England schools: I met my class in real life for the first time this week

England schools: I met my class in real life for the first time this week

Face masks, hand sanitiser and social distancing. It’s not quite school as we know it.

But after months of online learning, kids in England are back in the classroom. For teachers, it’s a chance to see students in-person again.

For some, like Jess Toose, it was the first time ever meeting her Year 11 students – who she’s been teaching online since October.

And she admits to feeling nervous.

“I couldn’t remember whether I could still control a classroom,” she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat, which spent the first day of the reopening at her school – Merchant’s Academy in Bristol.

She only started teaching last year, and wondered how it would be physically returning to the classroom.

“Whether I could still build that rapport with the students, because it’s so different when you’re doing it virtually.”

Two of the Year 11 students Jess met for the first time are Hadija Njie and Diego Ford.

“It’s been weird because we only met online before,” Hadija says.

“The difference between online and in-person is the atmosphere. We can speak and understand each other more.”

For Diego, being taught in person is “a lot better than online schooling”.

“You have more confidence speaking when the teacher is giving you help.”

He says it’s simpler to engage in lessons and is glad to finally see Jess – or Miss Toose – for the first time.

“It’s easier to follow because there’s fewer distractions around you like your phone or computer.”

Another freshly qualified teacher at the school is Talha Mangrio, who says the return to schools in England this week “really exciting”.

“I’m looking forward to when all of the kids come in and being able to teach them in class,” the Maths teacher tells Newsbeat.

Only qualifying in December, he trained online for most of the previous year, but did manage to get some classroom experience.

He say it’s “strange” starting out his career remotely, and now being in a classroom a short time after qualifying.

“I’m just glad I had a chance to actually teach in classrooms before everything went into lockdown.”

For Kelsey Powell, teaching English online was particularly difficult, so it’s a great feeling to be back.

“It’s been interesting, because a lot of our lessons revolve around discussion, or annotating things together, which we’ve not been able to do.”

On a personal level, it was hard for Kelsey to adapt at home, so she started coming into school more in recent weeks.

“It was a very big adjustment. So I’m very happy to be back actually.”

For Jess, she’s just glad to have a bit of normality and routine back.

“It’s nice to use a whiteboard again, pick up a pen and gather ideas from my students who have fantastic ideas but have felt too nervous in online lessons.”

And the biggest difference teaching in-person compared to online?

“You can’t mute them in-person. Sometimes, when you’ve got a bit too much banter going on, it’s harder to control that kind of atmosphere.”

But, it was a fun first day back.

“Getting to know each other and just building that rapport we’ve lost through lockdown,” she adds.

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