I thought I would highlight some of the phrases and comments I have heard during my zoom sessions in the past few weeks, while I have been teaching from my shed.
“Mrs. Iler- I am not sure how you say this, but you are old, I didn’t know you were 41
(from my student who has only been in the country for 6 months.)”
“Mrs. Iler- your audio isn’t working. Just teach us in the chat box.”
“Mrs Iler I have to turn off my video for a minute, because I need to help my little brother.”
“Mrs. Iler I am so sorry I was late to zoom, I finally got to go to the school to get food. Guess, what? We have milk cartons in our refrigerator again!”
“Mrs. Iler I am sorry to interrupt, but have you looked outside. The flames are getting bigger on the hillside.”
“Mrs. ller, I have to work from my bed because there is no other quiet place in my house. I live in a really small apartment.”
“Mrs. Iler I got the books that you packed up for me! I finally have books to read again.”
Why am I writing this? I have seen children be more resilient in the past 3 weeks than I have seen in my nineteen years of teaching. The hurdles each student and teacher has to jump through daily can feel unsurmountable. Just this past week, our local community was experiencing a raging fire in the foothills. Some parts of the town were placed on possible evacuation orders. However, we were charged with the task to teach, have children engaged with the material on zoom, and provide feedback in a timely manner.
As I taught from a smoke filled shed on zoom, I have gained more empathy for each child and I have seen the inequities of education. SBAC scores, reading levels, math fact fluency, although these are important markers for academic success- this data is not the driving force behind my teaching right now. . .
When I see where my children’s learning environments are, I need to celebrate that they made it to zoom and showed up to class each day.
Now, more than ever, we need to put aside our implicit biases about why children are falling between the cracks and whether or not funds should be spent on education, and work as a team.
In two decades, I have maybe done a few home visits. I left that to the school counselor and the administrators to check up on children. As of August 19, 2020, each morning, I get a glimpse of each family's morning routines, the antics of the family dynamics, and I receive a detailed home visit tour. As teachers, we all want to say thank you for allowing us into your homes and being vulnerable. We care more than ever about the well being of your children.
Although this entry may seem to be a bit dismal, there is a ray of hope. My 22 students have the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. They are pliable and they have mental elasticity. I see it first hand, each day.
I don’t think adults could have the same flexibility to learn new content on a digital platform, without adequate materials, with noise in the background, and respond using academic language. As I was teaching how to divide decimals this week, I took a step back and just observed my students. There were fire engines racing up my street, and the children were focused, attentive, and even eager to share out their ideas on zoom. This is truly an act of magic.
I would not have thought in my wildest dreams last year that teachers would be welcoming their new classes this way. However, I also would not have had a chance to form a community of trust among my students and families. As teachers, we know some years are more exceptional than others with the groups of students we have. I know that this class will be a class that I will remember for a lifetime. Each face that shows up on my screen every morning, reminds me why I have chosen this calling to be a teacher. Children are refreshing, they have a new perspective on life, they have dreams and aspirations that reignite adults’ thinking.
According to Benjamin Disraeli “Almost everything that is great has been done by youth.” I believe this generation will surprise us all by their leadership, their voices, and their tenacity to learn and create.
So if you see a child this week or a teacher that you know, take a moment and congratulate them for persevering this year. They need those words of encouragement to keep moving forward.