Open Letter to Teachers: A Parent’s Perspective of Remote Learning

by Lisa Bush, reposted with permission from Purple Semicolon;

Let’s talk for a moment about my daughter’s kindergarten teacher, Ms. X. 

No, that is not her real name, but I would like to protect her identity and “X” has a cool, mysterious sound to it. And Ms. X is very cool. She wears fun shoes and sings. During this remote learning journey, Ms. X has everything done perfectly. PERFECTLY.

She follows the Alberta Education Guidelines. She focuses on basic literacy and numeracy skills. She provides open-ended assignments that follow a clear pattern every week. She assigns a small number of assignments that are fun, hands-on, age appropriate, easily adaptable, and simple. She has one class meeting each week for 30 minutes. 

Easy peasy lemon squeezy as Ms. X (and now my daughter who adores Ms. X) says.

From an educator’s perspective, any family should be able to do Ms. X’s assignments.

Any. Family. At. All.

We cannot do them. On a good week we might turn in two assignments. Some weeks we don’t get any turned in. Sometimes we catch up over the weekend. Sometimes we don’t. From a pedagogical perspective, what would help this situation?

Should Ms. X be more entertaining? No. That is impossible. Her class meetings are better than Netflix. They are the highlight of our week. 

Should she be more organized? No. She is perfectly organized, even by my own high standards. I have very clear expectations of her assignments every week. 

Does she need to start flip-grid conversations or ask me to download interactive apps to engage my daughter further? No. That would send my anxiety skyrocketing and I would most likely shut down completely.

Should she send me emails about my kid’s missing assignments? No, that would anger me immensely.

Basically, there is nothing that Ms. X could do better.

selective focal photo of crayons in yellow box

You see, teachers, this is not on Ms. X, It’s on us. It is on me and my family.  And here is where we are. Husband: full-time job. Me: full-time assistant principal. 50+ hours of daycare for my children: gone. 

We do take education seriously. But it’s not our top priority. Our top priority is keeping our kids alive in a very literal sense. Also high on the list is to not do irreversible damage to our mental health and to do the jobs that pay our mortgage (especially critical during these times of economic chaos). And sometimes that is all I can do in  a day. 

So, some days—sure—we turn in my daughter’s journal entry. But most days my children roam the house like feral animals hiding cake under their bed, pulling the wooden boards off our backyard fence to make see-saws, and painting their eyelids pink as my husband and I teach and work online. 

I share this with you because I know that countless families are in similar or more complex situations than my own. 

I know that many of you are in similar or more complex situations than my own. 

So, if your students are not responding well to remote learning, please, please do not take it as a personal reflection of you. Your students love you. They miss you. But that doesn’t equate with them having the capability of turning in all, or any, of your assignments.

Please reach out to them. Check in to see if they are physically and mentally safe. 

But also know that, you are doing an amazing job. Your ability to adapt to this new reality has been nothing short of astounding. Resist the urge to judge your own worth as a teacher by how things are playing out now. And, please, do whatever it is that you need to keep yourself mentally safe and healthy. 

I thank you (and Ms. X) for all that you do.

Digital Literacy — Communication

Can you imagine living in a world without the telephone? Wouldn’t you feel isolated and cut off from the rest of the world? We need to know that we have the ability to communicate with others, not only those in the same room as us, but also those well beyond our walls. Why do we need to communicate with others? Is it to gather information? Share information? Collaborate? The simple answer: yes.

Students share this need to communicate with others. They communicate with their families, their peers, and their friends. They speak, they listen, they negotiate. Yet our students are also living in a fast-paced world of electronics and technological devices. They are processing more information at a faster rate than was once imaginable. As teachers, we need to adapt to the changing world in which we all live. It is not enough to teach our students to read, write, listen, and speak. They need to know how to read and write for authentic purposes. We need to teach them how to become digitally literate, socially literate, media literate, and critically literate. They need to connect with the world and question the information they encounter; they need to analyze, evaluate, and think for themselves. They need to interact with others in real, authentic, engaging ways.

We want students to know where to find the information and what to do with it once they access it. What we need to be assessing in our students is not the recall of the information, but the application of it. Consider this mindshift: from knowing the information, to knowing what to do with the information. Our kids live in the information age. Information is cheap—knowledge is power. This is a fundamental change in our approach to assessing student learning.

As you search for activities to do with your students, try this simple math task that will bring you all together.