The hell that was distance learning

A long long time ago, in a version of our world (what seems like) far, far away, the coronavirus swept through and upended everything we thought we knew about teaching (and everything else). Mac and I were pretty lucky, in that we knew that a shutdown was coming and we would have to create a way to provide instruction digitally for what we thought would be a month or two. Mac was already working remote and I was in the building and we were able to play around with different platforms and evaluate what would be best. Our school already had Google classroom and G-Suite for our school, our students have 1 to 1 ipads and we already integrated different online platforms such as Flipgrid, Padlet etc. etc. etc. so that was a huge lift that was already in place (THANK GOODNESS!!) for us when we started.

We were confident that we could get through this 1-2 month span with minimal interruption for our students. Our school launched live instruction daily for all classes immediately so I felt pretty confident. Then 1 month passed. Then 2 months passed… and then we knew that we wouldn’t be returning and this wasn’t a temporary solution. Rather, we were now faced with a complete overhaul of our curriculum… our approach to instruction… student engagement… socio-emotional supprt… etc. etc. etc. in order to be as effective as we had been while in the classroom. This doesn’t even account for the fact that being in the epicenter of the epicenter of the epicenter of the virus was terrifying in and of itself. Add to that having children who also had their own virtual classes (on different schedules), their own school work, and the fact that our society seemed to be collapsing all around us.

I think that was the point at which my brain just shut down. I went into survival mode 100%. And I am just now beginning to emerge.

Life was in such an upheaval and there was no inch of solid ground that I could root myself.

I did my best… but I felt awful. I had no answers, no ideas, just a void of depression and desperation. I taught for 13 years… how did I not have any ideas? Why was I so lost? Why couldn’t I come up with solutions? I ended up reverting to a fairly traditional format. “Teaching” (talking) over the powerpoint lesson, trying to limit it to 10-15 minutes, student group work/discussion and work time. I hated it…

But at least I wasn’t alone. There was no shortage of teachers feeling similarly, which should have been comforting but still left me feeling particularly subpar.

Fast forward through the end of the school year, through summer school, all the drama around the return to school over the past 3 weeks to today.

I finally feel ready to process and start “planning” and by planning I mean overhauling our course and redesign it to function as effectively digitally as in person. More effective and engaging use of platforms. Problem solving around all the challenges from the spring. My brain is back and I can actually discuss ideas without collapsing into myself. I am again enthusiastic (not excited but enthusiastic) about the opportunity to grow more as a teacher, master more technology, be on the cutting edge of innovation that MUST change our educational system. The time is now, this pandemic has laid painfully bare the extreme inequities of our system along with the the ineffectiveness of outdated methods. As educators, we have an opportunity to reassess our methods, our curriculum, our effectiveness and even our relevance. We’ve been talking about 21st century skills since 2010 and now we have no option but to utilize and improve them not only for our students but ourselves.

We went through hell. All of us. It took me months, but I feel ready to try again.

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