Abolition, Imagination, and Remote Learning: Covid-19 Teaching Diary Day 54

Today was our 54th day of remote learning. I taught a math lesson at 1 pm. Eighteen kids joined, although several jumped in and out of the call, and others had their cameras and mics off the whole time.

At one point, one of my students who is neurodivergent got very frustrated and screamed, prompting a bunch of other students to pile on him in the chat. It was an interaction that felt very possible in our physical classroom, but it's familiarity didn't bring me comfort. Instead I'm wondering how to draw from the growing abolition movement, and apply some similar imagination to remote learning. If after 54 days I've managed to recreate my classroom on Google Hangout, can I call that a success?

Schools can be incredibly oppressive spaces. I have felt the heavy weight of that reality more than ever the past four years of my teaching. Our schools fail Black and brown kids, neurodivergent kids, immigrant kids, trans kids... As a teacher, I have struggled to come to terms with my role as an agent of the state who wants to resist state violence in all forms. In a way remote learning offered a path out for me and my students.
In some ways, for some students, remote learning has been incredibly liberating. There are students who benefit from the freedom to go at their own pace. There are students who are enjoying more time to explore their interests.

But overall, remote learning has not brought liberation to my students' schooling. It was never the right vessel to begin with, when so many of my students lacked access to internet or adult support. But on top of that, I never took the time to seriously consider how to use remote learning as a foundation for abolitionist teaching. I didn't pause to use my imagination. I was preoccupied with delivering content and just tracking my students down to get them online.

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pburka/30707539772
By some measures today's could be considered a success compared to my early days. I had a decent number of kids signed on. I felt like my instruction was clear and engaged most of the kids. But making remote learning as close as possible to "regular school" does not feel like a success.
I want to offer something better for my students. I don't know what that looks like with remote teaching, but I know I won't be able to imagine it or create it alone.

I am sad, tired, and angry when I reflect on the past few weeks of protests. But I'm also grateful. I've been learning a lot more about abolishing police and prisons. As I've learned, I have been inspired by the spaciousness of Black liberation imagination to imagine a society where all of us are valued, and there are abundant resources for all of us. I am excited to continue working with others to apply that same imagination to schooling.


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