Caring for each other and being safe. It’s ok to take a break from school learning.

In Quebec, teachers have been told not to teach while the schools are closed for this initial 2-week period (it is hard to believe it has been less than a week that the schools have been closed!):

Teachers, as per the Minister of Education’s statements today, will not be providing work to students over the two week school closure period. As he stated, teachers will work with their students to catch-up when schools re-open.From this EMSB Director General update on March 13, 2020.

These directives will be updated as of March 27 but for now, this is how it stands.

Over the past few days, a number of people have asked me for suggestions regarding homeschooling their children. Some parents are angry that teachers aren’t immediately creating Google classrooms and skype lessons so they are asking – what should we do?

For a little while there, at the onset, I was sharing lists of free resources for learning at home but after about a day, I stopped.

Why did I stop? It was getting to be too much. There are SO MANY lists floating around that I realized – wait. It almost feels like education resource companies (educational technology, textbook, evaluations, etc…) are creating a false sense of panic. This escalated sharing of lists and resources of free (for now) resources started to remind me of people grabbing up as much toilet paper as they could.

So what have I been doing since then? My response is now always the same. Read. Read alone and read together.

Readers create thinkers but even more important reading together creates feelings of care and security. We need to build those feelings up right now.

Reading together can be an adult reading to children, children reading to adults or to each other, or everyone listening to stories together through their library’s audio books (Quebec’s library, the BANQ, has TONS of audio books in English and in French), Storyline Online, Boukili (en francais, for little ones), or from any of the many, many wonderful authors who have begun to read to us over the Internet.

If you are working from home, book (ha ha) reading time before or after work. And while you are working? It is more than ok if your children play. Play also helps to increase feelings of security and as an added bonus it is important in brain development.

Imagine for now if each of your child’s teachers sent home work to do. Now reflect on that scenario with multiple children. And now reflect on that scenario for people with no access to a computer at home for each of those children to work. And now imagine all of the screen time that this will entail. Here is one woman’s heart-felt response as she lives this reality. In fact, this is the video that inspired this article.

Being liked.

I am back in the classroom.

Writing that is akin to writing that I am back home. After a long hiatus that brought me through high school, adult ed, and teacher professional development I am back in an elementary school and it sure feels fine.

I am reminded of old posts I wrote on this blog about the role of relationship in teaching and I will definitely continue along that theme because without it, where is learning?

Specifically, I’m reminded of a post I wrote about something Michael Wesch said,as cited byStephen Downes,years ago. Get a cup of coffee, it’s a longish quote:

…her hairdresser said, “Love your audience and they’ll love you back.” Instead of focusing on self, she focused on the beauty of the audience and the whole event. And I allowed myself to do the same thing.

I never let that leave me. I would start with that. I would start with loving my students. And it’s striking how much my teaching has changed in five years, as a result of that. It’s basically about shifting from getting people to love you, to you loving them. It has four parts (Fromm, 1956):
– caring
– responsibility
– respect
– knowledge

It requires all four. For example, caring without the rest is like patronizing. Respect without the rest is idolizing. The four together are true long. And focusing on that, instead of focusing on your performance, opens you up to your audience. It makes the walls go away.

What I know about teaching & learning is that yes, learning is hard to get at it if the student doesn’t like their teacher.

But teaching is not about being liked. It is about loving our students. Within the context of whatever it is they are learning with us, but foremost it is about loving them.

On unlearning or the summer slide.

I am listening to CBC while waiting for Jack to finish his smoothie and get out of his bath (multitasking). Listening specifically to an interview about the dangers of unlearning over the summer.

(I can’t find a CBC reference but here is a CTV article that mentions the same person being interviewed: Is the Summer Slide Real? Why children fall behind and how to stop it.)

Unlearning doesn’t exist. You don’t unlearn. You forget. And this phenomenon is a symptom of memorization and rote learning.

When learning masquerades as spelling bees, weekly math drills, and memorizing how to differentiate verbs from nouns then yes, it will be forgotten.

And yet, this interviewee is saying that, because children – especially in low socioeconomic brackets – don’t read with their parents over the summer, they are ‘unlearning’ and ruining the gains they had made in the previous school year.

