I started Day 30 with my usual trip through my Inbox, addressing questions from our teachers before the school day began.
Then our admin team met with one of our teacher leaders, who has been working with us to prepare for next week’s planned staff meeting. About 10 minutes into this meeting I was feeling overwhelmed by the task of taking a slide deck created by someone else, speaker notes that were becoming too dense to read easily, and a new-to-me medium of MS teams to meet with my designated group of teachers. My suggestion that we create a live event, rather than multiple simultaneous sessions lead by each of us, was thankfully adopted. It’s still going to be a new experience for us, but we can focus our efforts and communicate a single, consistent message to our school of more than 500 teachers. We will also have time to do a “dry run” on Tuesday, so that we might encounter fewer glitches for the real meeting on Wednesday.
When I made it back to my inbox, and my daily check of Facebook and Twitter, the conversation had grown around the rumoured changes to our instructional models. I spent some time in conversation on the phone with one teacher regarding her concerns about the possible switch from fully online into a hybrid model. I was, again, reminded of our teachers’ dedication to their students; this teacher has accommodations to work from home, and so is guaranteed to remain online. Her worries are for our districts’ students and teachers.
A few weeks ago I challenged Jennifer Gonzalez (@cultofpedagogy), author of the Cult of Pedagogy blog and podcast, when she asked for suggestions to improve teaching online and in hybrid settings. I was looking for ways for teachers to improve the student-to-student networking and communication, prioritizing it over the transmission model from teacher to student. She rose to the challenge, and her blog, How to Teach When Everyone is Scattered is a gold-mine for teachers faced with what appears to be an impossible task. I met Jennifer when she was a keynote at our board’s summer conference for teachers several years ago.
I am not going to repeat her content here, but I will summarize her key points:
- Create Student Cohorts
- Limit the Synchronous
- Chunk the Time
- Build Community Intentionally
- Experiment with Cameras and Screens
- Optimize Discussions
And she concludes with advice that I wish I had written: “Consider teaching in a post-COVID world to be the most massive project-in-Beta ever. It’s going to be messy, but that’s how humans learn and grow and adapt. Continue to experiment, fall apart on the days when it’s your turn (because everyone seems to need a turn every now and then), ask students and parents for feedback, observe other teachers when you can, and most importantly, keep giving yourself and your students grace.”
As we head into our Thanksgiving Long Weekend here in Canada, please give yourself grace. My grandmother was “Mary Grace”, my mother is “Bette Grace”, and my husband and I named our daughter “Emma Grace”, and its meaning has become stronger to me in the past eight months of this pandemic. Merriam-Webster provides 17 definitions of grace. In its biblical roots, grace refers to mercy and forgiveness. In its more modern definition it may be used to mean ease and suppleness.
I wish our teachers grace in all its forms.