Imagine this scenario:
13 of 40 students are making regular appearances on daily Zoom meets, more like half have made it at least once. It took one-on-one calls to walk students through the process of getting on to Zoom. It’s a daily battle to help them get their microphone on. Some of the kids don’t have a computer and only about a quarter have wifi. Even if they do, their tech literacy is a pretty big hurdle. So many students have only just started using computers (as in – where is the space bar?!) and it adds a lot to the cognitive load. They are still learning the etiquette of Zoom: there are kids screaming at their little brothers and sisters in to the mic, kids running around the house with the computer in their hands, laying in their beds, cameras pointed at the ceiling. It feels pretty chaotic. As soon as a prompt is asked, the technical transition takes so long to do a ‘quick share’ and kids start to get distracted as they wait for peers to figure it out. There has been more than one time when I end the meeting breaking down into tears of futility and frustration.
How much of this scenario feels familiar to you? This is the new normal for many teachers now teaching remotely. The good news is you are not alone. Every teacher is feeling and experiencing the same thing. As we move through this new, unprecedented time in history, allow yourself some grace and deeply consider the following elements:
Let go of perfection
This is a huge learning curve. Give yourself permission to not do things perfectly. Everyone is trying to figure out the best way to do things. Home is not an ideal place to learn. This is not homeschool. This is students being at home during a pandemic while parents are also trying to work from home, with all their siblings home. Nothing about this is ‘business as usual’. Understand and empathize – for both yourself and the students.
Adjust your expectations
It’s not a matter of lowering your expectations; it’s about adjusting to a new reality of what we are facing and what is happening. A remote learning environment can not and will not model, nor replicate, nor replace the in-person classroom. The nuances of being face-to-face, the body language, the speed with which students can respond and interact, the ability to physically be in the same space and connect with others is not present. All these factors play in to the efficacy of learning online. This is not to say that online learning is not effective, this is saying that many teachers were thrust in to this situation without preparation, training or the proper tools. And while teachers all over the globe are stepping up and diving in and confronting the challenges head-on, take all that in to consideration. Know your reality.
Focus on the heart
So much is going on for these students. Know and understand that the single most important thing you can do right now is just to be there for them. While not the same as in-person, the amazing good fortune we have of being able to see and connect to students through technology is extraordinary. We are able to get to know students in new ways, and can be there just to listen to them and allow them the space to connect to us and their peers.
‘The fact that students know that at 11am every day they can jump on their computer and connect with their teacher and their peers is paramount. At the end of the day, the mutual care and consistency is what matters.’
See the opportunity
‘There are silver linings: kids are becoming literate in tech in ways that I may not have taken time to do in the classroom, they’re having to be really creative and independent, as have I. They’ve been patient and grateful and dedicated.’ This platform is allowing teachers to get to know students in new ways, though a new lens. This is an opportunity that has been given to teachers and students to connect in a different format. Be curious, see what new things you can can learn from and about your students. Learn to listen. Ironically, we as teachers often have a difficult time actually hearing our students. Slow down, listen, take the time to find out what else there is to know about them. There may be new connections and pathways into learning that we didn’t see before.
You are enough
‘I am starting to recognize that the online meetings are not going to be the kind of language development that happened day to day in person. They will, however, be the connection and consistency elements that are so essential right now. Showing up and being there for students is probably the most important.’ Allow yourself to accept that you are doing the best you can. And that is enough. Just connecting to your students is enough. Be the love and support they need right now.
All of the above elements are as important to recognize for you as they are for your students. Be kind to yourself and give yourself grace. Know that loving students is the most important and essential action that needs to happen during this time. Find the silver linings, adjust your expectations and listen to and connect to kids. At the end of the day, we will come out the other side of this better together.
Thank you to Andi Newman for sharing her experiences (in italics).