Covid Class

I don’t normally talk about teaching on this blog, but it’s mine and I can do what I want so here it is.

We are already in our third week of teaching with covid still making its way through our world. It doesn’t appear to be stopping in the short run and so this is the new normal for now. It isn’t great. But it’s something.

At first I was devastated that we were not going to go back to school in person. I love the first day of school. I love being back in my classroom. I love meeting my new students. I love coffee and conversation with my teacher friends. I didn’t really get any of that. But there is nothing I can do about it and many people missed out on a great many things so far so I am not going to mope about it. We are teaching again in one way or another.

I was worried that hardly any students would participate in online learning. I was half wrong. Many students are up and on our zoom calls and getting some work done along the way. It is something. It isn’t as great as being in class, but it is a start.

I was worried my own children who are in school would suffer. Perhaps they are not getting the same education they would be getting but again, it’s something. They’ve adjusted and they are getting up every day and getting on their chromebooks and doing some learning.

I think the main issue is that students are missing out on necessary socialization. I don’t mean talking to their friends, which is part of it, but I mean learning how to function in a group and interact with peers and teachers. There is actually a lot of that that is learned in the classroom and without it students may be a bit stunted in social development.

I feel the younger the student, the more worse this is for them. High school students are supposed to arrive with proper skills necessary for learning. They ought to be able to read and deconstruct passages and form sentences and a number of other skills used in a classroom constantly. They ought to have basic math skills already and then use those to build some more advanced skills. If they have the basic skills, they can survive and continue to learn online. But for younger students, I despair.

How is a first grade teacher to teach 6 year olds how to read? What about getting them to focus on a zoom call to learn math? My own younger ones like my 8 and 9 year old, are bored immediately. In a classroom the teacher can control the environment and redirect, at home they can wander off and ignore everything. I think there is a lot of lost learning with our younger grades that we may never get back.

Then there are our disadvantaged students. What can we do for our students who live in poverty and the only access they had to the technology used for online learning was at school? What about the students who are second language learners? They were learning English at school. How stunted will their language development be if they are no longer in an English heavy environment like school?

There is a lot to celebrate but there is a lot that is going to have a lasting affect. There will be a hole left from covid in the education of our youth who are not at school that may never quite be filled since I have not heard a word about extending the school year or adding an additional year of school to make up for lost time. Some of my friends in education and I are already using the term “covid kids” for this group who is missing out on an education right now. Many were already behind, now they aren’t moving forward much at all. This may ultimately be the worst and most lasting effect of this pandemic.

Back to School

While writing is my passion, it doesn’t pay the bills. Perhaps one day. Until then, I’m still going to enjoy teaching. I absolutely love being a teacher. I enjoy youth and learning and the subjects I teach. I dragged myself through the summer with a few more dents and scars but I survived another and being back to work feels great.

This year I am really going to focus on helping students really try to find motivation and drive to improve not only in the classroom but in their lives. Too many kids graduate high school completely unprepared to deal with anything outside of their controlled and heavily supported environment. We coddle too many kids and prop them up and drag them across the finish line only to let them collapse on the track when they should really be getting started on a much larger challenge.

We are setting babies loose in the world and expecting them to succeed but didn’t bother weening them and helping them feed themselves before we do so. So they starve and look for sustenance anywhere they can get it and often times they feed themselves junk.

So this year I’m going to try to build some adventurers who can handle themselves in the wild.

I had this thought while ranting on the first day of school, something I do frequently. I was talking about being realistic about where students are with regards to their study habits. Most kids believe they are good students even if they failed a class. There’s something wrong with that. Even though I got good grades in high school, I was not a good student. I stated that we should have a belt system like martial arts does. Everyone starts off as a white belt and everyone in the school knows that person is new to martial arts and they seek to teach them things that help them advance based on that level. In the military we wear rank on your collar or sleeve so everyone can see the achievements of that soldier and how high they are in the military hierarchy. In schools we hide achievement.

The result is that most students believe they are doing fine. Plus we’ve become hyper focused on self esteem and building students up. So they seem like they are really confident and that they feel great about themselves but the problem is, there is no reason for them to feel so good about themselves. They often times haven’t accomplished anything and they have nothing to defend their confidence so when it is challenged they fall even farther.

If you bully a person who has accomplished many things and is able to defend their achievements, that person is less likely to actually feel bad. I know for me, when someone criticizes me and I know they are wrong, it doesn’t bother me in the least. But if you get criticized and there is nothing to defend yourself, you crumble. It would be like putting on the black belt without earning it and the first time you spar your get your butt kicked. You didn’t earn the belt. When you lost it felt bad and your couldn’t defend the belt. The loss hurts deeply.

So rather than building paper tigers who think they are great but in reality can’t defend their confidence and have no real achievements to support their esteem, I’m going to try to help students be realistic about where they are and how they can improve. There’s nothing wrong with being a white belt when you start, or a private in the military. But growth is important and knowing where you are and how to improve is fundamental to successful life.

Anyways…teaching goals.