I am amazed at how people are trying to shift the issue from instructional practice to children and families.

Yes. Reading is the key to learning. But it is only a key. And it is a huge gift.

Using that gift to memorize for spelling bees and math and science facts is not inspiring. It is not, dare I say, learning.

Our job is to inspire learning through empathy, reading, written expression, conversation, creativity, problem solving, and a sincere respect of children and their stories.

How dare you blame children and their families for schooling that doesn’t inspire learning and call it unlearning as if that is a thing.

High school: the more things change

High School Gymnasium

Thanks to Julia Mackey for taking this picture and letting me use it.

This could be any gym in any high school at this time of year: prepared for final exams with tables in a row – inspiring the fear of cheating, whispering, failing.

Over the past 30 years, we have witnessed and experienced such incredible change to how we access information and communicate with each other:

In 1985 Network file systems were invented so people could access and share data between computers.

The World Wide Web came into play a few years later and over the next little while things started to really speed up: from technologies that allowed us to access the Internet to those that allowed us to communicate to each other through it – browsers, email, html, pdfs… all of these have been around for over 20 years.

Since then – to name a scant few inventions that have not only increased the ability to bring people and information from around the world closer together but have also changed what we can do with that information – we have seen the emergence of Windows, Wikis, mp3, flash, Google, wifi, Blogs, Facebook, YouTube, iPods, Tablets, Twitter, Apple watches…

And we are still testing our children in quiet rooms, with tables in a row – inspiring the fear of cheating, whispering, failing.

High School Gymnasium

Thanks to Julia Mackey for taking this picture and letting me use it.

But what is remarkable about this particular room is that it is not just any gym. The picture was taken in 2015 but it could have been taken in 1985, when I wrote my final high school exams at one of those desks.

Last week I attended my 30th high school reunion. There had been reunions in the past but for one reason or a few, I never participated. This was the first time I really revisited my high school as well as the people who went there with me.

High school wasn’t a highlight of memory in my life. Walking through its halls last weekend, I didn’t remember where my locker was or where most of the classrooms were. I have vague memories of soccer games, dances, drawing, our vice-principal’s office, some classes but I think my first two years were mainly spent trying to fit in and figure out how to be a teenager, and my last two were spent trying not to fit in and figuring out how to grow out of being a teenager as quickly as possible.

During the week before the reunion, much like a student during the week before exams, I felt off. There was a slight buzz of anxiety in the background of everything I did. I thought I was possibly coming down with something but, as always, my body was transmitting messages. I was looking forward to the reunion, absolutely, but I realized the people on the list were people I knew, but no one (save 1 or 2) were people who I ever really got to know. Was I feeling the old high school tension of fitting/not fitting in? Was I the only one feeling that?

I woke up the morning after the reunion tired but the background buzz was gone. The night had been a most comfortable meeting of familiar strangers. And it is because, though I had not seen the vast majority of people I spent time with that night in 30 years and though I had not spent a lot of time really getting to know them during my high school years, we were all from the same high school (and elementary schools, for most of us!) and that was enough. That night, I began to get to know some of the people I remembered/didn’t remember from high school and since then I have continued through Facebook, somewhat. And it is good.

For some of us, our children have gone through or will soon be going through the same testing process that grants them release from high school into the ‘real’ world. Some of us have younger children and, if I have anything to do with it ;), high school will be recognized as part of the real world by the time they get there and the testing process will no longer be structured along rows of desks, silence, and fearful anxiety.

However their high school will be structured in terms of academics, it is the people they will remain connected with. Without even realizing it, I remain a part of the community that is Mac High, Graduating Class of 1985. And it is good.

**dates for points in technology history from 25 Years: A technology timeline on GCN.com

A note (again) on digital citizenship

I originally published this post in May of 2013. I feel this rant coming on again…so here you go.

I hear so many educators complain about how technology is hijacking our students’ education. How they don’t know how to be digital citizens. How they are addicted. How all they care about is YouTube and Facebook and their social lives. So instead of teaching it they dismiss it, poopoo it, and try to ban it.

Tell me… How do you propose students learn about being digital citizens if not at school?

Note over. And out.