SCHOOL IS THE REAL WORLD
The mother of a student at my school died in April. Our staff didn’t find out until a couple weeks later. In those two weeks this student was completing all their work using their late mother’s smartphone, because they did not have a computer.
Let’s stop drawing artificial distinctions between school and the real world, because some of our students are facing greater challenges right now than we can even imagine.
SCHOOL IS ABOUT MORE THAN CURRICULUM
Every week I assign work and provide text and video instructions through my Google Classroom.
Some of my students complete the work, and some of them don’t.
But there is always nearly perfect attendance at our optional virtual class hangouts. Every Wednesday we get together as a group using videoconferencing software. Students can ask questions about their assignments, or just chat with me and their peers. There is no new instruction or curriculum delivered, and no expectations beyond a basic code of conduct. The purpose is simply to provide a place for students to connect with each other.
One week our videoconference resulted in a spontaneous juggling contest. Last week a student started an impromptu baby picture show-and-tell challenge that had every student begging their parents to search their phones and living rooms for a picture to share with the group.
I don’t know what will happen next week, but I can’t wait to find out. Neither can my students. They beg me not to end our sessions, and also demand more frequent videoconferencing. They talk openly about missing school, even thought I’ve warned them I will quote them on that when we all get back.
REMOTE LEARNING PERPETUATES INEQUITIES
Remote learning has shown us just how much of an advantage children who come from families with a higher socioeconomic status have over their peers.
While some students were busy meeting with tutors on Zoom, other students waited a month for a device with internet access. While some students clearly had help from their parents to complete their assignments, other students and their guardians remain unreachable.
SOME STUDENTS THRIVE IN AN ONLINE ENVIRONMENT
It turns out that online learning is not just for high achieving students after all. Some students who had been struggling to succeed at school are thriving now.
One student who’s extreme self-regulation issues had for years made it all but impossible for them to sit through a lesson or complete an activity is now completing everything assigned online. This student is happily working on their own, without the distraction of peers or the frustration of having to follow classroom rules and expectations.
A student with autism who has difficulty following school routines and schedules is now organized online and regularly submitting assignments through Google Classroom. As this student explains it, “now that I don’t have to worry about going to classes and doing everything I have to do at school, I can actually focus on doing my work!”
TEACHERS LEAD THE WAY
This remote learning environment has made every one of us a rookie again, but teachers have truly have risen to the challenge.
From recording video tutorials for students at 7:00 in the morning, to emailing with a parent to help them understand how to use that new Chromebook at 11:00 in the evening, teachers have been someone who families can count on during a time marked by stress and uncertainty.
Some of us were more prepared than others for using digital tools for teaching and learning, but every single teacher in the country has been pushed to be even better. So many teachers have stepped up in virtual staff meetings and on social media to lead their colleagues, their schools, and their districts through a variety of new technical and pedagogical challenges.
What lessons have you learned after a month of remote teaching and learning? Share your experience with other readers by posting in the comments below.