With the Christmas and new year holidays well and truly over, the school corridors and classrooms across the county should be bustling with the sounds of kids and teachers.
However once more the learning environment for primary school children has been completely changed, with the school bell no longer ringing in their ears, instead replaced by the humming of laptops.
While in 2020 the online environment was all new to teachers and parents alike, the current lockdown has seen schools become much better prepared for the challenges that face them in the weeks ahead.
Sarah Jane Larkin is a teacher at Realt Na Mara National School, and she believes the change in teaching dynamics will be much more streamlined than when first introduced.
“We have set up a new platform in the school in Seesaw which has been established here among teachers since the very first Lockdown,” stated Larkin.
“Parents and children were set up and everything was kind of in place should we find ourselves in this scenario, so as a school we are very prepared for it.”
The Seesaw software has been a gamechanger in helping with the switch to home schooling, providing a platform to share, collaborate and teach online through video, photographs, drawings and more while acting also as a learning portfolio where all a student’s work is saved in one place.
There has been a worry that those whose parents are not as confident in front of a screen may not be able to give their kids the education they need, however, Larkin, who has been teaching at the school for the past two years, eased those worries by saying most children will be sent home with their books as well.
“If it is the case that parents aren’t particularly tech savvy, or not able to follow everything they directly see through Seesaw there is an overview of what needs to be done and the books are there to support them. It can be done in the books as opposed to all online.”
Another worry for parents has been the costs involved in trying to source a new laptop or computer for the child, but the Junior Infants teacher was keen to stress all that the Seesaw platform has to offer is available through a smartphone.
“It can be accessed through the mobile phone which is fantastic because it is very user friendly.
“Anyone who may not have access to a laptop or computer they can get the app downloaded onto the phone, engage through the phone and then they have the books at home too so guidance can be given to teach this way.”
In this new world, communication between all parties is seen as the key to succeeding and while the teacher of over a decade knows it will be tough for some households, she believes a strong school community will see them through the lockdown and beyond.
“The parents I have been involved with, they all seem to be engaged and everybody is trying their best. I think we definitely need to recognize that it is a difficult time and each household is different.
“Everyone has different challenges and as teachers it is very important we identify them.
"It’s a time where we all need to support one another, teachers supporting parents, parents supporting children, it does create a sense of community and in hard times people come together and that's what it's all about.
"Hopefully, it gets us through the next few weeks."