Last month, I shared my #oneword for July, as I continue to explore monthly goals and new learning. My Camp Power experiences had me thinking about leadership, and the role that connections play in leading. I continue to be really interested in a constructivist approach to leadership, and even our in-camp professional learning focuses on letting instructors share ideas and co-problem solve. While the other Site Lead and I are involved in these conversations, we are just one of many voices. It was this kind of problem solving that made me think about my word for August.
Recently, I had a conversation with an instructor about attendance. She noticed some lower numbers and wondered why there might be this drop in participation. Is there something that she could do to increase attendance? While there are all kinds of reasons for a dip in virtual learning attendance during the summer months — from the nice weather to other camp programs to a desire from kids and parents to step away from the screens — I think there’s something to be said for questioning and reflecting on observations, and possibly, exploring changes.
This made me think a lot about the discussions that my teaching partner, Paula, and I had throughout the school year, but especially during our time teaching remotely. We were always wondering.
- How could we increase [Name]’s participation?
- How could we increase numbers in our afternoon meeting time, which was often smaller?
- How could we increase the stamina for some children who stayed for shorter periods of time?
- How could we better document the learning that happened online?
- How could we get children to reflect more on what they did online, and extend this learning the next day?
- How could we personalize learning experiences for all children, whether during small group times or larger group times?
- How could we create more small group and/or 1:1 times online, and what might be the benefit in doing so?
- Is there a way to create these small group and 1:1 times, but be present for them together, so that we could learn more from each other as well as from the child?
- How could we give all parents what they want out of virtual learning, while still holding true to the pedagogy in the Kindergarten Program Document?
- How could we be responsive to students, while still providing warning to parents of any special materials or projects for remote learning?
- How might we best address important, but sensitive, topics online, and how can we include families in addressing these topics?
- How might we engage that child that never seems engaged? Is there more that we could be doing?
- How can we make necessary changes to our virtual program, while still holding onto the semblance of routine, which seems to reduce stress for our learners?
I would like to say that these are all of our questions, but they’re not. I’d also like to say that we figured out answers to all of these questions, but we didn’t. It’s this last part that brings me to this month’s word: uncertain.
As Doug Peterson shared in a recent blog post, we’re just starting to hear the Ontario government’s plans for schools this year. Soon Boards will be sharing their plans. Then it’s up to classroom educators to take the restrictions and scale the condo wall to explore what’s possible. Paula and I have each been in education for over 20 years. Last year was hard. Really hard. There were many moments when I broke down into tears and questioned how we were going to make it work. Was there more that we could do? Should we be changing our approach? I was so grateful to have Paula there to question with me. To offer new possibilities. To let me know when we should wait it out. And to creep over into the land of uncertain: to try some different approaches with the hope that they would work. Some did. Others didn’t. Some we’ll likely try again this year, and others we won’t. One thing that we’ll keep doing though is questioning.
I think about first year teachers and the TPA process. Whether a beginning teacher or an experienced one, does this process make us feel as though we have to have it all figured out? Instead of trampling through the mucky waters of uncertainty, does it make us feel more “certain” than we need to be? I think that questioning is such a big part of reflecting, and that it’s so important for educators and administrators in any year of service. How do we share our uncertainty with others and become more confident is voicing what is not working as well as what is? I don’t have education all figured out, and I probably never will. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Would you?
“Instead of trampling through the mucky waters of uncertainty, does it make us feel more “certain” than we need to be? ”
I think there’s a lot of to think about in that statement. Yes, the plan on the surface makes it look like there’s a return to normal feel about things. I think that the wisest route is to keep eyes open especially carefully. There’s a real sense that things moved too quickly south of our border where they’re reporting 100 000 new cases a day. A caution and wise reopening makes sense to me; it would make me sick to my stomach to see a return to infections in schools.
Thanks for the comment, Doug! You make a really important point here. You also have me thinking about something else. Regardless of what the restrictions are on paper, we have to remember that for almost two years now, we’ve been told about the importance of distancing. The other day, I met a friend for breakfast. We could eat inside or on the patio. As soon as I went inside the restaurant, I knew that we had to eat outside. Even though tables were spread apart, there were just so many people. Kids might also be feeling this uncertainty if there are lots of students in each classroom. While I’d love for our kindergarteners to be able to play together again, I wonder if some will also crave the space and comfort that were their norm before. Paula and I have already been discussing ways to offer both options depending on what the required restrictions happen to be. I wonder if other educators are contemplating something similar.
Such a great post, friend. I am always wary of people (and especially educators) who claim to have all “it all figured out”. How?? I feel like the act of questioning and wading through the muddy waters of uncertainty is often what brings joy to the act of teaching. Question pedagogy and co-learning with students is so necessary and important. I do know that having the answers to some of your questions would make you feel more settled as September approaches but I also know that you will continue to model this uncertainty for both your fellow educators and your students and that is important work.
Thanks for the comment, Beth! I just want to shout “yes” in response to everything you’ve shared here. You’ve truly captured all of my thinking and beliefs in your reply. While I think that the answers to some of my questions about September would make me feel more settled, I don’t feel as on edge as I thought that I might be. I wonder if wading through this uncertainty with Paula — and others online — make it better. Is this where we all need our people? Thanks for being one of mine!