Some may argue that schooling should pause for a time, that families and students of all ages do not have the emotional bandwidth to enter a learning situation right now, let alone one that is unexplored. Issues of access and adaptability create such a chasm that it might make the most sense to simply stop, rest, and reteach when the best practices of our teachers and best selves of our students return. 

However, creating learning opportunities offers continuity, relationship, and connection. 

This argument is strong: we do not teach content; we teach humans. 

Yesterday I joined “A New Normal: Assessment & Distance Learning, a webinar of my favorite thinkers in education. Rick Wormeli, Ken O’Connor, Thomas Guskey and LeeAnn Jung, coordinated by Emily Rinkema and Stan Williams, gathered ideas from pedagogy and assessment experts about our new teaching environment. 

This post is a summary of ideas that captured me, filtered through my voice, partially editorialized. 

Begin by closing your eyes. 

Ask yourself: “If students could only do ________, what would it be?” We need this kind of focus for what matters most. Which content and skills create lasting learning? If we can determine what is most important and pare it down, we give ourselves space to innovate learning experiences full of choice, relevance, novelty, and an opportunity for play. 

Grades Are Temporary Anyway

We will be asked to provide evidence of learning by systems and policies that require accountability, but how we grade shouldn’t be the filter by which we decide how we ask students to learn. Grades in this setting can’t be verified, so we would be wise to embrace the formative process.

In my own teaching setting, “the rules” have changed 287 times since the beginning of the pandemic. A week ago I was frantic after every email, changing my systems and patterns; now I hold everything loosely, and try to focus on the process of learning rather than the evidence I will collect to verify that learning has happened. 

Assessment is important; grading is not. 

Not Because I Told You So

How can we ask students to share evidence rather than compliance? It’s possible that a  tableaux, fingerplay, piece of art, or simulation encourages choice of action and expression necessary in an equitable environment. 

Give students a choice for how they want to participate. They aren’t in the classroom anymore. If we make assumptions for how and where and why they are learning, we will miss the opportunity to make a human connection and a learning connection. 

Identify Your Principles

Be principled first; actionable second. 

Take a few minutes to remember why you teach. Think deeply about lasting learning, and strip away any notion of what school might DO TO students. Consider how to learn WITH students. Do not limp through the opportunity to recreate yourselves as teachers in this situation. Keep your sense of humor, forgive yourself in advance. 

We are all beginners now. 

Published On: March 27th, 2020 / Categories: Blog /