The post where I’m super honest and probably get my head chopped off….
I have a feeling this is not going to be a popular post, but I have to get it out before my head explodes. Or my heart. One of the two.
And before I say what I want to say, let’s remember that I think most teachers are rock stars who are grossly under appreciated. I spent my career in the classroom cheering on my fellow Super Colleagues while bemoaning the existence of other less-engaged colleagues who brought us all down. I know that not all teachers are created equally.
Speaking of equality…I am getting a front row seat to inequitable learning opportunities.
When I put on my Dr. Mimi hat, I am see so many teachers CRUSHING remote learning despite being thrown into it just a few weeks ago. Teachers are reading aloud to their students daily via Zoom, some are using padlets to set up virtual classroom libraries, they are sending personalized messages, checking in with students…they are connecting.
But when I put on my Mama Mimi hat, I am frustrated. I try very hard not to judge my children’s teachers but…hello. Have we met? One teacher is connecting daily in a class meeting, reading aloud almost daily, connecting with kids one-on-one who are struggling with particular concepts (oh ratio tables, how we hate you). She is encouraging students to share what they are doing at home with one another and trying to hold kids accountable for a certain standard of work. It’s not perfect, but holy effort, Batman.
Then we have my other child’s teacher. We get three daily assignments. They include prerecorded lessons that are split up across a team of teachers. We upload pictures of work. We get “feedback” that says “nice job.” No class read alouds, no personal connection, no emails about progress, no attempt at small group instruction or live whole group instruction, just three posted lessons. And I think to myself, “What are you doing? How are you trying to make this work for students?”
All of our lives have been turned upside down. I am momming so hard, it’s insane. But I need to be just that, a mom. I can’t also be their teacher. And while I agree that we should be breathing and building forts and baking elaborate muffins and just being together, I am having a hard time with learning totally stagnating as a result of a glaring disparity in opportunity.
UPDATE: I hear that some of you are disappointed in my post and I understand that I am making a pretty big judgement during a time that demands a lot of grace. In addition to grace, I think this time also merits a tremendous amount of honesty and reflection. So here we go….
Teachers who already understand the power of connections are using their strong relationships with children to make remote learning feel as okay as humanly possible with no notice or professional development. These are the teachers who are connecting with their students despite not being masters of this new technology. Sometimes that means the dog interrupts a lesson or a hungry child wanders onto the screen looking for a snack. Screen sharing might not work or the lesson won’t go as planned. I know these moments probably don’t feel great but in reality they have been incredibly humanizing and have only served to make students feel closer to their teachers. It is real. These teachers are serving as beautiful models of what it can look like to be honest about their personal situations, rise to the occasion and just give something a try.
There are also teachers out there who have not connected in real ways with their students this year. Who come in every day and check the box, assigning work and going through the motions of what it looks like to be a teacher. But we all know that teaching is much more than this. The intangible pieces of being a teacher are what bring learning to life, making it relevant and engaging for students. The teachers who phone it in have always made me angry. I believe they are holding us all back.
I believe in the power of teachers and the possibility for us to all be great. It is a challenge to work with teachers who did not share the same sense of responsibility. In my experience, it had nothing to do with an individual’s personal situation; I taught alongside people experiencing loss, going through treatment, working through a divorce…all the crappy things…and those who were awesome continued to rise by finding solace in this work and support from trusted colleagues.
Watching one of my minis experience school with a teacher who seems to just be going through the motions is painful. Seeing a coverage mentality in action sucks. Lost teeth, birthdays, stories of weekends are glossed over. Hearing my mini say that nothing at school is that much fun, even if it seems like it should be fun is heart breaking.