My phone rang at 5am on Thursday, March 12. “School will be closed until…”. At that point it was shock. I had heard about the Corona Virus but it was someplace else. Then on Monday, March 23 the unthinkable happened, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam made the heart wrenching decision to close schools for the academic year. All of the emotions I could imagine flooded me as a wife, mother and educator. What will our new normal look like? There is not college student who says “I came into teaching to grade student work. I’ll plan a lesson for assessment.” Educators selected this career because of their love of learning. Learning new content, new ways to teach the content, and most significantly, experiencing that moment when a young mind realizes they are capable of so much more…all because a teacher taught them how to love learning.
In our world today, districts are faced with how to hold students accountable in a way that the system isn’t prepared. Before March 12, it was absolutely heading that way with the surge of online learning but with the recent closings, districts have been catapulted into distance learning. Educators from all fields must take their physical curriculum and face to face learning and create an experience so that it transcends through a screen. A challenge, certainly, but nothing is unreachable for a passionate educator.
While parents wait anxiously for guidance from their child’s teacher to post lessons, activities, discussion posts and video teachings, what are the teachers doing? Think of us a glacier. Only the tip is seen by the public. Under water is where the work is getting done. Sounds great, but what is happening today? Restless children and parents who are now working from home are ready for the activities.
For me, my day begins with the sunrise. The sun is up and so is my mind. The educators I work with want the best for their students and as their Instructional Facilitator of Technology I feel the pressure. March 16 began my new daily routine of virtual meetings, recording trainings and more emails than I care to count. Conversations surround defining the goal for distance learning, chosen platform for delivery, available tools and teaching passionate educators in a way that makes sense to them. Working with 40+ teachers, the learning will vary where some are independently conquering this task, others need a team to guide them along and everything in the middle. Through endless hours of the day, assistance is offered from my home office or what the rest of my family calls our kitchen table. I lay in bed at night and think ‘What if a teacher is up working, I better check my email. If I answer it they can complete one more task.’ In between all of the digital and virtual conversations, my time is also filled with creating and posting training videos to an easily accessible platform. As all of these tasks are being completed, the communication from my school community ensues. “Please help. I’m trying to help my child log in/access/open…,What is the password? or Why won’t the recommended school website work on my personal device?” The same desire to help the educators continues with the families. As a school, we are conquering this the best way can and luckily we are part of a county-wide team to support this obstacle.
We have a system that is well on it’s way to success. There are still many questions that need to be answered. As we forge ahead, challenges are anticipated and plans to tackle them are being formulated.
What does the public need to know? Educators want to teach. Educators are worried about how to do this since they are getting a crash course in a new delivery system. The content hasn’t changed, but the delivery is new too many. Teachers are turning to their collegues, social media groups, reading blogs, meeting with leaders in their district and attending virtual training sessions on software they know well and that which they want to perfect. They are staying up late and getting up early to create the content that will best suit your students. Above all, at the deepest core of their being, they are doing this for the love of learning.