WomenEd Blogs

Better than yesterday


by Rachel Doherty @dohertyrachel1

Teaching in a Derry City School with a student population of 500, is not for the faint hearted especially when you are a Primary 7 teacher. Being brave is a daily venture for me. I seek to challenge children to step outside their comfort zone in new learning so I must continue to strive to set that example too. I am also the ICT Co-ordinator at St. John’s Primary school. In my spare time I love all things fitness related and I am a qualified Hatha yoga teacher.

After graduating mid 1990’s, I spent over a decade in the IT industry. Mid 2000s I left a stable, well paid career in ICT to pursue my dream of teaching, enrolling on the PGCE Primary at the University of Ulster. I remember vividly colleagues aghast that I would leave a permanent job with many financial benefits to leap headfirst into the unknown. I had no formal school experience and had to volunteer at my daughters’ school two afternoons per week to gain enough experience to complete the PGCE application. I quickly realised in these afternoons that teaching needs solution focussed people and processes as much as the business world needs them. I had worked in Process Improvement automating organisational processes to enhance efficiency and productivity. Whilst educating children is undoubtedly the number one priority, a good process around that is essential. A process that is efficient, effective and grounded in best practice and proven pedagogical theories and strategies.

My experiences in industry are with me every day in the classroom, whether it’s challenging the children to solve real world problems, applying 6Sigma thinking to ensure the most effective and efficient ICT infrastructure for the school learning environment or by simply asking myself and the children, 'How can we do this better?'

In March 2020, a week before ‘lockdown’ I attended an ICT training session, centred around the use of Microsoft Immersive Reader. During this session the trainer introduced Microsoft TEAMS and immediately I was taken. We can see the massive opportunities of video-conferencing in the classroom but TEAMS takes this to another level completely by providing an integrated file management system with integrated video/text communications.

When lockdown was announced in mid-March 2020 we had pupils in Years 4 through to 7 on TEAMS, staff trained with pupils and parents video tutorials on the school website. Years 1 to 3 remained on SEESAW. Our lockdown online attendance statistics were better that anticipated with 90 - 95% of our pupils were engaging online. We surveyed our parents and pupils asking how could we do this better? What would you like to see in this system?

  • 91% surveyed found the online platforms accessible,
  • 85% agreed the online learning experience supported parent and child with the learning process,
  • 90% reported they found the system was well organised.

Where are we now?

The Blended Learning action plan sits alongside the ICT action plan with a Remote Learning Policy that incorporates detailed staff, pupil and parent video training segments. Staff and pupils have an efficient process that they can follow in the event of teaching/learning from home, pupils are introduced to TEAMS in school and it is used for homework and parent communications. Live online teaching sessions are available to pupils. A device loan policy is underway with access to technology for all pupils high on the agenda.

I may have swapped the corporate office environment and dizzy days of international travel for 29 smiles every morning but the question prevails, How can we do this better?


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Wednesday, 07 December 2022

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