An update with the help of Michael Scott.
It’s been quite a while, actually. “Who are you, again?” you might be wondering. Where have I been? Where am I going? Who knows, it’s still 2020.
Where have you been?
Here’s the thing: I have “been away” for a few reasons. Some of the reason is because I’ve been busy with completing my first year of dad-hood (which has been fun and not overly demanding thanks to my amazing wife); some of the reason is because I’ve had to re-invent my curriculum/daily work/lessons/delivery/ content/all-the-things due to Distance Learning, so I’m doing enough “creating” as it is.
But one of the chief reasons for why I’ve been away is due to the fact that I’m tired of talking about COVID. (even that sentence hurt a little)
Reason for Absence #1 – Lockdown.
If you ask me, Corona (not my weekend plans) is the one who needs a lockdown. Not only is my interpersonal communication heavily dominated by the ‘Rona (as is yours), my professional planning and strategizing has the virus monkey on its back (as does yours).
I spend 4+ hours a day seeing my students locked in a 3” x 2” box (if they’re even there..), serving as a constant reminder of what has caused my kids to be unjustly and unfairly “incarcerated”. We’re approaching a year-long sentence, for something they are completely innocent of.
Ok, it’s a little dramatic to relate distance learning with prison. I know that. Yet it’s not too much of a stretch if we really try to make these oranges look like apples.
Think about it: a considerable amount of freedom has been taken from them, changing their lives significantly and disconnecting them from “the outside world”. (That sentence is in the running for “Understatement of the Year”)
Bus rides, field trips, writing academic and love notes, RECESS, science experiments, in-depth and in-person discussion, covertly swapping food in the cafeteria, ACTUAL P.E. (not to be confused with “Ok kids, jump up and down for 5 times. Done? Nice. Have a good day”). You know, all the things most of us did in elementary school.
And outside of school: Want to hang out with friends? Sorry, you can only link up with your cellmates. And by cellmate, yes, I’m referring to your obnoxious little brother who is already so intensely addicted to blue light that he can’t last a 10-minute car ride without losing his collective bananas. If I were a kid right now, I’d probably be as bored/annoying/agitated as Michael Scott during Safety Training.
School is a virtual confinement; social life is borderline physical jail.
And the worst part about their prisons? The dementors.
Reason for Absence #2 – Enough w/ “New”
Another reason why you haven’t “heard” from me is actually linked to how I feel about educational education. Permission to elaborate?
This year, I have probably had at least 20 different conversations where a colleague, friend, admin, or parent has said “…well have you heard of _______? It lets you _______…”
Usually, I genuinely listen and ask questions about the new resource. And during the conversation, I try to honestly evaluate if any further action would be worth my time and efforts. Yet, unless I’m thoroughly convinced of my dire need for the novel piece of tech, I know I’m probably not going to add anything to what I’m already doing.
Personally, there’s already enough “new” in the world of online learning. Not only were teachers being asked to completely revamp what they’re teaching, they were also being told how to teach it.
Educators entered September (or August) with a District or State saying “Use this new tech and/or platform! We’ll help you with it!…as soon as we figure it out too…”
I started the new school year already turned off to the idea of “NEW”; I didn’t need anything new. Remembering my mask for a quick run to the store was new enough.
So if I’m someone who is half-tuning out the resources presented to me, wouldn’t it be hypocritical on a micro scale for me to turn around and present distance learning tips? Teachers (especially elementary teachers) fall prey to the concept of “doing more”. It feels contrary to my mindset to bombard my fellow educators with more and more resources/ideas/websites/etc.
In a nutshell: the world is full of helpful resources, some of which we’re “highly encouraged” to use. Why should I be another noise amongst the commotion in a profession where chaos and disorder are significantly more present in our virtual classrooms than 30% of our virtual students?
“But aren’t you a self-proclaimed learner? Shouldn’t you model curiosity and intrigue, as well as hold to a standard of always wanting to improve?” Yes. I am those things. I think. But I’m also a student of the mindset “Smarter, not harder.”
Sure, a novel resource might be subjectively a little bit better than what I’m currently operating. However, like I do whether or not we’re in a global pandemic, I ask myself, “Is what I’m doing pushing my high students, and helping my low students? Is what I’m doing bringing consistency without sacrificing quality and merit?” If the answers to those two questions are both YES, then change is of little concern to me.
So, that begs the question:
Where are you going?
All this to say, where does Mr. Graham’s Easy Classroom go from here? (The short answer is: Crazy.)
COVID restrictions on education fairly established in Oregon (my district is 100% DL until AT LEAST February 1). Considering what I just previously elaborated on, I myself have been wondering “Where am I going?”
Do I talk about how I navigate or set up Canvas? Should I share what I’ve found helpful, hurtful, and nothing-ful during distance learning? Dare I bore my massive audience with more Corona conversation?
Initially, I created this site/blog/thing before our world ushered in social distancing. I did it just to share with the few souls out there who wouldn’t mind seeing what Mr. Graham does in his Easy Classroom on a typical day-to-day/month-to-month basis.
I have ideas and plans to explain and show how I do science fairs, classroom management, parent communication, teaching writing, and other dynamic, riveting elementary education topics.
But, like the evil stepmother she is, COVID has derailed those plans.
For now, in this season, I think I’m going to pivot away from what I had planned over a year ago (content-specific blogs/ideas centered on in-person learning) to more of right-here-right-now stories, jokes, and complications that this distance learning is pressing upon me.
Removing the expectations from myself, I hope to re-create a more engaging, light-hearted space where I can lower my standards and just type what my little fingers want to say. We teachers have a burning desire to share; that’s 90% why we went into the profession in the first place. (The other 10% is Summer Vacay.)
So, because I can, I think I’ll start sharing short stories about what I’ve experienced over the last few months of Zoom meetings. It will be a little contrary to what I’ve written in the past, but I promise that at least the author will be entertained.
If you’re curious enough to follow along, you’re invited! If you’ve read this far, I think you’re under obligation now. Like my buddy said the night before his wedding, “Well, I’m already this far…” (For the record: he’s been happily married for 5 years with 2 amazing kids!)
Happy New Year!