In distance learning, less is more, now more than ever!
Like all of you, my family kicked-off the school year in full distance-learning mode. To be perfectly honest, I am not sure how families are managing. We don't feel like we are managing. We just wrapped week 4 and it seems like we keep waiting to find our stride. We're a small family of four, with one "stay at home" college-educated parent and the other parent is a veteran teacher of 20 years, and we were SCRAMBLING to keep up.
The wifi always slows to a crawl or drops just before 9am or just before the moment we need to join another Zoom - it even happens for my kid's Karate class! Also, how do you support a 1st grader on Zoom without sitting right next to them the entire call? But wait my 5th grader can't login either? What is that Zoom link again? Why are so many students chatting on the call? By the end of day two, over four weeks ago, my wife looked at me and exclaimed, "I'm not sure I am going to make it through this."
I have been teaching for 20 years. (I am starting my third school year as an online independent study teacher.) Needless to say I have teaching experience and a growing experience with distance learning. I take great pride in weaving Organized Binder into my classes to help ground students in a virtual learning environment. However, this school year is my first experience as the parent in a remote learning environment. What a difference and what an influence it has had on my teaching practice! Just as it is helpful for classroom teachers to recall what it was like to be a student, I think all of us teaching in a distance learning scenario would greatly benefit from being a parent trying to support their child's education.
Of course that's not possible. So here is my one message to all teachers out there: Less is more, now more than ever! I know it can be scary to do less and assign less when there is so much to teach, but I urge you to be brave enough to try! Most parents are not educators and they are likely taking time to translate the school day for their children into some form of a schedule. Many are working from home and have little time to spare. We will do all families a favor to structure our lessons and the learning day with this in mind.
My sincere hope is that a byproduct of this distance learning era is that we, society, recognize that what the skillful teachers among us do every single day is AMAZING. It cannot adequately be translated through a computer screen. The pace of the school day is relentless. The job is honorable. We lay the foundation for democracy.
But for now I am asking my teacher colleagues to turn the volume down. Be bold. Schedule your lessons in a way that encourage your students to close their laptops, turn away from their screens, and do something else. Go for a walk. Create. Connect with family. Rest. Play. Dream.
Please find the courage to scale back and do less! For the sake of the families you serve, less is more, now more than ever!