So… what IS this experience that I’m offering my students? (#solTuesday)

“It’s not only moving that creates new starting points. Sometimes all it takes is a subtle shift in perspective, an opening of the mind, an intentional pause and reset, or a new route to start to see new options and new possibilities.”

Kristin Armstrong

As witnessed by my post last week (and most of my March posts if you were following along!), I have been struggling to find my footing and my identity as a teacher in this new world of sheltering-in-place. This is my 17th year of teaching first and second grade… but all of that time and experience gets shifted sideways (and thrown a little topsy-turvy!) when this job is forced out of the “regular” classroom setting and its description changes multiple times over in an instant. I’ve tried out new online platforms, I’ve seen successes and failures in my attempts to pass on information to my first and second graders, I’ve used what I know about crafting efficient and effective minilessons to produce countless Flipgrid videos, I’ve used my carefully selected curricular material to guide my next lesson focus points, I’ve leaned on my ability to pick up new information and processes quickly, I’ve figured out ways to complete those feedback loops for each of my 30 students, and… I’ve just about burned myself out in less than two weeks by doing all of this whilst shriveling inwards and looking at my computer screen for 14+ hours a day. I think I whined about mentioned something last week about how what I was doing was not sustainable.

Yep. One thing was painfully clear: I needed a change.

I needed a shift. I needed new options and new possibilities. I absolutely needed to give myself some vernacular clarity this week. This article helped. It more than helped. It pulled me out of my hole. Once I reframed my definition of what I was trying to do, once I found that subtle shift in perspective, then those super weighty expectations of “normal teaching” during this time of crisis drifted right off of my shoulders, and my heart swelled open.

This is not a homeschooling experience that I’m offering students. Homeschooling is a choice that families make. There is no choice in what’s happening here.

This is not a distance learning experience that I’m offering students. I did not go to school to specifically learn about providing distance learning support. This is not an instructional approach that I planned for.

This is emergency remote learning. This is me, a first and second grade teacher, trying with every inch of myself to keep a sense of connection and humanity alive in my learning center. This is me, offering optional daily educational experiences to 30 families who may or may not be able to access the offerings, who may or may not be able to get online, who may or may not have helpful materials at home, and who may or may not even be able to focus on “school” right now because of overarching health, economic, or other family concerns.

This is me, trying to hold space for myself and my people to find their footing as we slowly regather, reevaluate, deeply breathe, and inch forward together.

So.

Now that I know what “this” is…

I can refocus my approach. I can use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as my first-and-foremost guide to my daily expectations because we are, first-and-foremost, beyond students and teachers, humans. As humans, we have basic needs, and these basic needs have to be met in order for us to even think about adding more.

This picture came through my Instagram feed this week. Along with the above quote and attached article, it also shined some light by adding more intentional pauses and shifts to my perspective.

I will “go first” with my class. I will model making sure that my basic physiological, safety, love, and belonging needs are met. I will show how we can support each other by showing up and by sharing meaningful and supportive feedback to make sure that our esteem needs can be seen and nurtured. I will model that this process takes time, can be messy, and that it’s okay to not be okay. I will foster that deep sense of growth and self-actualization so that the internal motivation and inspiration fires are ignited.

Then, and only then, when those fires are up and burning in each of my students, will I know that it’s time to push a little harder on the “school” side of things.

And you know what? It really doesn’t matter to me how long this crucial process takes. It will take as long as it takes. I am not concerned about what material will be “missed” during this time of inner gardening. Do you know why?

Because I am a teacher.

Because it is my freaking JOB to welcome each student to my class, each and every day, and accept each student exactly as he or she arrives. I will meet my students where they are, I will honor whatever they happen to be carrying with them, and I will pick up the more traditional education from their individual point along the continuum. I will ignore any “should be”, “would have been”, or “is supposed to be”. I will teach who shows up.

It’s what we do.

8 thoughts on “So… what IS this experience that I’m offering my students? (#solTuesday)

Add yours

  1. This is point blank on! Letting go of expectations about would, should and could is so freeing. This is an emergency and it’s not some deal where we magically, seamlessly convert all our classroom experiences into online experiences. I really like the chart too. You’ve come to a good place in all of this. Thanks for sharing your journey there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting !! And, Hooray for you !!I was listening to interviews with educational folks yesterday on the radio and they were saying something similar. Toss the book out the window, deal first with the personal situations and the education later.Once again – I’m very proud of you !!Love,Dad

    Liked by 1 person

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