So I read a blog two weeks ago titled “How The Coronavirus Should Impact Education,” from a blog that I follow (www.matthewrmorris.com) and it really made me think. What should this time of pandemic teach us as people, parents, and educators? So I decided to share what I have learned thus far, during this time of isolation, from all 3 perspectives.
As a person, this time of isolation has taught me to really appreciate the people I deem as important in my life. So many people close to me are losing people they love and it’s hard to see. It’s easy for us to unintentionally take people’s presence for granted, because we assume they will always be there and that's simply not the case. I have a previous student who lost his mother due to the virus. I reached out to the guidance counselor to get his number, because I wanted to just check on him and let him know I’m here for him. So I sent him this message:
“Hey _____________ it’s Ms. Hanif. I just wanted to reach out to you and let you know I’m soooo sorry for your loss and I’m here if you need ANYTHING!!! You’re an amazing kid and you deserve all of the support possible during this time ❤ ❤ .”
Well a couple of hours later he responded, and I was completely shocked by his response:
“Oh my god thank you Ms Hanif 😦 ❤ it’s so good to hear from you. I hope you and Zoey are doing well and staying safe. Thank you again for everything you’ve done for me past and present. I really appreciate it.. I know I didn’t do exactly as well as I wanted in your class but you still hold the title of my favorite math teacher 🙂 I learned a lot from you both academically and life wise.”
I must have read that message about 3-4 times in a row. Here we all are complaining about not being able to go outside, to a friends house, brunch, wherever, and this kid lost his world but found time to be grateful. Here I was reaching out to him to encourage him, and he encouraged me. It really reminded me the importance of showing people their value in your life, and giving them their flowers while they are still here to enjoy them.
As a parent, FIRST AND FOREMOST this time has taught me a new level of respect for elementary school teachers. I know you may be thinking, “You’re a teacher what do you mean?” Well I teach high school kids. My students know right from wrong, for the most part have self control, and can be held accountable for their decisions and actions. But LISTENNNNNN, being home getting Zoey to sit and do work was no easy task. I tried to get into a schedule and when we finally did, my work schedule kept changing and meetings popping up so it made it nearly impossible. She’s so easily distracted and entertained, that initially getting through the work was a battle. I ended up sending her teacher a message of appreciation that started with “girllllllll.” Lol. She ended up telling me Zoey was one of her best students, and I instantly felt bad for the other parents. If this is “the best” I’m scared to see what they are going through. For the teacher to deal with 20 of these kids on a daily basis, KUDOS TO YOU!!
It has also taught me, or should I say is still teaching me, patience and priority. There are times when I’m trying to get work done, or making calls and I begin to get frustrated because Zoey’s making too much noise. Or times when she’s asked me for each of the 15 different things from the fridge. There are moments where I get so overwhelmed because I have so much to do, my Zoom call, calling parents and responding to them all day, helping Zoey to complete her work, and just general moming things that are done on a daily basis now that we are home. I had to take a breath and realize while I was having a hard time adjusting, so was she so I needed to be patient with her. She was used to being able to just go outside or to see her grandma or her friends, and all of that has stopped. Now she’s stuck in the house, and all she sees is Mommy behind the computer all day working. She’s trying the best she can to remain entertained and not go crazy in the house. So I realized I needed to, first and foremost, just breathe and relax. But also while I have a job to do, my first and responsibility is to my kid. I had to take a step away from my make-shift desk and say, today is all about you Zoey. I was so busy trying to fulfill my work duties, that I began to neglect my duties as a mom. And even though it was wasn’t intentional, I realized I need to adjust my priorities.
As an educator this time has taught me the importance of presence. The best thing about teaching for me has been being able to build relationships with my kids. Even though I teach math, often times we start class with non relevant writing prompts (what makes you you, what’s one thing you’re struggling with outside of school, if you could change one thing what would it be…etc) They are given the option to share or not, no pressure. Oftentimes what happens is one person will share and then gradually they all want to share. But this allows me to get an insight on who they are and what life is like for them outside of school. Sometimes while this portion is intended take 15 minutes of class time, it ends up taking a whole 45 minutes. Being at home away from my kids, makes it really hard to sustain those personal relationships we have built because we are focused on so many other things. It feels like a never ending long distance relationship.
This time has also reassured my feelings about standardized testing. I’m not totally against the testing. However, how the data is used is unrealistic and ineffective. We teach students on a daily basis, and are expected to differentiate. Which means creating lessons that reach all students on their different levels, and making sure every student has an entry point in the lesson. However, these tests don’t do that. I have a friend who teaches Special Education, lets call her VE and I often watch her and all that she does to help her students understand the content in their different classes, and break assignments down so that they are doable for them. I think about those same kids, who oftentimes have anxiety, sitting through state exams where the only accommodations given to them are extra time and read aloud. They go from having a bomb teacher who helps them navigate through it all, during the school year, to being required to do it all on their own and its not fair. Nothing about these tests meet students where they are and therefore can’t effectively measure students abilities. So to then take these tests that are unbalanced baselines, and then “hold teachers accountable” based off of them is crazy.
Now with Covid happening, all of these state tests are cancelled. Students ability to move on to the next course and grade will be solely based on their performance in class. This should be showing educators, and most important the big decision makers in Education (who oftentimes have never been in a classroom) that things need to change. The tests need to and can change, the standard needs to and can change, and the way things are measured NEED TO AND CAN CHANGE.
Please share your thoughts or comments on what this time has taught you…
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