Page 24 - Church Review JUNE 2020 [IM)
P. 24

 CORONAVIRUS CHRONICLES
Supporting RE in Primary Schools
DURING LOCKDOWN
By Jacqui Wilkinson
TChurch of Ireland Centre, DCU Institute of Education
hose of us involved in university teaching have greatly missed
our face-to-face interactions with our students. I lecture in Religious Education in DCU, mostly working with young people who are following the DC004 track through the BEd programme, linked with the Church of Ireland Centre. My focus is then primarily based on preparing students to teach RE in Church of Ireland and other protestant primary schools.
These past few months should have included lectures with students, visits to schools where students were on placement, CPD sessions in a number of primary schools, and two 15 hour RE Certificate courses for practising teachers. Lecturing moved online, school placement was cancelled, as were planned sessions of CPD and the RE Certificate courses.
Over the school Easter break I reflected on the immense amount of work primary teachers were facing, returning to a future of extensive online teaching. I decided to offer RE lessons based on the Follow Me programme (which I edited a number of years ago), that could be included in packs for pupils, or made available on a school’s teaching platform. Having created a few samples, all schools were offered these on a weekly basis.
Now every Wednesday, three lesson packs are emailed to more than 70 schools to cover RE for the following week in school. The lessons are based on the Follow Me programme and include links to suitable online retellings of the key Bible stories. One week we even had a special guest puppet to read the story – Rev Eile told the story of the Good Samaritan to younger classes.
It has been wonderful to have connected with so many individual teachers from Tralee to Raphoe, Dublin to Waterford, Mullingar to Cavan, and Cork to Monaghan. Feedback from these teachers has been really helpful as I continue to work to develop the best possible approach to suit all class combinations and technological needs. As a response to some requests, a prayer sheet was included in the mailing and links to some music for the lessons.
There is no doubt that teachers are doing amazing jobs, working in a completely surreal context. One teacher emailed me this comment: “What a bizarre and difficult situation we all find ourselves in. I certainly never thought I would have to interact with a class like this”. Teachers have never been prepared for this kind of online teaching with primary school children – it is a huge challenge for them, as well as for parents and children. It is important for me then, in my role in DCU, to be able to play my small part in supporting teachers in one part of the school curriculum.
If any teachers would like to be added to the mailing list for the last few weeks of term, they are welcome to email me: Jacqueline.wilkinson@dcu.ie
Left: Resources for planning online RE lessons. Right: Rev Eile tells the story of the Good Samaritan
   A VIEW FROM THE CHURCH OF IRELAND CENTRE, DCU -
Initial Teacher Education in a Time of Pandemic
By the Revd Prof Anne Lodge
Director of the Church of Ireland Centre, DCU
On March 12 2020, we received an afternoon email from the DCU president announcing that, in line with a decision announced that day by Government, all places of education would
be closed from that evening until permitted by Government to return. All staff and students were all instructed to teach or study from home. Since March 13 we have moved all of our teaching online using a combination of Zoom (which was new to many of us) and our online platform for posting teaching and learning materials and for uploading and marking assignments.
We have been keeping in touch with students, and with our colleagues, by email, by Zoom and by phone. Geraldine O’Connor, Jacqui Wilkinson and I held lectures and tutorials with students by Zoom and by phone. We all miss the direct interaction with our students – relationship is such a core part of teaching from pre-primary all the way to university and adult education. Virtual engagement is not the same for any of us but it is certainly a lot better than nothing. Blessedly, our students continue to produce high quality work showing that they continue to study really diligently despite the current strange circumstances.
Our B.Ed students who were expecting to start School Placement in the weeks following the shutdown have had to take on additional assignments in place of teaching practice in schools. The final year group missed very little of their examined placement, having had the equivalent of almost a year out in schools already. Our 1st and 2nd years were the ones who missed out most but they will have
time to catch up on time in schools in the coming few years of their programme.
We have also found ways to continue to support our final year students’ preparation for the world of work. On May 19 2020 the head of the Irish Primary Principals Network, Mr Pauric Clerkin, very generously did an online advisory session with the Church of Ireland Centre final year B.Ed students giving them tips on how to apply for primary teaching jobs and how to do well at interview. Jacqui Wilkinson contacted a number of the wonderful school principals in Church of Ireland primary schools around the State to get their advice for the same group of students which we have given to them in an advisory booklet.
Sadly some things had to be deferred. The Church of Ireland Centre students have a tradition of an end-of-year ball which is always a glamorous and enjoyable event. It should have taken place on the first Friday in May. This was the first year that they have had to defer it. However, there are lots of promises to ensure some kind of event takes place in the coming months to give everyone an excuse to dress up in their finery.
As the weeks go on, we have reminded ourselves that, in the words of Julian of Norwich, ‘all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well’.
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