March 19, 2020
For the last eight years I have taught seventh grade social studies. I love what I teach. I have always been fascinated with exploring people and events of the past, the decisions that people make when faced with challenges, and the consequences of their actions. Today I find myself on the precipice of history itself. Today, instead of reading about history, I get to live and create history.
COVID-19 is all you hear about on the news. The anchors talk about the effect on the stock exchange, the decisions that local, state, and the federal government are making, and the increasing number of people that are sick and dying. You hear about the loss of jobs, the effect it is having on the elderly, the irresponsible college kids who are still out on spring break spreading this virus to those that are more at risk.
For a short while you heard on the news about the schools that were closing. On March 15th, Connecticut Governor, Ned Lamont, ordered the closing of all public schools until March 31st. As of today, it does not look like schools will be opening on the projected date. In the instance that this is the case, and students are forced to stay home for a longer stretche of time, my school has decided to begin the implementation of Distance Learning. Tomorrow will start a fundamental, groundbreaking, and revolutionary evolution of how educators examine the role of technology in the instruction of our students. This shift in educating our youth will also undoubtably impact the way our students and children learn, communicate, and absorb information, regardless of how long this Distance Learning happens for.
I am anxious. As an educator, we fall into a rhythm from year to year, mastering our content and refining and improving the way in which we get our students to engage with the information, as well as refine their skills related to our content disciplines. This new directive for teaching sends us all back to the white board. We need to examine the instruction of our past and adapt it for the technology of now.
I am also very excited. My classroom is already a digital classroom. I do not pass out papers to students, rather, I share the documents with them in Google Classroom; an online digital education platform. This change though, is not very drastic. While there is no physical paper, the digital document and activities are designed with the same concepts in mind, a place for note taking, a place for answering questions, and a place for reading information. Students in my classroom flip their chrome books around to show their work to their peers or to share information. Really, nothing different than a piece of paper, except with the access to the computer and the internet, students have the world of knowledge at their finger tips. This new learning we are about to embark on, surpasses the digital bounds of how I even viewed learning in the classroom.
Tomorrow, the faculty at my school will gather online in Google Meet, to begin our conversation about what this digital learning can look like. I purposefully used the word ‘can’ instead of ‘should’, or ‘will’, because we are embarking into uncharted territory. The ideas that are created over the next unknown period of time have no ceiling, and allow us as educators to embody the creativity that we hope for and demand from our students.
I have so many hopes and dreams, fears and anxieties, related to this endeavor. Many of you who have read this far probably have children of your own who are about to engage in some form of digital learning themselves. I am going to be honest, this is going to be a struggle at first. It is going to be hard to manage a schedule, to split time between your work and keeping your child focused. But we are in this together, you, your child, and us educators. We will learn from each other, and while I will never get to meet you personally, I hope that if you choose to follow this, it gives you some insight into an educators perspective.