Today my five year old granddaughter was here. She and her three year old brother helped me make and eat a batch of pancakes, then we all decorated my house for Halloween.
After a few more games and a light lunch of dry cereal (their choice, not mine!), Ellie got ready for her remote kindergarten class.
The school district where Ellie is enrolled, and where her Mom is a teacher, has given families the option of a hybrid school year or a fully remote year. Neither choice seemed perfect leading into the fall, and neither seemed to offer everything that Ellie should have in her first school experience.
But given the uncertainties of the pandemic, and our fear/belief that all schools will be shut down for remote learning by the time flu season emerges, Ellie’s parents decided to have her go remote.
Today I got to see remote kindergarten learning first hand, and I am overwhelmed with relief and admiration.
I should add here that I have been watching a fair amount of C-Span over the past few months. I have watched countless elected officials, media personalities and famous faces struggling to manage Zoom calls and remote meetings. I can’t even count the number of times I have heard Congressional hearings interrupted by “Senator, please unmute. Senator?” I’ve even seen the Supreme Court held up as one Justice or another struggled to find the “video on” button.
But today I watched a group of five year olds and a young teacher engaging in play, sharing ideas, learning about shapes and letters, and having movement breaks. Every one of the kids was attentive and happy to be there. Our Ellie was glowing with pleasure as she interacted with her “friends”.
The kids can handle it. They are resilient, flexible and open. They think this is the coolest adventure.
And the teachers?
Holy God, these people are heroes. Absolute freakin’ heroes.
In a mere six months, the entire educational system has been rebooted, restructured and reorganized. Everything that teachers once held dear, from cooperative learning to small group instruction, has been turned on its head.
It has all been rebuilt, and these dedicated, loving educators have just shrugged and put on their PPE and learned how to do everything differently.
I am in awe.
I am humbled by the courage of the teachers who are in those classrooms, and the ones who are teaching groups of kids they have never met in person. I can’t imagine the pressure of trying to control behavior, foster friendships, teach academics and monitor progress all through the fuzzy lens of Zoom or Google Classroom. I can’t begin to understand what it feels like to be in a room with kids you can’t hug, or lean close to, or put into working pairs. I don’t even want to think about trying to hold the attention of 10 or 15 antsy children in a cold classroom with open windows, and all while wearing a mask.
But they are doing it. The kids are embracing it all. The teachers are doing what teachers have always done. All of them are adjusting to this new life, finding the humor in it and moving along like always.
Everything will be OK. Because the kids are going to make it OK. And the teachers are going to help them.
16 thoughts on “Here’s Why I Think We’ll Be OK.”
Thanks for this encouraging perspective!
Wonderful upbeat post! I’m so happy your granddaughter’s virtual experience is going well:)
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This is a wonderful and reassuring post. Thanks so much for it. I’m reblogging, Karen…
Thanks!! It was so great, Judy, just watching her blossom and seeing how well she independently manages the iPad. She chats about her teacher all the time!
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Reblogged this on lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown and commented:
If you’re worried about kids and remote learning, read this great essay by Karen at Empty Nest, Full Life.
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I’m glad you were impressed. It sounds like they have managed to put together an engaging experience for those kids. The last time I spoke to one of my sons, he was less than complimentary about their online experience. With the build up of SEL education over the past few years his school district has spent the first two weeks with touchy feely exercises that are boring his kids to death. They want real school. I know my own district was big on social emotional skills, but since I have no kids in school now, I am less “in the Know.” I can hear my own kids, especially the boys, groaning. You would think no one had ever considered the social emotional environment before. It is turning into just another opportunity for consultants and publishing companies to clean up. there is no doubt that we want to encourage a well educated awareness of the importance of social emotional health and the importance of integrating practice into daily activities, but two weeks straight of nothing but is overkill.
Our school (where I taught, and where my daughter is now) has been using the Responsive Classroom model. We focused almost exclusively on social emotional skills for the first couple of weeks, too, but I do think its different in person. We did team building games, creating our own set of classroom rights and responsibilities, and just getting ourselves to feel like a functioning community. I found that by doing that, the academics were much smoother and our ability to work together and support each other all year was much greater. But it has to be engaging! The kids need to be the drivers of the activities. Much harder to do that remotely.
My own school system has integrated a social emotional focus into the normal day for as long as I can remember, especially with the youngest students where functioning in a group is an integral part of the curriculum. I remember going to the mom’s room when one of my kids demonstrated that it was okay for mom to not be within view during those first days of kindergarten. It was a real step forward for some kids when a mom was allowed to actually go home. My point was that all SEL was well integrated into the daily routine; it was not the blatant center of attention. I know they will get better at it; from what I can tell, they were quite good at integrating SEL when school was bricks and mortar. The suspicion is that their district spent too much time planning for in-person instruction with little energy devoted to virtual learning, so now they have to play catch-up.
Oh, I totally understand! Sorry that I misread it. This whole virtual learning thing is just so sad and hard; building the plane while flying it……
Yay to the teachers and students, too. They are making it happen, pandemic be damned. Heather is the lead second grade teacher in that remote school. A challenge, for sure, but they are all making the best of it. Thanks for sharing, Karen,
We are all so very lucky to be associated with AB. They have done a remarkable job of supporting everyone. I’m so so so impressed with the remote school model. Not every district is able to pull off something like that!
Thank you for this post. As a retired teacher, 1 year out of a wonderful 35 year career, the spouse of a teacher, and the parent of 2 teachers, I understand the effort and dedication teachers put into their work. The safest place is at home, for everyone. It is a very different world right now and adaptation is possible.
My gratitude and support to your husband and kids! Teachers are always expected to just suck it up and keep going; they are the very backbone of our society, as we now see. Yet so few people understand how much they give! Yesterday Boston news was covering the story of a fourth grader who was sent home for sneezing and having a runny nose. His parents were outraged. What the heck to people expect?
It’s true, kids are way more resilient than we give them credit for, let’s keep teaching them the fundamentals of positive thinking!
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