Sharing more (and judging less) during emergency remote learning

I was talking with a teacher at a school district I am working with yesterday who said, “I just don’t know if I should even try this again with my students. It seems like lots of people online have already done it, and I read a few blog posts that really criticized it.”

I asked her, “Well, how did it work for you and your students the first time?”

“It was great,” she said. “The kids enjoyed it and want to do it again. But a lot of people think it’s all fun and games, not necessarily any substance to it.”

I asked again, “Well, what do you think? Did it have substance and purpose in your class?”

“Yes, the kids were engaged and excited to learn. It was fun, but also had a purpose.”

I left the conversation happy we had talked it out, but also upset that others who were not in her class were trying to dissuade her from trying something new (and in her mind worthwhile) with her students. In fact, I was a bit angry.

At first, I was upset with the people telling her what would (and wouldn’t) work. Then I was angry with myself, for casting that same judgment when comparing my own kids’ remote learning experiences. It was so easy to complain, and it was much harder to try and empathize with the situation.

I’ve seen a lot of blog posts, articles, and videos where people are deciding what’s working for everyone in our current situation. And while I respect the opinions of everyone sharing their thoughts online, I’m a bit tired of the judgment being placed on teachers and school leaders and people trying to do the work of emergency remote teaching/learning.

Every situation right now is different. Sharing what is working is effective. Telling folks there is only one right way to teach/learn right now is not effective. Share more. Judge less.

There seems to be a big misconception, that if something was done before and it didn’t work in one classroom then it’s not going to work. Or if something has been done for five years in-person only and it hasn’t been tried “online” then it’s not effective.

If you’re a teacher, school leader, or parent who is trying something new to help your kids and your students learn better that’s awesome! Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not going to work, and you shouldn’t try it, and it’s already been done before.

We seem to forget that there’s this giant continuum we are all on. Some of us jump on at different points, and some of us experiment with different things, and some of us don’t know everything that’s been done before in other schools.

There is also a huge continuum of where schools, families, and students are at right now when it comes to the pandemic. Some parents may want their kids online all day with their teachers, not realizing that this causes huge equity issues for families that can’t make that happen or teachers whose lives are upended right now.

We have to reach out and ask questions. We have to be empathetic and start with a listening focus.

Similarly, there are some parents who are saying that they don’t want their kids doing any “online” schooling right now, not understanding that some kids need this structure and connections with their classmates and teachers.

We need to understand that this is impacting us all in very different ways, and there is no one way/thing/tool/strategy/structure that will work for every situation.

(Note: There was never one right way that would work for every situation).

There’s not some governing board that gets to decide what’s working and what’s not working. There’s not some expert out there that gets to say “well that won’t work in your classroom” because they don’t know your classroom. They don’t know your kids. They don’t know your circumstances.

I wish we would spend less time debating what’s is the best way to do things and more time sharing and celebrating what’s happening in our schools right now this very moment.

Because there is so much good happening, in the midst of a desperate situation.

Don’t let others sway you from trying something new in your class or school. Don’t let the opinions of people who know better stop you from doing things that might work.

If it’s a new idea to you and your students and it works with your class then it’s worth trying.

The only people who get to decide what’s working are the people who are actually doing the work. Those that are teaching, leading, creating, sharing, and learning.

Thanks For Sharing

Last week hundreds of teachers, leaders, and parents filled out a simple Google Form sharing what was working in their current emergency remote learning situation. We crowdsourced all of this information and shared out the structures, strategies, and tools that many of you had shared were working right now.

Then we shared them out on a series of free webinars (linked below).

It is not a perfect list. It is definitely not the only structures/strategies/tools that are working right now. But, it is a start. Let’s continue sharing with each other!

K-2: Pandemic Pedagogy – What is working right now in emergency remote learning (as shared by teachers, leaders, and parents around the world)

3-5: Pandemic Pedagogy – What is working right now in emergency remote learning (as shared by teachers, leaders, and parents around the world)

6-8: Pandemic Pedagogy – What is working right now in emergency remote learning (as shared by teachers, leaders, and parents around the world)

9-12: Pandemic Pedagogy – What is working right now in emergency remote learning (as shared by teachers, leaders, and parents around the world)

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