Food for Thought

Food for thought: Wrapping up remote learning…for now?

Summer 2020. Not exactly the summer we were anticipating when we first envisioned final exams, caps and gowns, and end-of-year celebrations. Most of us have made it through the remote learning process and rounded out one more year, but not with the same sense of finality. The grading deadlines came – the communication all via text, email or Zoom – and then it was done. There was no sitting in a cafeteria with laughter and that end-of-year feeling of accomplishment. There was no talk of summer plans and upcoming travels. So, I don’t know about you, but when the deadline for grades was over, it felt like there should have been more, but there was simply nothing left to do.

If you had to do remote learning all over again, what would you do differently?

These past few months have lent plenty of time for self-reflection. I am a silver lining type of person and am fascinated by how not only education, but also businesses and organizations everywhere have adjusted this spring. I am not promoting all online, all remote learning, but embracing that we have had to confront, adapt, and constantly pivot, inevitably leading us to a new normal. I think that the human element and relationships formed in the classroom are far too important to ever exclude. I cannot help but wonder, though, if we have to repeat distance learning, what would we do differently?

I began the remote learning process with a six-week-old baby and a two year-old. I would say “if you only knew during those Zoom calls,” but now everyone knows because we have all been there. Hopefully there have been more laughs than frustrations and a great story or two to tell later.

Image source: The Dad (Facebook)

If this steep learning curve of an experience has taught us anything before another potential wave, it is to be more prepared for the future. I polled numerous teachers to gauge their comfort level with remote learning and technology, understandably finding all ranges from novice to advanced. Even those adept at organizing their classes with EdTech practices still breathed a heavy sigh of relief on the last day of school. The common denominator among all teachers? “I wish I’d had more training to be prepared for something like this.”

The amount of teachers fearlessly navigating new waters and asking for help was received by an abundance of support. Teachers willingly gave their resources via every platform. Teachers unfamiliar with EdTech practices developed some of the most creative ideas I have ever seen. In essence, the circumstances pushed the educational community to their greater potential, a silver lining, if I say so.

But for now, let’s decompress…

When this all began, I took long runs down the middle of the road just because I knew I could. I had more time at home with my children, even if some days’ saving grace was a humorous meme to which I could relate. The balance of toddler, baby, bottle, and thankfulness for muting audio and video are over. It’s time to unwind. Teachers, take some time for yourselves and regroup before thinking about what learning will look like upon when we return.

In the fall, most of us will reunite with our students in our physical spaces. Teachers are naturals at establishing relationships but have been on overdrive lately to maintain connections with their students. How refreshing will it be to smile, to (air!) high five or fist bump our students once again? Perhaps we should charge our students with the new handshake. What creative ways will they develop to greet each other during this social distance era?

Félicitations, teachers, on a job well done. You not only kept the learning going, but more importantly, you were there for your students. This experience has pushed us to be teachers we may not have realized we were capable of being. How can we apply this in the future? But for now, relax…

Happy summer, everyone!