Education at home
Each day this week, I have awakened with a surreal, unfamiliar feeling. It has been disorienting to realize in the few moments after waking that life is a different normal. We are in the very beginnings of an education plateau. No new, meaningful, strategic learning can take place without dedicated caregivers who can access all the tools being made available online. I can help my own children access learning tools, but can everyone? Although I can teach literature analysis, help with reading comprehension, and discuss history, science, and multimedia, there was a reason I did not become a math major in college.
We had the talk with our 13-year-old son. Quit playing with multiple kids outside. This is it. He wasn’t happy, but he will comply. So when he wrestles with his sisters, chases the dogs around the house, or hits baseballs into the net in the basement, I will need to lock my lips tight, sit on my hands, and create a blank face. And if I let the kids sleep until late morning in order to get a few quiet work hours, please do not judge.
In higher education, we have been fortunate to already have several online delivery systems in place for optional use among professors who teach face-to-face courses. Shifting immediately to online spaces is not easy but also not impossible, particularly with the level, timeliness, and constancy of support the tech teams are offering. We are attempting to make online classes feel the same as face-to-face meetings with tools such as Blackboard Collaborate and Zoom, and I plan to test other interactive tools – Padlet and VoiceThread – for consideration in a true online version of this course that was already in the works. Who knew that I would be testing them so soon?
But the struggles are still real. One student has reached out to ask if the synchronous Blackboard Collaborate session during our scheduled class time was required. She has taken more shifts at her grocery store job in order to make up for the hours lost as a teacher’s aid. She assured me that she can figure out a way to attend class virtually at the scheduled time if necessary. But I would rather figure out a way to engage her in the class without costing her essential income.
These are disorienting times. The current situation is forcing our nation to redefine essential jobs. This may be the biggest and most important lesson that our children will learn right now.