This morning I continued my usual routine of reading blogs and preparing for virtual meetings, trying to catch a digestible drink from the firehose of online teaching resources. I made an attempt to consolidate my learning here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1DMgQIkgMS_UVn0E2Lc73Zqq-N8a2vO9yxRuIcG0NkGs/edit?usp=sharing
Then I read Doug Peterson’s blog because he has the ability to deliver big ideas in meaningful bites, and still retain the essence of what is necessary; his blog is always a sip of usefulness. He wrote, “Over the course of this time at home and watching the news, I was reflecting on the different things that I’ve learned” and he challenged others to share in this.
My list is different in many ways, but this is what I learned in March 2020.
- Writing matters – when I practice written expression, I sort out ideas and feelings in conversation with myself. Writing forces me into my own head and heart and the action of documentation helps me make sense of what matters.
- Daily writing matters – without the force of commitment behind me, there are always legitimate reasons to avoid doing something – especially when they are hard. Daily writing forced me to confront a struggle and this understanding is a reminder for me; struggle is part of the process of growth.
- Writing teachers should write – teaching it is really difficult. And I would predict the practice of writing ends after Teachers College or University. My good friend, Amanda Potts shared her believe that writing teachers should write; and she is right.
- Writing builds curiosity – I started to notice small details about life and the people in my neighbourhood because I needed these observations for description. By observing and witnessing the world from social distancing, I became more curious about the small and seemingly insignificant things.
- Curiosity creates empathy – in being more curious, I started to considered movement from someone else’s perspective and it occurred to me that this curiosity is a form of empathy. Through describing people and their physical abilities or circumstances, I had to put myself in their shoes and wondered at the remarkable in the everyday.
- Loss builds appreciation – I remember my student teacher complaining about the public bent to criticize teachers; it really bothered him. But, I have witnessed a shift in this popular thinking online, and what I do, as a teacher, with this time will be important to the future appreciation of teachers. I need to make the most of loss.
- Social Distancing unites – we can’t be together, but we are together – in this. I realized this when the staff at my school started arranging virtual hangouts and videos and collaborating in ways that are unprecedented. We are all full of fear about the way this will work, but we are united in making this distance learning work for students and one another.
- Discomfort promotes growth – discomfort is often a choice for the privileged; it has been for me as a White teacher. But, it’s the only place from which I can grow. This is going to be messy, and I’m going to make mistakes, so I’m going to embrace the discomfort because I’m hopeful.
- Students need connection – Before we left for March break, many of my students expressed anxiety and panic. When I invited them to Google Hangouts over the past few weeks, they showed up, slowly at first, cautiously, but eventually we had nearly a full class meeting. Just to connect and for me to reassure them and they expressed thanks in ways that was unexpected.
- Students need models of courage – I know my students need me to be resilient and optimistic and demonstrate that I am opening to learning and failing in public. Now is the time when I can practice being courageous by trying something new, exploring teaching and learning as fearlessly as possible. Brene Brown said it best, “There is no courage without vulnerability.”