Sometimes I write to share my learning, and sometimes I write to learn. Today I am writing to process my thoughts so bear with me.
I keep thinking about this memory from my childhood.
When I was probably somewhere between 8-10 years old, I remember my older brother (Alec), and I fell asleep on the floor in our parents’ room. The only reason I remember this one time, in particular, is that Alec woke up, looked at me, and started screaming. I was covered in red spots, and we all realized I had the Chicken Pox. I went downstairs to the basement, and Alec wouldn’t come within 10 feet of me for two weeks. No one did. I was in my basement alone for the entire time, watching TV and getting food brought down by my mom.
At first, I thought, “Yes! No school for two weeks!” and was excited by that thought, and that I could just watch TV. Both of those things happened. No homework was sent home, and I just rested and watched TV.
For those two weeks, I itched like crazy, but that wasn’t the worst part. The thing I hated most about the entire time was that I never saw my friends, my brother, and I was isolated at home. In fact, I hated the sense of loneliness during that time so much that the memory sticks with me to this day. Yes, I could call my friends, and I would talk to them forever on the phone, but it just wasn’t the same.
To be honest with you, when I was my friends we talked a bit, but it wasn’t often that we would say, “Hey…Let’s turn off the TV and talk about things.” I am not going to say that never happened, but I can’t remember a time it did. It was just the presence that mattered to me; being in the room with someone else mattered. I believe that “presence” matters to our kids today, even though it might look different from my time.
The reason I have been thinking about this short, two-week period in my life is apparent. It was an extended period I couldn’t be with any of my friends, and it has been situated in my mind for decades. So what will that look like for the kids of this generation who are all experiencing this isolation to some degree at the same time? I honestly don’t know.
I read something that brought me comfort, but I am not sure it would do that for everyone. Paraphrased, it was something to the extent of, “Although we are isolated from one another, there is something powerful in the thought that we are all isolated across the entire world together.”
As a world, we are experiencing loneliness together.
I am writing this because I have been thinking about how this is not just affecting our kids right now, but how will it affect them in the future? What will the memories of this time bring? I don’t know the answer.
I empathize with all students who are lost and confused. This sudden shift to remote learning is hard to keep up with, and sometimes I still can’t process that I’m doing homework during a pandemic. Shouldn’t I be watching Grey’s Anatomy instead?
I had the Chicken Pox for two weeks and felt a good chunk of my childhood was stolen! I can’t imagine how students are feeling right now.
I have also pondered a post about a student having 5-6 hours of “homework” after “school” each day.
Everything with education and our students could be considered “homework” right now.
Is having a bunch of school work at this time, for a kid, the best approach? Honestly, I don’t know. Really. I don’t know. For some of our students, maybe being super busy helps them to get their mind off things. But for others, I guarantee it would cause a lot of extra unneeded stress, or even be impossible to accomplish even if they intended to do so. Even virtual schools are being heavily impacted right now because the home dynamics have changed significantly.
As I write this post to reflect and consider what students need, I keep coming back to the idea that we need to connect with each of our students and their families right now, no matter how hard it is, and figure out what they need. This whole thing should remind us that the individual needs of our students should be re-emphasized when our students are back in school. The easiest way is too often ask.
The “personalization” of learning has never been more critical. We can’t apply a standardized solution to individual needs.
I have been thoroughly amazed at how so many educators have done so much to stay connected and helpful to their kids, though I am not surprised. This story of a math teacher is one of my favorites:
My hope through this “disruption” that I keep holding onto is that we will all become better because of this, not only as educators but as people, myself, especially, included. The impact of what is happening today will impact all of us, and everyone around us, for an unimaginable amount of time.
As I wanted to write about how important it is to consider the needs of our students, I will end with a quote from the student I referred to earlier:
“This global pandemic has and will affect us in unimaginable ways. Treat every teacher, student, and parent with kindness and empathy because you don’t know how has COVID-19 changed their lives.”
This time in our lives will have a global impact for a long time to come, so I am doing my best to focus on how I can make today better. As my friend Joe Sanfelippo shares, the best way we start is by asking, “How are you doing?” and “Do you need anything?”
These questions are a good reminder that connection matters most, and everything else is secondary.
Kids and adults included.