Educators depend on time and space for professional conversations and collaboration to improve classroom instruction. Often these collaborative efforts are planned as part of professional development workshops or professional learning community sessions.
Yet, what we need even more are conversations that “fill” us when we’re tapped out. Some of the most meaningful, innovative, “light-bulb” moments for me have been informal chats in the hallway between classes.
In spring 2020, those impromptu check-ins or “water cooler” conversations disappeared. Working remotely has separated us physically from one other and joined us unceasingly to our workspace (kitchen table, home office, living room). The time before or after scheduled department meetings when colleagues casually checked in with one another in the doorway or corner of the room has been replaced by entry chimes to a screen full of faces. I remember the times before spring 2020 when I joked about needing a magic wand for transporting me to back-to-back meetings. Now, I do magically transport myself with the click of “end meeting” and “join meeting” buttons.
How can we find ways to recreate the informal hallway chat when we’ve been connected all day?
Recently, several of us met to try a virtual happy hour. Although we had intended to break into small groups to discuss books, movies, or recipes, we opted to stay together to just talk.
No agenda. No meeting minutes.
We had rich conversations about our remote and in-person teaching experiences. We compared and learned from one another’s stories while sharing virtual shoulders and hugs for individual struggles.
Was it the same as 2 for 1 wings at our favorite eatery? No, not the same. But we do not have a comparison for this new existence, so we move on and move forward by supporting each other the best we can. If virtual happy hour is the best we can do right now, then I guess you’ll get to see wings grilled my way. Cheers.