Learnings from Distance Learning

Beginnings and endings are wonderful times for reflection.  Maybe you are starting a new job, making a new friend, or celebrating the birth of a child.  Perhaps, on the other hand, you are leaving a country, ending a relationship, or mourning the death of a loved one.  All of these events invite pause, reflection.

How has the last year and a half been for you?  For many, including me, the arrival of COVID-19 brought change: Change in schedules, possibilities, health, and even brought death closer.  I have been teaching from home since March 2020.  Never in my life did I anticipate learning so much about distance learning, Zoom, and Google Docs.  But learn I did!

In the hope of holding on to the good, the silver lining in a difficult situation, I offer the following related to online, distance education:

  1. Relationships are still key.  Building and maintaining relationships continues to be the cornerstone of teaching.  When I know who you are and you know who I am, we can work so much better together.  I love seeing your cats and dogs, siblings and parents wander in and out of Zoom classes.  I love that you notice my haircut or new glasses.  I especially like it when, in the middle of class, you ask, “Can I show you a picture that I drew?”  Maybe the timing isn’t the best, but you feel comfortable and that is worth gold.
  2. Distance learning tools are only tools.  The real learning comes in the doing, the reflecting, and doing again.  We can use all the wonderful apps and programs, but without the purposeful lesson design that gets students doing the work and open to new ways of seeing and doing, the apps and programs are worthless.
  3. Today is enough. Maybe I had plans for more or different, but student questions and interest and worries led us on a useful tangent.  That’s OK.  That’s where we needed to go today.  When I am present to who you are today, right now, to what you need, right now, we will always move forward.  I am not going to assign you the work we missed; I am going to adjust my teaching for the new learning that we will do tomorrow.
  4. There is no learning loss.  Students always learn.  They may learn what we teach, and they always learn who we are.  There are all sorts of unplanned learnings that happen, too.  Always we start from where the students are and move forward.  If they missed something from a previous lesson or year we can sneak it in around the edges, in a small group or one-on-one.  Anyone who tells you that the students learned less this past year and a half is mistaken.  They learned a lot more, just maybe not what the curriculum guide says they “should” learn.  There is always a variety of student learning in a class; there is always a variety of levels of understanding in every class.  This year is no different.  We move forward because students always learn.

Take a moment and think about what you want to take with you from this challenging year (and a half!), and what you want to leave behind.  Move forward knowing that learning moves forward.  We continue to become.  So do our students.

I Will Stay Home

For the babies and the children
For the parents, and siblings, and aunts, and uncles

For the hospital workers
For the recently operated and the soon-to-be operated
For the at-risk with health concerns we cannot see

For the farmers and drivers and supermarket workers
For the families of the farmers and drivers and supermarket workers

For those who can’t work
For those who are still able to work
For those who have to work

For the grandparents who bring joy and tell stories
For the grandparents who support the children and the grandchildren
For the grandparents who carry the collective memories
And for everyone else

I will stay home

This is not about me and what I want
(I want to go out too)
My parents and grandparents and teachers taught me the dangers of being selfish

Together in community we all do better
It matters

I will stay home
You?

Novel Coronavirus Blues

This is the first draft of Novel Coronavirus Blues.  As a language teacher, writing from Lima, Peru, I find that a bit of creativity can focus the mind.  (Feel free to sing it out following a standard 12-bar blues progression. BTW: That link does not have a bridge.)

Verse 1
We celebrated New Year’s and everything was good
And 2020 started, well, just like it should.
We thought that we’d see clearer in the leap year of the Rat
But the health news of pandemic filled the screens and every chat
While walking in fog, your mind, you think you’ll lose
You’re singing the Novel Coronavirus blues

Chorus
My friend how are you feeling?  How’s the temperature of your head?
When you see gone-viral videos are you filled up with dread?
For the young it’s less of a problem still you worry about that cough
You cover it with your elbow sleeve and watch your friends back off
You’re glad you weren’t in the group, on the flight or a cruise
You’re singing the Novel Coronavirus blues

Bridge
So you went to get more info from the sources that you know
You rounded up statistics and that filled your mind with woe
Finally you said, “Mom and dad, I don’t wanna be misled”
They sat you down and shared their truth
And this is what they said…

Verse 2
So the president’s cancelled classes and Zoom is our new friend
No nurse or bathroom passes, all commutes are at an end
Our reality is virtual, I’ll see you in the cloud
With fits and starts we’ll lurch ‘n’ fall and end up feeling proud
Mindset may be the only thing you can choose
You’re singing the Novel Coronavirus blues

Limericks

As I teach my 6th graders, I will sometimes create in the style that I am teaching.  When teaching limericks, write limericks!

Lorenzo he searched for a book.
“I wonder which one of you took
The book that I had
And made me feel sad.”
Saw Ian and called him a crook.

——-

Said Emma to Luke here’s a dare:
“When Erick sits down take his chair.”
But Erick was wise
To the not-nice surprise.
Said Luke, “It’s not fair you’re aware.”

——-

Miranda thought, “Class is a bore.
“I can’t stand to sit on floor.”
She talked and she sighed
And she shouted with pride.
So Finlay he showed her the door.

The First Sound is Never the Birds

The first sound is never the birds
Neither the coo of the pigeon in the palm
Nor the call of the scrub blackbird

Trash truck sounds first
Diesel motor idle roar
Breaking bottles
Pre-dawn-end-of-the-route whisper
Of tired haulers
Hoarse

Then
Cars racing
Motorcycles revving
(Car alarms activated)
House alarms
Dog alarms
Fresh bread morning whistles
Ice cream tricycle kazoos
Old Marta shouting, “Ta-ma-le-ta-ma-le-ta-ma-le!”
(The first time I listened late and heard ma-le-ta [suitcase] not tamale)
Emergency sirens
Pounding, drilling, sanding, scraping
Street-vibrating renovations
Eleven million vying

Pause

Coo
        Call
                  Chirp
                          Song
Relax and respond

Never the first, never the last
Yet always the soothe in the din-
Awareness revealing the bird-song

Listen

For the coo of the pigeon in the palm
And the call of the scrub blackbird

.                                        Lima, Peru 2019

I am, therefore I feel- Part 1

Eyes opened to the morning
The faint, pre-dawn glow
Colors of the quilt
Beige walls, wood floor, shock of art
The S curve of my side sleeping spouse

Bare feet on a cool floor
Elastic waistband presses less than the night before
Warm water soothes the aches
My daily baptism cleanse

Black, hot coffee
Tastes of valley slopes and worker’s hopes
Perhaps a hint of chocolate
Acidic blueberries tamed with cane sugar
Salty bacon, cured with honey
(I’ll exercise tonight- promise!)

Click of the door
Vrooom of the motor
Hurried honks drown the bird song
Sigh (audible)
Breathe (purposefully)
Mozart to motivate
Rundgren to ruminate

Inhale the baking bread roasting beans and the subtle (?) geraniums
Mix in downtown’s exhaust and the damp concrete

I am, therefore I feel