So many teachers, administrators and support staff went above and beyond in the last few months to finish the school year off as strong as possible. As part of our series exploring the challenges of virtual learning, we want to speak to those amazing heroes and learn about their experiences. Understandably some subjects will face more challenges than others in distance learning, so we spoke to Matthew Thomas Head of Lower Primary Physical Education at GEMS Wellington Academy about how to get kids moving via screen!
Hi Matthew, thank you for chatting to us! So you are originally from Manchester in the UK but you have taught PE in the UK, India and now Dubai, what do you love most about teaching?
It is simply the positive impact you can make on those around you. When a child or colleague demonstrates growth or just uses some new learning from a previous session. I also love to celebrate our department’s small, medium and long-term successes.
How has the way you teach changed in light of COVID-19?
Teaching since COVID 19 has been an innovative and evaluative process. Our focus was simple – student engagement! That meant our department needed to provide fun, exciting, and relevant content for all of our students to access in the comfort of their own homes and at a time to suit their needs.
What has been the most challenging element to contend with during the crisis?
About ninety days ago, the expectations changed for Physical Education professionals across the globe. We valiantly immersed ourselves into a new world of virtual learning but in truth, the majority of us needed to be upskilled in areas such as presenting, video editing and app management. That is why the TELLAL, GEMS LLTC and DXBPE webinars have been an amazing help for everyone’s continued professional development during these uncertain times.
What do you think its lasting impact will be on education and training, particularly in terms of PE?
I believe that all the subjects and squads will now have some online component to ensure that every child can access the lesson outcomes and our assessment framework will move from a skill-based model into one that reflects the number of activity children are doing inside and outside of school as well as focusing on children’s overall wellness. We have decided to use the assessment app miMove. The TELLAL PE Network has actually provided all GEMS schools with 50 free miMove accounts.
What advice do you have for people when it comes to online learning?
To get involved with not just your own subject but with school life! Children and staff would love to hear you sing in a house competition, enter as a special guest and take over a part of a lesson. Be dedicated to your preferred method of online delivery whether that is live or pre-recorded. However, the main one is to understand that even though Physical Education is an important subject. We must be mindful that it is one piece in a massive puzzle for a child’s online learning journey.
How have you been spending quarantine time at home?
Right at the very start of lockdown, I found it useful to timetable parts of the day after work and weekends where I could pick up a new hobby, or recipe. After a lot of the Zoom quizzes stopped. I fostered a puppy and got some portable DJ decks. Recently I have bought a paddleboard to enjoy the city from a ‘social distance’, as well as a pass to Ski Dubai to snowboard over the summer holidays.
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