Finally, it’s sunny out, melting some of the snow and allowing me to see the grass beneath. Hope. My daughter and I are still in self-isolation, or at least for me, and her being in the same space…well we are all in this together. Lets adapt. Having just got off of FaceTime with my daughter and her kids, I am thinking of my earlier brief conversation (brief is the operative word) with my 9-year old grandson as he shares that he was working on his on-line grade 4 work that his teacher has created for him and his classmates. Of course, anything to do with teaching, I am all ears. It is a passion of mine even though I am semi-retired from teaching (doing a bit of subbing or was). And now, my grandson’s education takes on a new look as his classroom teacher has had to adapt to her circumstance. This certainly wasn’t in the textbooks and curriculum of BoEd 101. But teachers breathe, its all good.
Oh I do feel for you as teachers (and students and their families for sure). Todays educational environment reminds me adaptation is the mantra of late. This takes me way back (with a smile mind you) to my first teaching experience in northern Ontario on a Native reserve, 300 km north of Thunder Bay. You could only get there by flying in on a Beaver or Cesna airplane which either landed on the gravelled runway or nearby lake (or in the winter you can drive your car over bush roads and frozen lakes). Greeted by the principal, he put us in the bed of truck with luggage, bouncing precariously on a wooden bench, heading towards the compound of the school buildings and teacherages. Out of my element. Oh yes. Did I want to teach? Absolutely. Was I ready? Yes and no. It was the best and worse experience I had in terms of teaching but it taught me that teaching is more than the lesson plans. To me, I think it was more about adapting to my students, the environment and their situation. I can honestly say BEd program did not quite prepare me for my first teaching assignment.
Just imagine entering your very own first classroom. It turns out to be 30 grade 6 ELL students of 20 boys and 10 girls, a local Band hall of the Reserve out in the middle of field (one long rectangular clap board room), kicked over outhouse at the side of the hall, shared space with an disgruntled grade 7 teacher with 30 ELL students, 15 student worn-out double desks, no teacher desk, 1 to 3 ratio of dated text books, one box of broken chalk for a broken chalkboard, two pencils per student for first term, be a kilometre away from the main school buildings, have a limited amount of paper to make work sheets from a mimeograph drum machine (ink all over my hands- oh those were the days), and to top it all off, work with an outdated Canadian curriculum that was not really relevant or supportive to the local Native community. No go-to places to get back-up material to enhance learning. No Scholar’s Choice or Walmart or Staples or Indigo or Dollar Store/Tree or Michaels. Nope. Not even a Tim Horton’s – and I am not even a coffee drinker. One store only – one-stop shopping Hudson Bay General Store. But in the end, what did I learn about teaching…to adapt and modify to work with what I had and what I knew.
Oh the good old days. So my heart definitely goes out to the educational community who are working through and adapting to their present circumstance. Bless your hearts and praise to you all especially teachers. It cannot and will not be easy because that is not your reference or your learning environment. This is not a normal situation so the way of doing things may be outside the box. That is okay. Give yourself a break and know that your efforts are important. You make a difference, remember that.
Teachers have a powerful voice. There is a wonderful poem written by a child to a parent and has been adapted to teachers called When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking. It reminds me of the impact teachers have unbeknownst to what teachers may think. Students pay attention. I would want to find out what the situation is at each home so that you can adapt to the needs of students environment (print, on-line, combination). I would also be making calls to each of the students each week (maybe call at least 2-3 times per week to check in by setting up a date and time). Why? They need to know you care, calm them. Maybe send emails through gmail accounts, find some way to assure its all good, you are okay, let them know their friends are okay, let them know their own things in desk or cubby or locker at school are safe, let them know other teachers/support staff/principal/VP are okay. Check out food programs available when necessary.
Just remember you are not alone. You got this.
Pondering for the day – Let us think of those in the front lines especially the parents/relatives of students in your classroom (or in your own family). They may be on the front lines serving the island: medical staff, truckers, long care facility care workers, volunteers with food programs, drivers, waste management, essential business staff, custodians, and any who serve others. Blessings to you all.