COVID-19 Teaching Diary Day 6: Feeling Proud (and Fighting the Digital Divide)

At the end of last week a friend asked me how the first week of remote learning went. At first I was going to answer about the frustrations and challenges. A number of kids still weren't connected to Google classroom because they don't have internet in their shelters. Of the kids connected to Google classroom, only a third completed the work I've assigned. I paused though, and decided to try something new. "It was really hard, but I'm proud of myself," I replied.

I knew that remote learning was going to be a totally new challenge for my students and me. I tried my best though. I persisted to keep in touch with as many students and families as possible. And as much as possible I advocated for my kids who were being shut out of Google classroom because of barriers beyond their control. I can't be sure, but I think this advocacy played a part in internet providers giving in and providing internet to families they were denying service to.

For all these reasons, I felt proud.

This week, I am trying to keep drawing from that well of pride and patience. On Day 6 of remote learning, I would like to be further along than I am. The fact of the matter is, systemic inequities don't go away in a crisis like a pandemic. In fact, they are worsened.

I think that's been one of the most difficult aspects of the switch to remote learning. It's hard to focus on my work connecting kids to content and supporting them remotely. Right now I'm just trying to figure out how to make the content accessible at the most basic level.

There's a lot to be said about the quality of schooling in our school building. We have a long ways to go to serve our kids with equity and excellence. And while getting to school isn't always easy for kids in our community, getting to the physical classroom was definitely easier for most than accessing the digital one.
The Unacceptable Persistence of the Digital Divide, MIT Technology Review

I am trying to clarify a few guiding principles for myself and stick to them. I think first and foremost, I want my role to be one of support and stability for my students and their families. This means whatever I do on Google classroom should not exacerbate the stress and trauma my students are going through.

Correlated to this first principle, my second one is probably, "less is more." There is a lot of pressure to try to translate our existing curriculum (for math it's Envision) to Google classroom. There are a lot of reasons why I won't do this. Honestly, I don't yet have the capacity to successfully translate my teaching to a remote learning platform. On top of that, the platforms I'm using are glitchy. All of this is happening in a surreal and stressful environment.

We are in the middle of a pandemic.

I feel like this needs to be restated regularly. Because it just doesn't make sense to expect a "normal" amount of teaching and learning under severely abnormal circumstances.

So if my goal is to be supportive, and not overwhelm students with content, my role for now remains the same as last week. I need to keep working to connect kids to Google classroom and teach them how to use the platform. As I make these outreach efforts, I'll continue to prioritize checking in on students overall social-emotional well-being. If I can make progress on this, I'll continue to feel proud of myself.


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