Teaching at a distance
After I finished my journalism Master's degree in 2018, I took a break from this blog. There's plenty of teaching blogs out there, I thought — what might mine add? I don't know if I have an answer to that question, but more than a month into COVID-19 and safer-at-home orders, I think it's important we take time to make a record of what this time has been like in education. I would never dream of speaking for "all teachers" since our experiences are so profoundly different depending on where we live, what resources our schools and students have and what our personal situations are, but I can speak to my own life as a teacher and how teaching has changed for me. Since I'm finishing my 23rd year in education, I've been around the block a couple of times, but nothing (not even 9/11) compares to this.
So I'm back, for now at least, and will start here. "Here" is Monday, April 27, at 10 a.m on my patio. I live in the foothills of the Angeles National Forest in Los Angeles, and I'm sitting at a table outside getting ready for class. I spent several hours yesterday revising my final English unit of the year (money, class and happiness in The Great Gatsby) and trying to figure out how I will balance Zoom video class discussions with asynchronous learning opportunities so my junior literature students don't get completely overwhelmed with screens. Gatsby is such a complex book that my normal classroom is heavily discussion-based as we work through it, but that just won't work in this environment.
I could turn to the hundreds of emails and links and folders full of remote teaching resources out there, but...to be honest, I can't handle them. I've found my best path forward is to ask my colleagues for specific advice about specific situations ("Who has a good reading journal assignment tool I could modify for online?") rather than attempting to swim through the sea of resources looking for one specific type of fish. When I've attempted that in that past, I've gone under a few times, and a drowning teacher can't help her students.
The other half of my job is as the head of scholastic journalism at our school, which means I teach and advise our online digitial newspaper, The Oracle, and our print yearbook, Hestia's Flame. I was on a Zoom call with my two yearbook co-editors-in-chief yesterday looking through the editoral applications for next year's yearbook board. I still can't believe that I'm not going to be able to see them in person before they leave for college. I've taught them for four years and know them so well, but I won't be able to give them each a big hug when they graduate. The same goes for my other seniors in both publications classes. So much change, but we don't have the usual rituals to work our ways through it.
I've come inside as I continue to write this blog. Two gardeners — masked for safety — have arrived to help clear our yard. We haven't had anyone here in six weeks, and we live in a high-danger fire area. Our deadline to clear brush is this Friday. They will be weed whacking as I attempt to Zoom with my class in 45 minutes. I'll have to figure out how to manage the noise somehow.
This first post is a bit of a placeholder. I have a lot to say, but I need time to say it. Feeling like I needed to say it just right is why I haven't blogged yet, so consider this my attempt to start somewhere.
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“And though she be but little, she is fierce!” -A Midsummer Night’s Dream