COVID-19 Diaries: A New Kind of LearningApril 1, 2020
Amy Braswell (AR '02) teaches fourth grade at Don R. Roberts Elementary School in Little Rock. This article was originally published on the Insight ADVANCE blog and is shared here with permission.
Life as we know it is grinding to a halt and my heart, like yours, is heavy. We are educators, but we also play many more roles in this life and so many people are counting on us. It’s a lot, isn’t it? We knew that as things ramped up in our world with COVID-19, closing schools might be a possibility, but we weren’t expecting that announcement at noon on Thursday, March 12, in Little Rock, Arkansas. It all happened so fast. I barely had time to properly say “goodbye” to my students. I had a hard time even looking at them without becoming emotional that afternoon. These are scary and uncertain times for adults, but I didn’t want my kids to leave me feeling scared. Now, several weeks later, I feel scattered and I’m missing my classroom family so much.
Even so, encouraging things are happening all around us. Social media is lighting up with ideas for families to use for learning at home. Companies across the globe are offering their services to our families and it’s exciting to think of the possibilities. Virtual field trips to museums, Broadway shows, national parks, and even rides at Disney World. Authors are reading our favorite stories online, and artists and musicians are treating us to lessons and concerts. All of this is wonderful, but it doesn’t replace the relationships and the human contact that solidify real learning in our classrooms. I’m so thankful for the many ways I can keep that connection alive through this time of Distance Learning. I am a “vintage” teacher, and I’m not as up to date on all the latest and greatest apps as some of you younger teachers, but I can tell you one thing: I am quickly embracing the power that lies in the connectivity that technology can bring us at a time like this.
Learning must continue for every single child
As these first weeks of Distance Learning come to an end, with at least several more in our future, my school family is digging in to reach out to the families that might need help with connectivity at this time. Unfortunately, the reality is that not all of our students have devices at home that will allow them to complete online tasks. In fact, in many cases, these are our most vulnerable students who will need our support in these coming days most of all. Our plan is to deliver devices to these families to ensure learning continues for every child. Every single one! Stakeholders in the community are opening up their wifi, making it available in parking lots all across our city, so that every child will have access in one way or another. I wish it for every child in our nation in the coming weeks. Our kids need more than worksheet packets to keep learning and growing. They need us!
When I was a child, we heard of a time in the distant future when we would be able to see the face of the person we were speaking with on the phone, but I couldn’t imagine that! I’m so blessed that in my lifetime this is not only a reality, but the tip of the iceberg. Video is a powerful tool for connecting in a real and honest way with each other, and with our students. It means the world to see their faces, hear their voices and get to visit with them and pour into them from my living room at home. They are counting on us, and their families need our support right now.
From where I’m sitting, it looks like our stock as educators just went way up. Parents are realizing and experiencing firsthand how difficult and demanding our jobs can be. Demanding, difficult, but also filled with so much joy and promise. I understand it is necessary but being out of the classroom just feels sad.
So, how do we make it through these difficult days as educators? We get up every day with the intention of making a difference in the world. We cling to that because we ARE the difference makers of the world. We are on the front lines with our nation’s greatest natural resource, its children. We know what it means to lay our lives on the line for other people’s kids, and for the good of our future. A virus isn’t going to stop that calling.
So carry on, teachers!
- Reach out and touch your children through the video capabilities that you have within your reach.
- Call your students and visit with them on the phone. Make sure they know you are thinking of them, that you care about them, and that you believe in them.
- Inspire and encourage them during this time of isolation and social distancing. It’s a perfect time to challenge them with creativity and innovation.
Let’s challenge ourselves, too! Dream big and never lose sight of the fact that this too shall pass. Because of this moment in history, our lives are being shaken, but maybe, just maybe, we will emerge from this stronger, because of this time that we spent being still, and remembering what’s really important in this world. Family is not canceled, love is not canceled, hope is not canceled. Cling to that and make time to take care of yourself in these crazy days. We are all in this together and I’m so grateful for my professional learning community. Keep the faith and be the light! This is definitely a new kind of learning adventure for all of us, but thank goodness we are on this journey together!
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