A Downward Spiral
Okay, I admit it! Since the start of this pandemic in the United States I have not blogged. I haven’t done my podcast. I haven’t published any training vlogs. Honestly, I have been a pretty poor social media presence.
Excuse #1: Busy reworking my classes.
Honestly, I did very little to the structure of most of my classes moving from in person instruction to “remote learning”. Just hours before the anticipated last day of school with students before spring break, we were FINALLY (text screaming justified) able to admit to the kids that there was a possibility that we “would potentially have an extended spring break”. I simply asked my students where they could find all updated resources, announcements, and materials; “In our class slide deck, Mr. Moore” (said the best students ever). As I had spent the entire year with my students using a consistent digital framework and establishing expected behaviors, there was almost no need to hurriedly adjust prior to a prolonged absence.
Excuse #2: I was busily helping colleagues adjust to the new digital classroom.
We left school on a Friday heading into spring break, and whatever the future held we had a week to adjust. There was no sense of urgency among most staff and certainly not among district leadership. To be fair, as we all have come to understand, this pandemic has brought some changes even the most forward thinking did not see coming. As the week progressed the urgency increased and work finally began behind the scenes to address the resumption of learning. I will leave the extremely frustrating details about how we wasted a week of preparation time only to set expectations so low that preparation time wasn’t needed to protect the guilty. I did run a couple video meetings with some of my seniors to test both Google Meet and Zoom to get their feedback. This eventually led to the choice to use Zoom on a constrained basis during the period of remote learning. Another teacher and I collaborated on a training slide deck and videos to help teachers use this new tool with students and for meetings. This training will be the subject of another blog entry shortly.
Excuse #3: I was depressed.
Well, actually yes to a degree.
Another teacher I worked with has integrated digital learning heavily into her intermediate school classroom and she met the arrival of remote learning with excitement: “This is what I have been training for the past 10 years!” Likewise, I was excited by the prospect of a shift in education to better integrate digital learning into the classroom. I am in a 1:1 district that benefits from a relatively small digital divide. Additionally, as with most locations, local service providers offered generous assistance to students and families in need. I also live in a different district with a much wider digital divide, and have seen how my own child’s district addressed its needs and challenges during the week we were on spring break. The potential was there for making powerful and positive steps in education while addressing equity in an environment that would reward even the most modest of success as a valiant effort. I was indeed depressed to find that the focus was not on learning, but priority was placed on risk aversion. No teachers were involved in the remote learning process, and the goal was to ensure the district phone did not ring. To quote the teacher I mentioned earlier, “The virus just exposed which districts are healthy, and which are on hospice”. I had my health and my family, but professionally my motivation was gone.
Depression is real
I also do think, upon reflection, that many people, including educators, during this time of upheaval did/do fight through greater challenges with depression. I know there is a pall of fear and worry that is clearly seen on social and traditional media. At one point much earlier in this crisis, a friend from the east coast took a poll and 70% of his students were directly affected by COVID-19 or knew someone that was. I am sure this number has only increased. As teachers we care for our own families and care for our students nearly as strongly. This pandemic has and will cause permanent changes in education and in life in general and it is natural to have anxiety and fear. These real anxieties and fears affect people in a variety of ways and if you are struggling there is help, just reach out to those around you. In all cases maintaining or building new contacts and relationships in this time can be key to being healthy, and for those cases that need additional help professional counselors and others can be just what you need. As teachers we need to be honest in reflecting and acknowledging when those of us that are normally help providers, need others to lean on.
Time for a change
I am a veteran teacher of 21 years with the last 19 in a single building and district. In 2012 I began a renaissance in my teaching and in my classroom because of flipped learning. However, as any veteran teacher will tell you there is far more to being a professional educator than the classroom. The circumstances surrounding COVID-19 and the charitable term “remote learning” did exactly to paraphrase what my co-worker proclaimed; “The virus just exposed which “teachers” are healthy, and which are on (professional) hospice”.
At this point in the pandemic I could be counted as among the latter.
(We have reached the bottom… In the next blog we begin the climb.)