Teaching Under Lockdown

This morning, I caught a tweet about Sue Dunlop‘s recent blog post on Leadership and Learning Under Lockdown. While I left a comment on the post, I also struggled through the wording of my comment. 

Once again, I found myself back in that Teacher Leadership course from last year, and questioning if I’m a leader. But whether using the word choice of “teacher” or “leader,” I could really connect to so much of what Sue says here. 

I’m definitely an introvert, and I’m happy to spend days on end readingIt’s one of the things that I look forward to the most about summer break. And while I continue to enjoy reading during my extra time at home, from a teaching/learning perspective, I really miss the classroom. My teaching partner, Paula, and I speak frequently about the importance of relationships, and we build our classroom around these strong relationships. Recently, I was listening to an ECOO Podcast featuring a high school teacher, Alanna King.

Listen to “EP 05 Alanna King” on Spreaker.

I could connect to a lot of what she said here, but what gave me pause, was her comment around the fact that when all of this happened, at least relationships/connections were already formed. On one hand, I agree, but on another, I think that at least for our young learners, we needed to form online relationships before learning could happen.

  • Some kids are scared.
  • They can read — and do respond to — adult stress.
  • They miss people. They miss their friends. They miss their teachers. They miss their class.
  • They miss normal. They need to see what a “new normal” looks and feels like.

It was for all of these reasons that Paula and I decided to create an online classroom. Nobody has to come. A few never do, and some peek in every once in a while. That’s okay. But for some kids, our Google Meeting (which we’re slowly transitioning over to a Microsoft Team) is what they look forward to the most. Their smiles literally light up the screen. There’s one child who always stays until the very end, even if he has nothing to share, because he wants to say, “Goodbye!” It’s sweet. It’s heartbreaking. But these connections — as different as they are from what we had before — make me smile the most every single day. 

I think that I really realized my need for these connections on Monday. We had just started the meeting when my screen froze. Oh no! I tried to get out and login again, and I was told that I had “no connection to the Internet.” What?! I saw the wifi bars at the top of my computer screen, but the computer wasn’t picking up wifi. I tried my iPad. It wasn’t working either. I ran upstairs to reset the modem, but I still received an error message. Talk about terrible timing. Now I knew that Paula was in the room and could handle things — Internet goes down, and it’s out of our control — but I didn’t want to miss out on this meeting. 

  • I needed to see the class.
  • I needed to hear kids’ ideas.
  • I wanted to be a part of this.

And so, in my loungewear, I packed up my laptop and iPad and drove over to the nearest school … about two minutes away. I knew that I could pull close to the door and hopefully pick up the wifi signal from inside. (Without a Smart Phone — call this a #firstworldproblem 🙂 — this was my only option.) Thankfully it worked! While a few dog walkers gave me some strange looks as I helped co-host a meeting from my car, I was still able to be a part of the conversation. I could connect with both the kids and with Paula. 

The best part about all of this is when Paula realized that I wasn’t in the Meet Room — she joins through her phone, so doesn’t see the whole screen — she had a student help her facilitate questions and sharing. Not only did this five-year-old demonstrate some amazing leadership, but she inspired us to support more student leadership. Now other kids help choose those that share and support this ease of sharing. And so, on Monday, I was able to join back in to observe student leadership in action, and that made this call super special. 

While I know how much these online interactions mean to me, they’re definitely different than seeing kids in person.

  • I miss the children that throw themselves into you because they’re so excited to show you right up close exactly what they love.
  • I miss how a look, a gentle touch on the shoulder, or even a move up close can help redirect or support kids without saying a word. 
  • I miss how a “close up observation” and a quick hello, can tell you so much about what a child is thinking and feeling and how best to respond. 
  • I miss the ease of seamless turn-taking that occurs when nobody has to worry about muting and unmuting a microphone.
  • I miss the sound of everyone’s voices together, when we say The Turtle Island Welcome, sing our Sound Alphabet Song, or even read something together as a group.

But as much as I miss, I’m happy to have these daily calls with our class. When Paula and I sent out instructions for joining our new Microsoft Team, we made sure to include “leave on the video.” Usually this is discouraged, especially in a larger group. As Sue also shared in her post, a picture or a bubble doesn’t suffice for the kinds of connections that we’re trying to make right now. In an online classroom context, sometimes seeing a person without even saying a word, can have the biggest impact of all!

A Practice Call With Myself 🙂

Our online classroom connections aren’t perfect, and as I shared in a recent blog post, we continue to reflect and tweak the process, but when teaching under lockdown, they’re the moments that seem to matter the most. As an educator, administrator, parent, or student, how have you adapted to this new reality? Have these adaptations made things better for you and/or others? Thanks Sue for starting such an important discussion!


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