Real Life Jenga in 2020 – Moving the Educational Blocks and Supporting Students

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Have you ever played the game ‘Jenga’? If you have, you will know it initially involves stacking wooden cuboids in a tower, then taking turns to gently remove them, one by one, without the tower collapsing on you. If it does, you have lost.
To me, this seems to sum up perfectly how 2020 has been in terms of education. When we were forced into lockdown for the first time back in the Spring, schools, offices and public services were suddenly told to close. Many teachers and tutors were left in a state of shock about how best to support their students. Some schools coped well, as they already had the technology pieces of the puzzle in place, such as Google Classroom, SeeSaw or Microsoft Teams. Some tutors carried on business as usual, with online sessions. Others were less fortunate and quickly scrambled to try to put together something that resembled support but it fell sadly short of the mark.
Personally, I was lucky to have a foot in the door in terms of surviving 2020. I was already an established online tutor, using Zoom and BitPaper to support my students all over the world. The part of my work that suffered was the physical bricks-and-mortar side of my business, Emerald Education Centre’s in-person lessons in Donegal, Ireland. Almost overnight the business went from a bust learning environment to an abandoned workspace, lying empty for months.
Not only did the lockdown have an impact on my in-person students, but it also meant my online students – and some of my in-person students who opted to go online – were scrambling for extra time for one-to-one support.
My own children’s schools were quick to go online to support their education. My 16-year-old child’s teachers were already using Google Classroom in their lessons, so the transition was fairly smooth. However, the primary school that my two other daughters attend understandably did not have this technology in place. I was impressed at how quickly they made the move online. They swiftly contacted parents with login details for Microsoft Teams and trained the children on how to use it. They held regular meetings with classes and posted work on the platform for the children to complete each week.
Imagine this scenario.
Parents working online. Children taking online lessons with their teachers whilst trying to grapple with a technology that is very new to them. This was the reality in many households, with parents juggling all of the tasks necessary to try to keep things as normal as possible for their children in very strange times. The stress this placed on families was palpable. When the summer term ended there was a collective sigh of relief from parents.
Thins became a little easier, if not unusual when the new academic year commenced. children returned to school, observing social distancing and advanced hand sanitising protocols. Despite all of these strange but necessary procedures in the fight against Covid-19, our children have been remarkably resilient. Just like in the game of Jenga, many of the blocks in their education have been removed, from things such as the freedom to socialise and collaborate with other students to simple things like using physical resources and manipulatives.
But they have kept going.
In reality, we have had to adapt to live with Covid-19. So how do we best support our students? We have to be prepared for sudden changes in the way that education is delivered to our children from their schools. We might need to move to a blended model of education, with some face-to-face teaching in the classroom and some work being completed and submitted online instead of on paper. My own children currently have homework assignments being done online and checked by teachers. The number of Coronavirus cases continues to rise, not only here but also in the countries of some of my online students. Some students find their teachers have to deliver all their lessons online instead of attending school physically. As we enter another period of tighter restrictions, at least this time around we have systems in place to prepare for home learning if needed.
We have to follow government guidelines in our own countries. These are measures and procedures that are out of our control. So, what can we as parents do to endure 2020 does not become the Jenga tower that crashes down on our children when the pieces are removed? Just like the game, we need to make sure the structure is strong and can withstand the pressure being put on it. Is your child coping and keeping up with the work set at school? Are they working in line with expectations for their year group? If not, there are measures that we as parents can put in place. There are many ways we can support our kids outside of school hours to make sure they do not fall behind and create a gap in learning.
Tuition is always a good option. Online tuition is especially good in these uncertain times. No matter what happens with localised lockdowns, your child will always have access to their regular online sessions with us. Unlike school, we can take all the time that is needed to backtrack and fill those gaps created by the long absence at the start of this year.
At Emerald Education Centre, we have vast experience of working online effectively to meet the individual needs of our students, working with them to bridge gaps in learning and build confidence. For more information on how we can help, please do get in touch with Elaine at, call or message on (00353) 083 8550210, check out our Facebook page or visit our website.

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