40 Days of Remote Learning

 Today was our 40th day of remote learning. There's something about these pandemic days that feels like they simultaneously drag on and fly by. But today marked an inauspicious milestone for New York City schools as today was the day school buildings closed again.

I have been teaching kids whose families opted out of in person learning. So I have been teaching 100% remote all school year. It's not ideal, but I would have chosen it over blended if given the choice. Still, it's hard. 

It's not new anymore, but it's hard for pretty much all the reasons it was hard in the spring. Back then I said to a good friend, "I can't do this if we start the next year like this. I just can't." And yet, here I am. It's scary what we can adapt to if necessary.

Many of the kids are not adapting though. This week that became really clear to me.

On Monday it was eerily quiet on my math call with my 5th grade students. That afternoon I thought about why. It's November. This is always a doldrums time of year, even under normal circumstances. That valley is even deeper this year. 

The next day I tried to structure our time together differently. I started the call with five minutes of just open socializing time in breakout rooms, and structured the math time to be more collaborative. The results were mixed. In my breakout room the kids were quiet for the first couple minutes, until I offered a prompt to get them talking.

On Wednesday, one of my co-workers reported back from a small group call she was facilitating that the kids were really struggling. They described how each day felt the same as the last. One of them said she spends all week waiting for Friday to come.

As much as I had sensed their exhaustion on Monday, it was still hard to hear it expressed so explicitly. It definitely served as a wake up call for me. It reminded me of our switch to remote learning in the spring, and how adamantly I felt opposed to just "putting school online." I hoped then that we might find a way to use this crisis to meet the needs of kids differently, and foster their curiosity more successfully.

I'm at a different school this year. It's a school with a better track record of attending to kids' needs and interests. I don't need to just "put school online" as a part of this community, and so I'm frustrated that's what I've done in some ways. I think that's partly because reimagining my teaching right now feels pretty daunting. But after seeing and hearing my students' distress, I know it's time to do some reinvention. I'm not sure if there's any way to fully fix remote learning. The kids are gonna miss their friends for as long as they're stuck at home. But if there's any way I can alleviate their pain I will.


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