We are in a moment and a season of change – literally and figuratively. If I weren’t reading everything I can get my hands on about Covid 19 and instead was just looking out my office window, I would be taking note of the fact that spring is not just coming – it is here. The sun is shining down from a clear blue sky and it is warm enough to walk the dog without wearing gloves and warm boots. However, all is not what it appears, and anxiety about the new virus has risen to new levels in many cities across the country.
This week, as schools are closing or preparing to close in an attempt to stem the transmission of Covid 19, I tried to slow myself down enough to really notice and take in the sights and sounds of my daughter’s school when I drop her off in the morning and pick her up at the end of the day — to really take in the solace of seeing the attentive crossing guard ushering children laden with backpacks and musical instruments across the busy road; to really feel the calm silence as I sit alone in my car waiting for the doors to the gym to open at 4:45; to really watch, with quiet comfort, as children wearing cleats and helmets meander out toward the carpool line, their heads tilted toward one another, their faces nearly touching as they put off saying goodbye. These are some of the things, as a person and a parent, that I love the most about having a school-age child, and about school itself — the coming together, the felt warmth of connection, the pulling apart, the restoring and readying for the coming together again the next day.
As an educator and a student myself, I have also taken some time to notice what is happening as schools serving learners of all ages shift their teaching and learning online in an effort to keep us all healthy. I was not always the most receptive educator to the disruptive aspects of technology, but ever since we brought tablets, laptops, and cell phones into our classrooms, I have felt the winds of change around me and have done what I can to face them. I have had empathy for those educators who have “shut the window” to those winds, disallowing technology, limiting it, or leaving it to our students to figure out and leverage. I have felt admiration for those educators who have “loosened their hair” to those winds, ceding control, bit by bit, to the classroom collective inclusive of both our students and the wider world, seeking to shift their thinking, practice, and cultural norms to not just tolerate technology but to use, appreciate, and celebrate it. And I have acknowledged myself as part of the vast majority of educators who have done some combination of these things – we have made room for technology, sought to know about it and understand how to use it, and begun to weave it into our instructional design alongside the many other tools we have at our disposal.
At the National Association of Independent School’s annual conference in Philadelphia two weeks ago, I happened to be staying in the same hotel with the founder of Global Online Academy and noticed him meeting with decision makers in schools as they prepared to respond to Covid 19 by moving their classrooms to online spaces, which GOA has already done and done very well. This week, I took a moment to try to feel what I hope GOA is feeling – the deep satisfaction of having prepared not just effectively, but creatively and humanely, for the future — and to feel gratitude to them and others who have looked the future in the face and welcomed it. Take a moment to check out their free and exceptional online course on designing for online learning and their Covid 19 resources.
There can be no doubt: change is scary; change is hard; change is inevitable; change is exciting. We have known for some time that we are living in a time of tremendous change, yet this week, we know it more deeply. Today, educators everywhere are called to step up our online game and not just use but leverage technology – to connect meaningfully with our students; to give them opportunities to deepen their understandings and demonstrations of both knowledge and skill; to grow more comfortable with our roles as guides, mentors, and sounding boards as well as teachers; and to ensure that the warmth of human connection and learning that we all need and depend on to live, work, and enjoy our lives continues to transmit on any channel we have at our disposal.