Story/Interview October 21, 2021
Meet ‘Online School’ award winner and history teacher, Elise Manning
Elise Manning is leader of learning for history at InterHigh. She also teaches Key Stage two, three and four and is shadowing history lessons for Key Stage five. Ove the past year, Elise has achieved so much. She has been a rock to her students and provided the much-needed support to them throughout the pandemic. To recognise this resilience, commitment, love for her subject and to thank her for always going above and beyond, she was recently awarded Inspired’s Online School Award!
We asked Elise what she loves about her role, advice for other history teachers, and how she stays motivated despite the difficulties that engulfed the past few years.
How do you feel about winning your Online School Award?
I’m very honoured to have won this award. I was so surprised! The fact my colleagues nominated me gives me more confidence and makes me feel grateful for their support.
Has your role changed at all due to the pandemic?
Due to the pandemic, many physical schools juggled teaching online with new assessment programmes, technical challenges, absenteeism, teacher shortages, a lack of resources and more. Thankfully, teachers at InterHigh didn’t have to deal with these problems.
Being an online school since 2005, we have gained the skills and knowledge necessary to feel confident about teaching effectively online. Rather than trying to ‘squish’ a classroom into the computer, we have spent years reimagining education. We have many tools and edtech solutions at our fingertips to ensure our students gain the interaction, support and creative technical help to thrive no matter what the future holds.
What does it mean to you to be part of the Inspired community?
InterHigh has recently joined Inspired, a group of 80 leading schools spanning five continents. The idea of working with other schools is very exciting. I benefitted from the Inspired community almost immediately, as I became year group coordinator. To fulfil this role, I organise and lead assemblies each week, meet with tutors and connect with parents. These tasks help ensure each child is receiving the educational support they need. I have really enjoyed this role and am looking forward to working with other Inspired schools when the opportunity arises.
What would you say to other education professionals in history who want to excel?
I would recommend all history teachers give course writing a good chance. Although this can be a demanding and time-consuming task, it is very rewarding and gives teachers a sense of autonomy and control. It also offers teachers the chance to be creative and connect with other staff members, which cements the strong community that underpins every school. After working with my colleagues on course writing, I felt very supported and as though I could do anything I set my mind to.
Have you faced challenges over the past year and if so, how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced over the past year has been balancing my working life with my personal life. I’m sure many others feel this way. While working from home, the lines of separation often blur. This was a particular challenge because for the past few years I have been planning my wedding, which has been both incredibly exciting but emotionally challenging through the pandemic, as our plans have been altered countless times.
Whilst I was powering through, I also knew it was important to speak up and let my colleagues know how I was feeling in terms of managing so many competing demands. Together, we divided and conquered, which made me feel appreciated and heard.
I am thrilled to say I finally managed to get married in August! On the morning of my wedding, I received a gorgeous bouquet of flowers from my colleagues, which reminded me they are always here for me.
From this experience, I learned it’s okay to acknowledge when you are feeling overwhelmed and would always recommend speaking up for support when you need it, even though it can be difficult. With support, you will feel more able to give your all to students, colleagues, friends and family.
What is the best part of working as leader of learning and in your school?
There’s too much to choose just one thing!
I enjoy interacting with my students, they are always keen to learn and getting to know them pastorally is brilliant as you get the chance to help them holistically and equip them for a bright future emotionally as well as academically.
Also, InterHigh organises lots of events which is exciting as they bring us all together. For example, we hosted a food festival where students could record themselves making food all around the world. We shared cooking tips and recipes, really making the most of the international aspect of this school.
Finally, I get a lot from leading lessons and organising assemblies, during which I encourage students to unmute themselves so they feel connected and a constant part of the learning experience. Last week, I was teaching about the Battle of Stanford Bridge my pupils were really engaged. They were responding in real time because they had their mics unmuted which was wonderful!
What is the most difficult part of your role and how do you rise to this challenge?
Working from home can of course come with its challenges, particularly as I have back problems but to overcome this, I am pursuing my passion of running and eating as healthily as possible. Two years ago, I joined my local running club which has made a big difference. Today, I run two-three times a week and join as many running events as I can. I’m running a 10K this weekend and another in December!
This has helped me overcome feelings of discomfort which has boosted my concentration and overall satisfaction at work.
Can you talk us through your vision for the future of learning and history?
It would be fantastic if more schools made the most of online learning. For example, in terms of history, it would be brilliant if schemes of work were developed in a way that utilises Adobe. At the end of last year, I learnt how to run a marketplace task via Adobe. This allowed me to create breakout rooms, which increased student concentration, teamwork skills and focus. I would love for teachers to feel more comfortable using technology as it really does benefit students.
I have done this with some of our teachers at InterHigh by creating a step-by-step guide to Adobe and within a week of sharing it with colleagues, two said it had already benefitted their lessons. I want to encourage more to try something new technologically to help energise teaching and learning.
Finally, I love thinking of ways I can explore alternative histories in my lessons, which students may not otherwise come across. This investigative teaching style encourages young people to ask questions and consider which histories we teach and why we don’t hear more from certain voices. I would like to see this happen in every history class across the UK.
What motivates you every day?
I am very lucky that I have a lot of positive energy naturally, but I enjoy teaching and doing so from home. I have a wonderful team around me, both in school and at home, which helps motivate me. I know I have a strong support system, which helps me feel confident and positive.