I was one of those annoying teachers who thought that remote learning could be kind of magical. Naivety aside, I saw remote learning as a chance to do things differently, to approach learning without the constraints of a regular school day. Whilst I wasn’t hoping for a global pandemic to hit us and for schools to close, I saw it as a chance to innovate and be creative. When we were caught in limbo between planning for a school closure, and also trying to maintain normality at school, the prospect of only having one thing to think about was a welcome relief.
Less than 2 weeks into remote learning, the sheer challenge of the situation is not lost on me. It’s a giant balancing act for all of us. The amount of factors to consider is, at times, paralysing. As a friend put it, it’s like trying to stand upright on a beam that’s balancing on a ball in the middle of an earthquake. I have no doubt this is also how it feels for parents, many of whom are in the incredibly challenging situation of working from home while also supporting their children. Considering the wellbeing of all members of our school community has, and will continue to be, a priority.
Purely from a teaching and learning perspective, there are many reasons why remote learning is a challenge. It’s much easier to manage tasks and students than it is to create an environment where students are learning. What works for one child, doesn’t work for another. What one child needs may be completely different to what the rest of the class needs. How I think a learning task might go is just that, how I think a learning task may go. The majority of the cues that we normally take from the students through conversations, or their body language, are simply not there. Video conferencing is no substitute for being physically present in a room with a bunch of kids. On the flip side, the majority of cues that students take from us or from their peers are also not there. Just as we’re in a situation that we’ve never been in before, they too are in a foreign situation. It can be overwhelming for all of us.
Yet what I know to be true about learning is still true about learning. Wellbeing is at the core of learning. Learning looks different for different people. Learning is flexible and responsive; it’s a ping pong game between us. Learning that actually matters is often not found in the curriculum.
More than ever, I want to be back with my Year 6 class in our classroom. I miss their energy, our conversations, the laughter, and the natural ebb and flow of learning which had become our normal. While I wait for that to happen, I’m holding onto the belief that there can be magic found within these challenges, and that innovation and creativity can grow in spite of (or perhaps, because of?) these limitations. I’m choosing to look for possibilities, and ask questions.
- How might we provide opportunities for students to connect, and stay connected, with each other?
- How might remote learning help us better understand ourselves and each other?
- What if we ask students what really matters to them right now and let the learning grow from there?
- What if the timetable is flexible and responds to the needs of the students? What if we plan the timetable with the students?
- How might we move beyond managing tasks and students, back to focusing on the learning and moving learners forward?
- How might we experiment with ways to balance individual conferences, small group conferences and workshops?
- What if we ask students what they need, and then respond to those needs? What if we ask parents what they need, and then respond to those needs?
- What if we provide optional workshops for the students based on their current needs?
- What if we allow ourselves time to experiment with structures and systems to see what works?
- How might this experience change our view of learning once we’re back at school?