Fellow Educators, Let's Take a Beat

Before we begin, let’s take a beat.

Breathe in through the nose.

Hold it.

Let it fill you with energy.

Slowly exhale, breathing out through the mouth.

Okay. Let’s go.

Today is day two of remote learning for many, and for many, this day was preceded and followed by announcements from municipalities, especially in Texas, with “Stay Home, Work Safe” orders which set off another wave of panic and uncertainty. Needless to say, our efforts at being present in the learning is scattershot, at best. At least, I know it is for me, and I consider myself to be a damn good teacher and technologically savvy. 

As an instructional coach, I have been providing support to teachers since last Thursday when the call came down the shift was taking place. In these short few days, I’ve gleaned a few bits of wisdom from both interactions with fellow teachers and administration.

  1. Allow space for the learning to happen: The way we do this is by focusing on the learning process and the feedback cycle as students move towards mastery. This also means bye-bye to traditional “grades” (which I’ve never been a fan of anyway). We have an opportunity to teach as we’ve always wanted now that the state standardized test requirements are waived, so focus on giving productive feedback to measure learning, not a numerical value.
  2. Give up control: You can’t micromanage this process. You will have to give up control. Teachers, you can’t expect students to adhere to strict due dates. Administrations, you can’t expect teachers, especially those with young children, to adhere to strict schedules and traditional “hours of operation”.
  3. Try something new: This is kind of a no-brainer as it is all new. However, we are in a watershed moment, fellow educators. This will forever change the face of education. We are either willing to get with the 21st-century, or the 21st-century, our schools, and our students will get on without us. Take the time to learn the technology we’re being asked to use to provide high-quality remote instruction because they’re not going away. (gasp I think this means worksheets are finally dead!)
  4. Remember to breathe: At the end of the day, the week, or quarantine, the major thing we provide is a sense of normalcy, a sense of safety, and there is nothing in education that measures the impact this has. 

Is it going to be easy? In a word — no. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be hard and riddled with potential pitfalls that fray our nerves. I mean, it’s downright scary, if you think about it, but it always is when you stand on the edge of an unexplored frontier. However, if we allow opportunities for growth, if we give up the urge to monitor every moment, if we learn from trying different things, and if we just remember to pause and breathe, we will see that that fear can be excitement — if we only let it be.

Featured image by Dingzeyu Li on Unsplash


“Just Google It”

My Dad has this parable he enjoys relaying about how his superiors are often flabbergasted at his knowledge and inner workings of mechanics, engineering, politics, world events, and a plethora of other topics.  These pearls of wisdom come at the expense of the other person when they are unable to do a mathematical calculation or find the answer to a seemingly simple question, but they are pearls, nonetheless.  His punchline is always the same: “If they don’t believe me, I tell them they can go Google it for themselves.”  For my Dad, this is code for something resembling far less tact.  

As an educator, I get asked plenty of questions.  These usually revolve around mundane, protocol objectives, such as “When is this due?”, “Do we have to do this?”, “Is this for a grade?”, “Are you going to count off for spelling?”, and “Do we have to write in complete sentences?”.  The sad state of things is that I usually posit more questions to my students than I get asked.  Let me rephrase that: I posit more questions of substance to my students than I get asked in return.

The purpose of this “Discover Challenge” is to dissect and explore a time when we were asked a question where we had to weigh the options of how we would answer.  As I sat down ready to whet my appetite surrounding tough discussions, I realized it’s been a long time since I’ve had one.  Perhaps I’m in an echo chamber and everyone I converse with has similar beliefs.  However, in my experience it’s not so much the echo chamber affecting the complexity of questions asked but that the art of asking a good question is disappearing, and with it, the ability to think critically and use empathy to formulate a response is slipping away.

The one question I’ve been stumped to find a reasonable and innovative solution to is “how do I make my English class more beneficial for my students?”.  I believe I have found my answer.  It wasn’t one I could Google though I did search for lesson ideas and discussion techniques.  In an age where finding information, both factual and half-baked, is basically implanted into us at youth, we need to focus on how to ask questions that require empathy and conversation to answer and not the Internet to “just Google it”.

In response to Discover Challenge: Tough Questions
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Question” by Qimono (CC0 Public Domain)