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  • Kristin Kowalski Ferragut

A Teacher's Thoughts: Relax Our Kids will be Okay with Distance Learning

Reactions to these weirdest of days vary as wildly as weather across a week in Maryland. None of us enjoy having movement curtailed by trends of an invasive virus and many of us would rather be out and about. In fairness, I admit that I’m pretty well-suited to quarantine. That may be a topic for another blog post, but I hesitate, feeling both fortunate and guilty for my disposition, circumstance, and good health that enable me to enjoy these days, while Gloom is in the air and others are suffering. I know that all of us who interact with students miss something of the classroom. For me, I especially miss face-to-face interaction with my students, particularly our joking and singing. Still, I’m appreciating the time with my own kids and see some benefits to this “new normal.”


Distance Learning comes with limitations for sure, but I’ve also been surprised to find some benefits. A friend suggested this would be a good theme for a blog post, which I initially rejected. I don’t consider myself an essayist and try to leave my work work out of my creative work, although there’s overlap. When another friend posted about being overwhelmed homeschooling, I decided it may be worthwhile to share my thoughts on being a teacher and having kids who are students during quarantine. I in no way intend to speak for any other teacher, student, parent, or school system.


I rather enjoy the on-the-spot challenges of troubleshooting and learning systems and technologies both mysterious and troubling to me before. Now I can’t just avoid them and I think that’ll make me a better teacher moving forward. I’ve developed some screen savvy, which will serve my students well once back in the classroom and have been forced to reimagine how to demonstrate content and application in less time than normal and with fewer resources. Or let’s say, less traditional resources. There’s much one can do with Legos and clay.


I appreciate the break from ancillary tasks. I may not be spending less time planning or writing reports, but I am spending less time on things like meetings, committees, and academic sharing events. Not that any of them are without merit, but they can stretch one’s resources. Being a poet, a parent, and a special educator, I’ve generally subscribed to the sentiment that Less is More.


It sure is wonderful to see my students on screen! But a challenge to keep their attention and things are sometimes glitchy and hard to hear. Still there is connection, both to my students and to their parents, who have been overall incredibly supportive. Many of my parents are working from home and learning to navigate platforms brand new to them. I can’t imagine my students could do it without them.


I hope parents aren’t tasking themselves with teaching and re-teaching new content. I hope folks understand that teachers will circle back to the same content standards next year and will review and reteach as necessary. There is no urgency for my students to master the 10-step problem I walked them through on screen today. I hope they followed, but we’ll do it again later this week, and probably next week, and I’m sure they’ll do a similar problem again next year. I hope they know how proud I am of them for showing up and trying and that their parents feel the same. And even on days they don’t show up, even if they’re reading, cooking, or playing with toys instead of joining me for Math, I’m proud of them for learning how to enjoy Time.


I just hope that none of us make things too hard on ourselves. “How are the children?” If they’re well, then all is fine.


Here I include an excerpt about a traditional Maasai greeting:


“Among the many fabled and accomplished tribes of Africa, no tribe was considered to have warriors more fearsome or more intelligent than the mighty Masai. It’s surprising, then, to learn the traditional greeting passed among the Masai warriors; “Casserian Engeri,” one would always say to each other. And what it meant was, “And how are the children?”


“It is still the traditional greeting of the Masai, acknowledging the high value the Masai placed on the children’s well being. Even warriors with no children of their own would always give the traditional answer, “All the children are well.” This meant, of course, that peace and safety prevail; the priorities of protecting the young and the powerless are in place; that the Masai people had not forgotten their reason for being, their proper function, and their responsibilities.


“All the children are well” means life is good.”


http://www.sedl.org/txcc/resources/strategies/ayp/RocksRiversandWetBabies13/AndHowAretheChildren.pdf



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