Delivering Bloom online during the coronavirus outbreak

Abbie Longley, Head of Year 13 at Oldham Hulme Grammar School shares her experiences and tips delivering Bloom online during the coronavirus outbreak.

 

By our second week of delivering Bloom, I was faced with the daunting prospect of school not being open as normal for quite some time. As a pastoral leader, I wanted to try and keep our students in as much of a routine as normal and so decided to move to online delivery. We had scheduled every Wednesday at 1pm our Bloom workshop time, so what was stopping me doing it now? I was still teaching my subject lessons online, so why not Bloom?

My student cohort have all volunteered themselves for Bloom, many of whom are keen to be able to improve their own mental health awareness whilst also being keen to develop skills that they can then use to help others in the future. They were motivated to complete the programme. They had enjoyed the first two sessions and the feedback until that point had been that they were finding the skills they were developing really useful. It seemed a shame to ‘pull the plug’ on a project that had been so well designed, carefully thought through and had generated such a ‘buzz’ in the sixth form.

Preparing for Bloom online

Before the first virtual session, I went through the Teacher Workbook alongside the Student Workbook and PowerPoint and identified which activities would need adapting to suit the new virtual classroom. It took a little longer to prepare than it may have done for a classroom environment, but it was well worth it. The Bloom team was fantastic and provided me with all the necessary video links, PowerPoints and a PDF copy of the Student Workbook, so I had everything I needed to give it a whirl.

Luckily, the irony of participating in a workshop titled ‘Juggling Time’ on our first week in lockdown wasn’t lost on our students as they logged in to their first Google Hangout live lesson!

By the end of the first online session, we had enjoyed being able to interact with each other and think about things that we had perhaps ignored with the recent traumatic events taking over. It gave us all a sense of purpose and direction at a time when the world is full of chaos and confusion. Before the session ended I tentatively posed the question ‘shall we do this again next week then everybody?’. I was delighted to hear a resounding ‘yes’ from the group.

 

It gave us all a sense of purpose and direction at a time when the world is full of chaos and confusion. Before the session ended I tentatively posed the question ‘shall we do this again next week then everybody?’. I was delighted to hear a resounding ‘yes’ from the group.

– Abbie Longley

Unexpected benefit

I was delighted to see advantages to delivering this programme online. A handful of students who wouldn’t have had the confidence to voice their thoughts when in class were suddenly actively engaging and sharing their ideas via the ‘chat’ message mechanism on Google Hangout. Rather than having a conversation dominated by the more confident year 13’s, I had all eighteen students contributing, allowing us to have a much more open, varied and balanced discussion than the previous week when we were all sat around tables in a classroom.

The power of now

The beauty of being able to still deliver the programme now is that the students are valuing the interaction with each other, appreciating the ability to continue to learn and think about things that they may otherwise not challenge themselves to do. It also helps give them a real sense of routine, normality, purpose and accomplishment that is so crucial to us all at this time of uncertainty.

Students have so many demands on their time and they usually engage in the one hour workshop and then perhaps have to go straight to another lesson or they are back in the common room with their friends. Doing it online gives the students more time to think and reflect. At the end of each session there is an ‘action plan’ activity and students are sharing some ideas together online. Then they’re actually leaving the digital world behind and continuing to think about their own personal ‘action plan’ for as long as they desire in the peace, privacy and comfort of their own home.

Go for it!

If you are considering starting or switching to online delivery of Bloom I would highly recommend it. It is a little more challenging to prepare, it requires an element of flexibility and when your WiFi data runs out three-quarters of the way through a session meaning you leave 18 sixth form students on a live lesson without a teacher, it seems a little more tricky… But it is definitely worth it. To me, ensuring that the six year 13 students can still complete the programme before their time at sixth form ends, meaning they have all the benefits, skills and knowledge that the course provides, makes it all worthwhile. After all, when is positive mental health and resilience needed more than at this unprecedented challenging time in all of our lives?!

 

If you’re interested in working with us to deliver Bloom at your school please contact us at Schools@mentalhealth-uk.org

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