We got the news last Sunday at 2 PM, while we were standing at our public library, stocking up just in case. “Schools are closed until April 6th.” The two days of goodbyes we had planned for getting food, devices, and books to kids no longer an option. Of giving phone numbers and reassurances. No “see you later,” no clean out your locker, no what do you need? Nothing.
So, as parents, we went home and did what we do best; plan. Create a schedule for the very next day where some sort of home learning would have to happen. Try to explain to our own kids, ages 6, 7, 7 and 11, what this meant. Answer their questions in a factual way without scaring. Try to come to grip with this new unprecedented reality. Take a deep breath and simply do the best we can.
We have been doing the best we can since then.
We all have.
And now as we face schools being closed indefinitely, we will continue to do so.
Yet the best we can is very much dependent on the day. Yesterday, I felt on top of the world. My kids did their academic work we have scheduled for an hour each day. They invented adventures together, I baked a cake with my son and it tasted good. I wore earrings as I prepped for my Facebook Live in our Passionate Readers community. The kids liked dinner. We laughed, we danced, we went outside, and we learned things about the world, letting our curiosity guide us. This whole deal – we got this.
But today, my kids slept in, they didn’t want to get up. They decided it was pajama day. They decided that they didn’t have to follow the rules of math that have been around for thousands of years because they “don’t like them.” They didn’t want to hold their pencils right, or trace the words, or read because “reading is stupid.” They couldn’t do their enrichment packets sent from their schools because all of the instructions are in Spanish, and their dad and I don’t speak Spanish. They left a mess in the kitchen, upended my teaching supplies, and decided that they were done. Just in general done. As my son exclaimed, “I hate the Coronavirus.”
And so I tried different methods, and I took a deep breath and tried again, and I gave them choice, and I gave them rewards, and I listened to their feedback, and I chunked it out, and I problem solved with them.
But the learning; that still wasn’t happening.
Despite having the tools. Despite having the time. Despite being an experienced teacher. Despite being able to provide a life filled with privilege when it comes to the basic needs of us all.
And so I yelled, even though I knew better. I shared my frustration because even though I am the adult; the world seems really scary to me right now too. Because my worries are stopping me from sleeping; I am the lone income in my family and while I am grateful for my teaching job, with my extra work all being cancelled, the threat of financial insecurity is real. I am worried about my students. I am worried about the community that is lost. I am worried for our economy. For all of the many inequities we see play out and how it will affect the future we are looking toward. And the worries are real even though I know they are not helpful, and much like my kids, I am just trying to do my best.
And the yelling did nothing. Only splintered the day more. Instead, I stepped back, let my husband take over and crafted a new plan.
So today, we are doing recess. We are doing art. We are doing bike rides. We are doing reading if we want. Games if we want. Videos if we want.
And we are going to call it good enough for today. Good enough for right now because right now is all I can influence.
And so I share this as reminder; that what we are doing right now is not homeschooling.
That we cannot ask the adults who care for our students to become teachers overnight. That we cannot ask adults who are carrying the weight of their families on their back to also shoulder the responsibility of becoming their teachers.
That as schools plan for this remote/virtual/online learning that we are all expected to be able to do now, that we cannot for one moment think that it is going to be like school. That even if we invent amazing learning adventures to go on using online services, those websites may not be able to handle all of our traffic. That even if we provide devices and hotspots that doesn’t make our learning equitable. That we cannot ask our students to sit in front of screens for hours each day, trying to patch together what would have been the learning we would have done together. That we cannot expect our students to be in a healthy place for learning. That even if we send home work to do, it may not get done. And we need to be okay with that.
Because we are not together. Because we are not there to support. We are not even there to hand out paper, or pencils, or ideas if needed. So how can we expect those at home to take over?
What we can do though is simple; be ready. Be ready to pick up the pieces and help the students that return to us wherever they are in their learning journey. Be ready for push back. Be ready for the reality of what this new path will look like. Be ready to be okay with good enough. Be okay with being partners and not always leaders.
Because right now is maintenance. Keeping kids in the game of learning. Of drilling down to the most important essence of what education can be; community, connection, relevance, and grace.
That while the adults surrounding our students are facing an unsafe world, we need to make sure we do not do more harm than good. That we push back against district mandates that will further inequities. That we keep our reality in stark focus so we don’t add further stress to an already unpredictable world.
Right now is not normal, and nothing we invent or create or implement will make it normal. So perhaps like I had to, we all just need to take a deep breath and be okay with good enough for now.
And my kids? Well, I have recess to go do. A new adventure awaits and tomorrow we try again.
Take care, I’m here to help.