It is still the traditional “week before school starts”, but this is one of those unusual years the occur once every six years where we need days before Labour Day in order to fit all of the school days between Labour Day and the end of June.
So today is Day 3 for our teachers, who are concluding all of the health and safety professional learning that is necessary to keep our students safe. It’s now mostly online, so many of them are completing it at home, and then heading into school to attempt to make their rooms safe. Many will be trying to achieve physical distancing that is mathematically impossible within their crowded classrooms.
So, perhaps those who have been declared excess to their schools, and who will soon learn that they will be joining our online school, will be relieved. I’m thinking a lot about how our new online school will be unique as we build it with teachers who were at the lowest on our seniority lists, and students whose parents fear for their safety in our “bricks and mortar” schools.
And it will be my job, as their Principal, to make it the best learning experience for students and teachers.
So, what did I learn on Day 3?
- When you are kicked out of your “class” you need a back-channel to let your teacher know. When I had to leave my Final Oral Examination (aka Defence), my advisor needed to reach me via cellphone to let me know to come back in. How will our students contact our teachers if their Internet goes down, or their device crashes?
- Sitting for 90 minutes in front of a camera is hard on the neck. Now, mind you, this was an exam. But for many of our students their interactions with their teachers feel like an exam. How can we support our students to sustain their attention, and remain physically healthy?
- When the class ends, so does the social connection. In a “bricks and mortar” school, the conversation continues as we head out of class, and out to the bus or car. That easing, and gentle shifting of focus, is important. How jarring will it be for our students to say goodbye, take off the headphones, and be back in their home world?
My online session ended with congratulations from my examining committee and a new title, “Dr. Whitmell”.
But the feeling when I closed my laptop, and took off my headphones, was a strong wish to be with people, not sitting alone in a room. I felt let both let down and frustrated, with excited and relieved. How will I, as one of our online school’s leaders, support my teachers and my students once our school day ends?