Lockdown by Mrs. Crehan

Posted on: 07/05/2020

Mrs. Drummond, who is leading the school brilliantly in these strange times of teaching online, has asked me to write a blog on ‘lockdown.’ It seems pertinent to do so in a week when we are remembering the great sacrifices made by generations before us as we celebrate VE Day. Certainly their experiences, living through a war, were much harder than ours today, but there are some parallels to be drawn. We are having to pull together, show bravery and resilience, acknowledge and support the front line workers and look for the joy in the little things just as our grandparents and great-grandparents had to back then.

I remember us as a Senior Leadership Team writing a policy for Pandemic Flu about 12 years ago and thinking that such an event would never happen, and yet here we are in exactly those circumstances! Luckily the forward thinking of the school and the expertise of our staff meant that we were well prepared to teach online and that the children were already used to this way of teaching. Indeed, a recent article in The Times noted that state school children are currently at a disadvantage in comparison with the independent sector as we are well ahead with online learning.

Lockdown will have affected families in different ways, according to whether parents are able to continue with their line of work, or whether they have had to stop completely. Parents are also faced with needing to help educate their children online, often alongside a heavy workload of their own, which can’t be easy. 

We are all seeing a lot more of our immediate family and little of our extended families. I hope that you are enjoying the time you are spending with your families, as the usual rush of getting out of the house has gone for most of us, and we actually get some quality time with each other. We can also appreciate that close proximity of your loved ones for extended periods of time under stressful circumstances may not be all sweetness and light either!

Our situation in the Crehan household is probably fairly unusual in that four of our children with partners and grandchildren all opted to stay with us at the beginning of the lockdown, so there are thirteen of us here. There are pop up offices dotted around the house in the most unlikely places, and Mr. Crehan has been known to hold Google Meets while sitting on the stairs. We have to take our exercise in small groups so that we are not suspected of breaking the rules, and buying food can be embarrassing because my trolley is so full it looks as though I’m hoarding – especially as I am also providing for my 90 year old parents!

I feel guilty saying it, when so many are grieving or ill, but our lockdown experience has been enjoyable and busy. We have been fortunate in that we have avoided the virus so far and therefore spending an intense time at home with more of our family than we usually see, including one son who we hadn’t seen for a year because he was living in the Philippines, plus his lovely girlfriend, has been an unusual bonus. The weather has been amazing too!

Early on I bought a whiteboard online, and didn’t digest its measurements, which turned out to be large enough to take up a huge part of the kitchen wall, and on this people write down activities or whether they are prepared to cook on a particular night. We also have a column where we have a letter of the alphabet per day with relevant pictures beneath to encourage the three year old before he starts school.

We have got into a good routine (yoga at 8.00 a.m., singing for a video at 10.00 a.m.!) and everyone plays their part voluntarily in keeping the job of catering for so many people quite manageable. We have our three grandchildren living with us too, so some of the childcare has also been shared.

I volunteered to make some singing videos for the younger classes, particularly Ducklings where I would normally have done a weekly sing, and I have enjoyed this very much. We have made one almost every day so far, which has been a great routine to get into first thing in the morning. My daughter Lucy has been my action partner, as I can’t do actions for the children while accompanying on the guitar. (Although she is very pregnant so hopping like a kangaroo may not have happened as the song action required!) In the sessions we have had Teddy who is three years old, Bethan who is one, and behind the camera, the 5 month old Cleo with her mum, so there is an occasional cry from the unseen baby.

Each day I choose a new topic as a theme for songs and I think I must have covered most possible topics. I began with our usual songs but soon wanted to learn new ones, and having a daily topic meant that I researched songs from different times from the ancient nursery rhymes to war songs to the present day. It was a challenge learning a large number of new songs daily so I hope that parents who view them with their children will excuse the frequent mistakes (the tune of some songs may change slightly from verse to verse!) and amateur nature of the videos, but will also be amused by the antics of the children who were my measure as to whether the songs were appropriate for their age group. Bethan, the one year old, discovered an affinity for the camera from the start so there are many close-ups of her as she enjoys seeing herself! Mr. Crehan has also made a fleeting appearance, carrying props for our songs behind us in a couple of sessions, and he ‘swam’ behind us in full diving gear for Under the Sea! I wrote out the lyrics and stuck them on the side of the table and onto a drying rack, and frequently the children would wander in front of the words so that my view was obscured, leading to halts in transmission!

I have experienced a feeling of handing down treasures of songs, however imperfectly, that may have been forgotten today – there are many songs on Youtube but the quality of modern songs offered for today’s younger children is generally not very high, and it was great to delve into songs from the past as well as the better ones from today – several pop songs made it onto my list too! I even rediscovered a song that my grandmother had taught to me, which I had forgotten about. This experience has made the word ‘traditional’, i.e. the handing down from the past, feel very real and natural, especially as my past now goes back quite a long time!

Hopefully our St. Helen’s College family will come through this period safely and the children will not be disadvantaged by having their lessons online for a couple of months. Whatever their experience, it is a global one and they are living through something unprecedented in our history. 2020 will be in the history books like 1666.

I suspect that most of you are very busy but you may also be enjoying acting as co-educator of your children in a way you’ve never had time to do before. I’m sure that for the majority who are at home, it will not be easy juggling your jobs with your childcare. However, if we can stay healthy, and I do appreciate that some of us will suffer illness and loss which is difficult and tough, the positive side of this surreal situation is having time when we are not on the usual hamster’s wheel of life where we hardly see our families or our homes. It reminds us that however important our jobs, it is our families that are the most precious thing in our lives. 

So stay safe, keep showing bravery and resilience and, if you can, keep finding the joy in the little things. In the words of the song sung by Vera Lynn during the 2nd World War, ‘We’ll meet again, (do know where), don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day!’

Mrs. Crehan