Each Thursday evening, I write my staff an email titled Friday Focus. It's a way to wrap up the week, uniting us before our two days apart. Although they are always delivered digitally to teacher inboxes, this Friday Focus felt even more virtual than most. I was writing it from my home office after our first official week of Virtual Paradise - our new and unanticipated online school.
It has been a week of heartbreak as schools officially closed for the year across our state. What about our seniors? What about our kids?
Tonight, I share my personal message with my staff with each of you in hopes to unite us all across the nation in one singular plight, with one hope-filled breath.
Re: Friday Focus: Homeschooling Versus Crisis Schooling
It's all over the internet. Kids across the nation are completing their first, second, and sometimes third week of "homeschooling". Yes, students are (literally) being taught in their homes. It's mandated. It's real.
Homeschooling, however, is no longer a choice bestowed to parents and guardians across the nation who want to give their students an education they believe to be best. It is no longer for just the work-from-home parents or for the student with high anxiety. It is now for everyone. We are all living it. Pre-K through senior year. Parents and grandparents alike. But, I wonder, are we misusing the term?
I think, in my humble opinion, that what students might currently be exposed to is what we call crisis schooling, and it really isn't the same.
Homeschooling is taking a year of curriculum and chunking it into manageable pieces via quarters or trimesters. Crisis schooling is not that. Crisis schooling is revising our expectations and traditional curriculum and timelines to meet unanticipated demands put on students both socially, emotionally, and academically. Crisis schooling is eliminating barriers to student success because we understand that traditional means of education will no longer be as effective as they were before. We have students who may become very ill. They may have parents or family members who will suffer physical distress. The harsh reality is, someone will know someone who has died. The weight is heavy and the burden is not light. Students are craving the distraction of schooling while overprocessing fears that cause them to overstress and shutdown from the very work they were drawn to complete.
You guys, our kids might not be okay.
That's why we are crisis schooling. We are meeting them where they are, and we are showing them that we understand.
Yes, expectations for student workloads and rigor have changed. But I can tell you that in working with departments over the past two weeks, we have not changed who we are at our core. We are producing playlists with opportunities. Students have a choice in how they demonstrate their new learning. Students have the ability to process confusing emotions and connect with caring and loving adults. All still aligned to standards with learning targets clearly defined.
So no. You aren't the teacher you were before the school closure. And you aren't teaching the same students as existed before spring break. But you are doing the good work that needs to be done right now for these students. And I implore you to please hold strong and fast to that in the days and weeks to come. These kids need you. And I believe YOU are exactly who these students need.
This is all new. Please handle your fellow colleagues with grace. Speak to them in love. Believe that everyone has the best intentions and is doing the best they can given where they are at this specific moment in time. And that might change tomorrow. It might change in an hour. But we will honor that. And we will honor each other. We will get through this together.
As you wrap up this first week of distance learning, know that the work has been good. I have NEVER been more proud of you as a staff.