BY NAOMI STEWART, SECONDARY FRENCH TEACHER
Remember way back…seven weeks ago…when we moved into Connected Learning? I think I cried at least once a day during the week after spring break.
It was full of rapid preparation and baptism by fire. Instructions and expectations changed minute to minute. Admin worked hard to stay up to date on requirements from the Ministry of Education and the Society of Christian Schools of British Columbia. They shared updates as soon as they could, but it felt like we teachers simply couldn’t get a handle on things before something abruptly changed again.
The New Normal
We navigated new platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, fully updated and reinvigorated our learning management systems, clarified protocols around online etiquette, and understood what a schedule would look like for us and our students.
We were bombarded with emails, virtual meetings, check-ins, reminders, and expectations.
We looked for new resources, sought ways to adapt our teaching methods, and prayed daily that we’d still be effective as teachers and our students would be engaged with learning.
Moments of joy are interspersed with the stress—usually something ingenious, funny, or sweet by a student (even secondary school kids can be sweet, folks). Students are representing their learning in new ways, even using platforms like TikTok for projects and creating videos with friends from a distance.
Even after seven weeks, I still don’t always feel like I have a handle on all this.
Naomi’s Reminders for Teachers
With all this in mind, I recently put together a list of “realizations” and “reminders” for my fellow teachers and shared it on my personal blog. For those of you on the other side of the screen, I hope this gives you some insights into what goes on behind the scenes.
- Some of our students really hate this
While I have a few truly introverted students who are enjoying the chance to have more time to be creative, flexible, and exploratory, many students are simply desperate to see their friends, play sports, be in community, and re-find the pace they are used to. I created a weekly feedback opportunity for my students to share questions they have, how their week went or how manageable they feel expectations are, etc. This week, I asked students to share what they are grateful for at this moment.
- Some of our students have new roles now
Whether they are nannying, stepping up to earn money in the family business, watching their younger siblings, or helping with other household responsibilities, they are needed in other areas than just class attendance. Our students can’t be on stand-by at all times. We are seeking to support and develop young leaders and shapers of God’s world, not just good test-takers.
- Expect mixed results, mixed practices, and mixed opinions
We can’t expect all classes to be equal in input and output. They aren’t like that when we are in a physical building, so why should they be now? Art looks vastly different than Physics 12. Students will always find some courses more content heavy, difficult or demanding than others. This is a good thing. We should allow space for teachers to do their own thing and adapt in a way that suits them and their specific students’ needs.
- Reflection is good
I have one of my classes updating a blog with posts each week about what they are doing in isolation, how they’re finding online learning, and things they would do if they had the chance to after isolation. This is a time that we will all look back on years from now. Record-keeping is invaluable. I’ve been trying to journal more about my experiences, my good days and bad days, and my overall well-being.
Mike Riezebos, our secondary principal recently shared, “Be gentle with yourself and generous with others,” and I have been reminding myself of this daily.
To all the teachers, educational assistants, support workers, and administrators, I salute you. This is not easy. We are working harder than ever, not less. With God’s guidance, much prayer, and patience on all sides, we will get through this.
And perhaps, we were made for such a time as this.
Sometimes it’s hard to feel that our efforts are appreciated, but when your students show up, know that they value you (even if they don’t say it!).