5 Things Learned So Far During Distance Learning

First, I’m hoping everyone reading this – yourself and your people – are all as safe and healthy as could be. Keep washing those hands, disinfecting your stuff, and saving space between yourself and others! It’s hard, but you’re doing the right thing.

It’s been over 8 weeks of shelter-in-place for me. Lots of ups and downs, so it seems like a good time to pause and reflect a little. I’ve found myself forgetting what happened from day to day and the most effective way for me to fight that is to write. If it means I’m keeping a timed diary like I did in high school, then so be it.

[An example of what I mean by ‘timed diary’:
8am: Wake up, get ready for the day
8:30am: Breakfast – scallion pancakes, tea, an apple
9:00am: Online staff meeting

I’ve learned some new stuff, and I’m reminded of some old stuff. Here are the top 6 things from both of these categories during the first 8 weeks of SIP.

  1. Trust begins on day one.
    During the first few weeks, and even sporadically now, many of my colleagues were wondering how to field all the questions and emails from their students and their families. Personally, I didn’t think I received that many questions; neither did my teaching team. Perhaps my definition of ‘a lot’ of emails is different from others? Still, the types of questions I did get were not like what others got – I didn’t get the panic, the confusion, the what and how do we do this? I didn’t get any student complaining or sassing back out of the normal, or out of fear and uncertainty. My teaching team took a long time to process this and the only conclusion we logically can think of is: Our students trusted us. They knew we were working on a plan. That we would communicate with them when our plans were ready. That we would consider the times and do our best to balance providing quality lessons and making allowances. They knew this because we had always been like this – proceeding forward in a clear, concise, and calm on a normal basis anyway, so distance learning didn’t feel any different from how we normally approached anything. And that has helped with both the level and quality of work turn in for my students.
  2. Learn random tech, even if you don’t think you need it.
    Learning random things applies to more than just tech, but for now I’ll focus on just the tech part. For me, there’s nothing like exploring and experimenting with a new tool to expand my brain and stretch it’s boundaries. In that process, you sort of learn how to acclimate to new tech a little faster, little less awkwardly, and a little more confidently. Not that I know everything, but there’s some satisfaction in knowing that the tech portion of distance learning is NOT the most overwhelming part.
  3. Motivation will run down. But it will also run back up.
    When schools closed, I was pretty relieved. It was just the perfect timing for a different pace. For the first 2-3 weeks, I was flying high. No bells! Going to the restroom whenever I want! Actually eating lunch everyday! Deadlines are fake and grades don’t matter so I wasn’t staying up late to grade work anymore. Then, I think I just got a little complacent and started to let things slide a bit – and by ‘a bit,’ I mean a lot. This week was better though – listening to music, getting regular sleep, and going outside to move for longer periods of time helped. Decreased motivation is to be expected. Do the best you can each day and have patience with yourself.
  4. Think about what you’re gaining, rather than what you’re losing.
    “No end-of-year trips, no advancement/graduation, no celebrations, no awards, no year-end events!” That’s often the phrase I hear from many staff and students alike. But what if instead of behind, we are ahead? Here’s a blog post by Altogether Mostly that says it better than me (thanks to English teacher Ms. F at my school for the link!) We’re gaining a sense of what is really important to us, an appreciation for the little things in life, and a firmer understanding of how an individual’s actions affects the wider community as a whole. All things gained, I think. Personally, I’ve very much enjoyed this time of without: Without commute traffic, without tedious busy-work-style paperwork and grading, without needing to small talk with various people in various circles, without needing to get out of my comfy clothes at all. BUT…
  5. Reach out, reach in, and reach over.
    …Isolation isn’t the greatest for my emotional and personal growth either. I tend to revert to an immature crybaby when I spend too much time by myself, no matter how much my introvert-self thrives on it. It’s good to reach out (call an elderly person you know and deliver some disinfecting wipes to them; volunteer at the district meal distribution days; go on outdoor adventures with some friends, masks, and staying 6 ft apart). It’s good to reach in and take a good, objective look at where you need to grow and improve (listening to music and studying lyrics; exploring a new art or craft). And when some people are not responsive, or respond in a way that grates at your soul, then reach over all that and look for the commonalities. Because it’s ok to be different. It’s ok to not understand each other. It’s not ok to not be kind, to other people and to yourself.
  6. Support local businesses, other businesses, and non-profits in anyway you can.
    I’ve made it a point to get take-out from a local restaurant every week. Believe it or not, this is WAY MORE eating out than I did before SIP. I’m hoping to get my knives and scissors sharpened at a local blade sharpening shop once it opens up again. I’ve bought some new clothes online – because apparently all I have are work clothes and pajamas, with maybe 2-3 workout outfits. I guess that’s all I did – work and sleep – before SIP. Not surprised, actually. It’s a good idea to donate to your local food bank or other charities. I know we got some bad news about tax dollars in CA this week from the superintendent of my district, but I still consider myself lucky to still have a job and still have a consistent paycheck. So I’ll try to support business as much as I can while still looking for good deals and spending wisely.

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