Back in the day before shaming kids was frowned upon – that is, during my first year or two as a teacher – I used to ask kids who weren’t paying attention to teach the lesson to the class. And the results weren’t pretty and certainly not educationally-beneficial.
As my conception of understanding material evolved, so too did my methods (thankfully). No longer was it a punishment to have to explain components of a lesson. Instead, it presented kids the chance to breakdown concepts in their own words. They then could relay them to their peers who could access the material better because it was in their own language. If they could explain it, they owned it.
As we continue to adjust to this new self-isolation that has seen learning move to the digital classroom, students are reading and responding to texts, participating in discussions, asking each other questions and getting real feedback. Whether they realize it or not, they’re also advancing their education, for in being able to explore concepts and explain them in our own words, they grow their understanding – just as students did on a regular basis in the classroom through small and whole class activities.
In their responses they type over the computer, I know it’s them for the most part – not because of the grammatical mistakes, which there are some – but because they type like they speak. And that makes me smile because it’s some semblance of before in a time where the only question on everyone’s mind is what happens next.
No, it’s not perfect. Certain classroom activities like Jigsaws and silent conversations and tabletops I’m still trying to figure out how to translate into the digital realm. And some of the lesson walkthroughs I have done are as awkward as middle school dances, maybe more (see the first one I did – I’ll be posting these periodically for comic relief).
I’m also negotiating just how much should go into each lesson since I’m only seeing roughly 50% participation, so I do not want anyone to become overwhelmed. Because, let’s be honest, there are more important issues right now than completing one assignment for ELA.
With my psyche in shambles at least in the beginning of this, I can’t imagine how children are coping with all that is going on – losing their social hub (school), losing the structure they never realized they longed for until now, losing the engagement of the classroom and some dynamic educators. This is the best/worst example of you never know how well you have it until you don’t have it anymore:
Virtually no kid would ever complain about not having school. Unless it’s indefinite.
Yet, children are the most resilient of all of us – they’re the roses that grow from concrete (Tupac), the light that cannot be extinguished even darkest of days, for whether they realize it or not, they’re “rag[ing] against the dying of the light” (Dylan Thomas – “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”).
I take solace in the fact that so many students are legitimately taking ownership of their own education and trying their best to navigate without actually hearing their words, their voices, and those of their peers.
But I know their voices are still there. And they will be when this is all over too. That’s what’s calling to me from the end of the tunnel. Our kids, our light, guiding us even if we’re not yet sure where the actual end is.