Please forgive me for being out of touch. I know you're worried about your child's learning during the pandemic, and I know I've been remiss in explaining everything I've been doing since March 7th. You could say that I've been building the plane while I'm still learning how to fly it. Plus I've been so busy trying to figure out how to salvage what I can of my school's and students' year I haven't had time to communicate it all clearly to you and to answer your many questions -- which, to be honest, are also a lot of my own questions.
Apart from supporting our students and their families who are getting sick and dying, or losing their incomes and housing, or struggling with food insecurity, one of the top three biggest problems we teachers are wrestling with right now is this:
All of our best teaching & learning practices of the last 50+ years are based on layers and layers of assumptions of direct, in-person collaboration.All of the most effective pedagogy is based on conclusive evidence that effective learning is socially constructed. We've trained at least two generations of teachers based on this assumption, and our entire schooling system is based on this premise. So we teachers are working on figuring out what we can salvage, given what is possible given our limited time and circumstances.
Collaboration is not only baked into the physical circumstances of our schools, it's also baked into the state-approved approved curricula.
Now under this pandemic -- and for the first time in about 3,000+ years of teaching and learning -- we are all physically distanced. In addition to being physically separated, due to the inequities in socioeconomic, housing, and medical circumstances, much of my urban students' learning has had to go asynchronous.
In all of recorded human history, this has not happened before. Everything we front-line teachers and administrators know and have learned about best practices being collaborative and cooperative is just gone.
So for me, as a veteran classroom teacher, this leaves me with three Essential Questions that no existing education "expert" can actually answer for me.
1) How do children actually learn under these circumstances?
2) How do I triage and reprioritize elements of the curriculum to accommodate this new teaching & learning reality and to ensure the legally mandated Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to which each of your children is entitled --including students with disabilities and learning differences?
3) What adjustments do I need to make to equitably engineer the greatest possible learning opportunities for all students, given the already-vast inequities that are being amplified every day in every dimension of this pandemic at every turn?I'm spending much of my time working on these questions and talking to my professional teaching & learning communities so that we can address the new reality for as long as it holds.
Sorry to have been so out of touch. I promise I'll keep trying to do better.
Doctor S and every other public school teacher everywhere