On March 16, 2020 online, emergency teaching started at my school in Peru because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. As of right now, we are still teaching online and there is still a global COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, we are no longer in emergency mode.
I call it online, emergency teaching because, well, it was online and it was an emergency. There were no solid plans in place, no best practices, and we had never used Zoom. All of that has changed. We have solid plans, we have learned and honed our best practices, and we are practically experts in Zoom. I never imagined that I would have a YouTube channel, and that my one Zoom video would have over 2,000 views!
We have been very lucky. The school where I teach and the families I work with have the resources to make online school work. Yes, the teachers have worked hard to get up to speed, and the families have been incredibly supportive in the process. The students have rolled up their sleeves and rolled with the punches–huge learning curve, inconsistent technology, muted microphones, … Yes, the students, too, have been amazing. I am so thankful for the students, the families, my colleagues, and the leadership at school. Together we have made it work. Together we continue to make it work.
After a year of this, what have we learned? What have we reaffirmed? I have learned that technology is an amazing tool (when it works!) and there are some amazing technological tools that we can use. Some of my favorites are Quizlet, Kahoot!, EdPuzzle, FlipGrid, and Padlet. Technology is still only a tool. The foundation of all learning is relationships. This is true online or in person. When I know my students and they know me, we can learn from and teach each other.
When I first started teaching reading I knew almost nothing about it. (I had been teaching middle school social studies and Spanish.) The literacy coach at my school said to me, “To begin with, just listen to students and watch them. They will show you what they need. The theories you can learn later; the students will show you now.” Brilliant! Relationships still prove to be key and the students are still teaching me.
I have also learned that less really is more. Less content, taught more deeply, will actually be acquired by the students. I will never “cover” the material; I will teach the students.
Finally, we live in partnership with the environment. When we treat each other and the environment with respect, we all live better. I think Paul Wellstone said something similar.
A year of challenge has much to teach us. I hope we continue to learn its lessons. Thank you to all of the students, parents, and colleagues for keeping on.