to account, instigated my 'Manifesto for Change'. On twitter, I have been able to engage with many professionals and use their experiences to help draw up ideas I would one day like to present to the Department of Education and their accompanying legislators. Another aim of mine is to make British Sign Language (BSL) compulsory on teacher training courses, it is a necessity and sets a great example of inclusion when the class teacher can communicate with deaf/Hard of Hearing individuals and inspire the class to learn.

How do you think these activities will help your future career?

I believe what I am doing will show future employers that I am on this journey for the right reasons and that I have clear goals to hopefully improve education on a national basis and be the best teacher I can be.

What are your next steps and how positive do you feel about them?

It's excitingly daunting to realise that this time next year I should have my first class to teach. Final year is the most important, and I have been collecting lots of valuable literature for my dissertation and keeping my eye out for opportunities. My next steps include assignments, the final block placement and then the dissertation. COVID depending, it should all go to plan.

How do you feel you’ve coped with the changes the pandemic has brought about?

Personally, I feel I have coped well. As unfortunate as the situation is, it has been enlightening and helped me understand more about schools and the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes and just how incredible the teaching community is in times like these. It will be interesting to see what happens in September with the bubbles the children are now in, but we need to do what we can and take each day as it comes.

What are your tips for studying at home?

My first tip would be to get out the house at least twice a day, just so you don't feel trapped in your environment.

My second tip would be to keep in contact with those on your course, support each other and see what they're doing to further their studies, that way you can still work collaboratively from afar.

My final tip would be to take time out and remember that this is not permanent, it may seem like it, but you need to carry on doing those things you did in your down-time, and don't let the days all blur into one.

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