13 Weeks of Online Learning and Counting…
We haven’t been in school or seen our students ‘in the flesh’ since December. Our school combined our winter and Chinese New Year’s holidays and then we didn’t go back as scheduled on 3rd February. 13 weeks, of online learning and this has become our new normal. We started with teachers and students around the globe, but now we are mostly in China and waiting to see if we will get back to face to face. Nothing is certain. If we do get back we don’t know what it will look like when we get there, but we do know it will be different.
13 weeks of online learning; learning for teachers and students alike; and of course for our families. We started this journey thinking it would be temporary. We assigned learning through Seesaw and checked and responded and gave the students feedback and more learning engagements. We had no notice and no time to plan for the new look but we did not think it was going to last; certainly not this long. Our Secondary School went straight to Zoom classes and in Primary took a few weeks to follow suit. Now we are in the land of Zoom and Seesaw and it is a lot to navigate.
These are a few general things I have learned for myself over these months:
Be Balanced – Oh my goodness I understand now why this is among the Learner Profile traits. The need to create office hours, make lists, organise time, create a routine, eat well and exercise. I had to move my workspace out of my living space and I am lucky as I have the space to do that. All of that and take time to do other things for me – in my case I knit.
Be a Communicator – I try to talk to people and colleagues and check in with family and friends. I check in with students and their families. I try to be more patient than normal and yet protect my personal boundaries by not getting caught up in other people’s stories.
Be an Inquirer – What can I do to make this work? How can I best work with my students and what is important to them at the moment? What do my colleagues need from me rather than what I think they need (which goes back to the point above)? I try to be selective in the information I take in; I check sources and I practice those skills I am teaching in regards research and inquiry to avoid information overload.
Be a Thinker – This is connected to the one above and is crucial for me in terms of taking time and consider carefully before acting. It is too easy to rush to judgement and react quickly, particularly as things are so new at the moment. We could try everything we read about and ask more and more of teachers and students but even in these strange times slowing down and giving things real consideration is important – in fact probably more crucial than normal.
Be Open-minded – I try to consider other perspectives, how are students and colleagues feeling? What is their response giving away that they may not be saying?
Be a Risk-Taker – I am trying new things and making changes to the way we did things before. This involves being flexible and stepping further out of my comfort zone by using and teaching more tech, saying what we don’t have to ‘cover’ as well as what we do and changing up the learning to suit our new circumstances. I think this is where we all find ourselves now in every aspect of life, not only school!
Be Caring – We are living in extraordinary times and everyone’s experience and feelings are valid so now, more than ever we need to be empathetic to those around us. I have learned though, that the care and empathy has to start with me, which goes back to creating balance.
Be Principled – I try to act with integrity. This has meant addressing the things that have been hard to deal with as well as getting out of bed on the days I haven’t wanted to. It has involved some hard conversations and decisions. It has meant also respecting the people I am dealing with and goes back to the point of being open-minded and a thinker.
Be Knowledgeable – There has been a lot to learn about and know in a short space of time. There is an overwhelming amount of information. I have been learning about many tech tools and what we can actually use here in China. I have become more knowledgeable about our school curriculum and the PYP Framework, to understand better how we can make them work for the best outcomes for our students and to support our teachers.
Be Reflective – All of the above has taken a lot of thinking about and reflection. Without taking the time to reflect, step back and look at everything in front of us it all gets overwhelming. What do I absolutely need to be doing? What do the students really need from us? The teachers?
It is hard to believe online learning has only been three months as in some ways it feels like forever. This has not been an easy time and an easy transition to our new ‘normal’ and we don’t know how long it will last or what the next ‘normal’ will look like.
It is extraordinary to think that pretty much the whole world is in this together at the moment, and that we are all experiencing all something at the same time. Covid-19 has brought great suffering and sadness but it has also brought some amazing collaboration, caring and sharing amongst educators. I do not know where I would be without my #PLN. I think we educators are setting a great example about how we can team up, cooperate and work together and I hope these lessons are remembered as we get back to our physical classrooms.