The above anonymous post that recently spun around the internet provided us with some relief. It IS going to be okay... someday. Teachers are going to teach. Moms are going to mom. The kids are going to go back to school and they will catch up. It's all going to be okay, it really is.
But right now, as we approach Teacher Appreciation Week and Mother's Day (coincidence? we think not!) 7 full weeks into a global pandemic that sent school systems (and frankly all the systems) into shock, we are grappling with grace.
It's been a struggle, and it's no wonder articles like this have made the rounds, inciting a frenzy of conversation around bucking the new world order for school and clapping back at teachers, with all of us wondering, "What does education even mean right now?"
The (now cliche) adage applies; we're all in this together.
Teaching in regular times is really, really hard. Teaching in the time of a pandemic has the potential for catastrophic levels of anxiety:
"How can I teach while caring for my own children at home?"
"How can I shift to online learning?"
"How will special education students be cared for? IEPs administered and considered?"
"What about families without Internet or computer access?"
"How can I be a teacher for my kids when I'm working full time and I never, ever signed up for this?"
"What if schools never reopen?" (Please, PLEASE not that last one.)
But, Dear Teachers (that's mostly all of us right now, really -- including those who are professionally trained and those who have more recently been thrown into the fray), let's consider this. Would you expect your kindergartener to spell new words without making mistakes? Your middle schooler to grasp scientific notation right on the first attempt? Your high school student to totally understand every nuance of Shakespeare in their first reading? No? Then let's also extend that same grace for learning to ourselves as we navigate this brand new world of teaching.
As a teacher (by choice or not) we see you trying, trying, trying your hardest to make do, to make this learning experience as good as possible, to go above and beyond, and to continue to instill a love of learning in your students. But, nonetheless, learning remotely is difficult. For so many reasons. One of which is that humans are social animals and video makes your brain work harder to understand social cues. The other day one of my kids said, "I just want to see their face, their real face, not a camera face."
👏Hear, hear! 👏
Let's acknowledge the extraordinary situation we find ourselves in, and the extraordinary efforts we are making to provide a rich learning experience to all our students. From changing grading levels to a simple pass/fail, to printing off hundreds of paper learning packets for kids in need, to juggling work and classroom Zoom calls, teachers around the U.S. are proving to us all that they are the ultimate creative force in making it all work. Is it enough? What will the impact be? We don't know, but the key to teaching is being honest and staying calm. Saying "I don't know" isn't an admission of failure. It's an opportunity to discover a new answer to a new problem, together.
And, as a final thought, let us also agree that it's 100% fine to reduce the workload wherever we can for both ourselves as teachers and our kids right now. No one needs another math worksheet at this point. Our children will continue to learn. Maybe on a different timeline, but they will learn.