I am writing today because I feel it is important to get my thoughts down during such a unique time for teachers, students, families, and education. It is easy to lose perspective during uncertain times but my belief is that by staying positive we can make the most of any situation.
- Home is now school, school is now home. When my students walk through the door I am eager to ask how they are. I want to connect with them, listen to them, build a relationship with them. I offer time every day to all my students as I know my colleagues also do. However, they go home. I go home. I spend time with my family and my children, do some work, try and relax. Then start all over again the next day. But, do we ask the question: Do my students live in an apartment or a house? Do they have a garden? What opportunities in their home life do they have for learning maths? What is their environment like? I’m now asking those questions and wanting to find out more about my students lives. The gap between them being at school and going home no longer exists, as they are at home and at school concurrently. This is a wonderful opportunity for teachers worldwide to start taking heed of students in a more holistic way and building stronger relationships with them.
- Colleague to Collegially. Some teachers can’t live without tech, other teachers don’t want to live with tech. Regardless of your stance, this is a time that can bring differing mindsets together. It goes without saying that distance learning requires a bigger need for technology and for many this can be a daunting prospect. But what an opportunity this is for everyone! Those teachers who are confident become leaders and feel empowered. Those teachers who are not as confident learn from colleagues and grow in confidence when using tech. The outcome of this, once we are back in school together, is the strength and resolve in our working relationships.
- Unity. There is not much to say on this other than, when we start to feel vulnerable (thanks @BreneBrown) we reveal more about ourselves than we could ever know. This is a time where vulnerability flows without even having control over it. What a time to be truly open and honest with our colleagues, saying that we need help. To really know the meaning of being distant and missing that human contact, then when talking and seeing someone online after feeling isolated and alone makes us appreciate them and what they have to say. The opportunity here is knowing that being vulnerable is ok, and that listening and enjoying what my colleagues say is so important.
- Reflect and Learn. I have the joy of working with my wife as a teacher (it’s actually not that bad) and we are exploring this time together. I discussed with her recently the need to communicate with parents that although we have a good hold of what we are doing, by no means is this a polished approach. Because we have never done this before, and that is ok. Therefore, tell the parents and lets shape it together. Ask for feedback and be open on what is working and what isn’t. Am I giving too much or too less? What is the social and emotional impact of the learning opportunities being provided? This is an opportunity for teachers and parents to connect and to be a team. To work together and to build deeper more meaningful relationships with students and learning at the heart of it all.
- ‘Once we accept our limits, we move beyond them’. The quote by Albert Einstein is easy said, but in practice moving beyond is far more challenging. Accepting our limits is the easy part and teachers are very good at this. Instinctively, some teachers move beyond. But for others it can be a barrier to learning, take technology as an example. A lack of confidence in using technology doesn’t present itself as a teacher saying “I can’t do this but show me and I’ll learn”. It often surfaces in disagreements about implemented new technological ideas, or simply teachers choosing to not use technology at all. However, we often tell students that it is ok not know, to ask others when in need, to see challenges as opportunities to learn. Then faced with these as adults, we fall back into our comfort zone and reaffirm with our-self that the need to go further is unnecessary. Now, many find themselves forced to move beyond and what an opportunity this is to push through those barriers.
- Innovation. Will this change how we approach education? What is learning? Are the students spending too much time in front of a screen? What are the social impacts of using technology? How can we use technology to support social and emotional needs? There are so many more questions that are coming up all the time and I am so happy they are. I am very lucky to work with a human who is amazing and passionate about learning and technology (@techiehouse). But she does not believe tech is there to solve all our problems. It isn’t and it won’t. However, regardless of what we think and believe it is pivotal in forming how we live. And we have a duty to provide the best opportunities for our students in knowing how to use it properly. Authentic opportunities don’t come more authentic than this.
- Final Thoughts. Technology is helping right now. It is providing teachers and schools with a way to keep connected with our students and deliver an education. Yet, many questions I have still remain unanswered. What if my students aren’t able to access technology freely? How are they coping without their peers? How do I know if they are happy? Or feeling down? How can I help them with their social and emotional needs? Moving forward, as I always tell my students:
With every problem comes an opportunity. You just have to look for it.
And I look forward to using this current situation as a chance to learn and find solutions to my unanswered questions.