Normally Back to School Night is an energizing time for me connect with parents and share with them my authenticity as a teacher who values hands-on work and exploration with students in my science classes.
Without realizing it, over the past ~ 6 months of distance learning, and clearly evident in my writing during this time, I have traded in my normal engaged, spontaneous, enthused presence in the classroom, for a stance that has placed protocols, organization, and structure, before all else.
While tight structures are necessary, I hypothesize my fear of students feeling lost in the distance setting, and my lack of ability to work with them side-by-side, has forced me to see my teaching through a lens of structure first, rather than a lens of engagement and passion. If that makes sense?
While I am sure many of us are experiencing similar trends in instructional behavior/design, this was underscored for me last night when interacting with parents via Zoom. While many appreciated the structure and my desire to organize their learning process, parents in my chemistry class specifically expressed a need for more hands on work at home, and engaged learning.
This was a violating and dissonant thing to hear, as my normal stance as an educator is drenched in such a teaching framework. But how were they, specifically freshman parents, supposed to know that?
I felt like it was Day 1, and all I had to show for my teaching was some boring Backwards Design Model, or tired lesson planning template that I was regurgitating from credential courses just 3 months prior.
Indeed, in 100% distance learning, these are often the things that are on display. Such comments, while instructive, hit me hard, as hands on, engaged learning is something that comes so natural to me in the in the normal setting, something that parents/students rarely question…something that is the foundation of my authentic self in the classroom. If anything, the organization and systems I a putting in place have been weak spots for me as an educator over the years. Now they are front and center.
After an evening of feeling sorry for myself, I woke up and jotted the below checklist to my normal teaching prep schedule in my “Notes” application. Each time I lesson plan moving forward, I plan on using this checklist to help me self regulate my lesson planning. A quality control measure to make sure I try my best (which will not always be feasible) to infuse my authentic self into the TIGHT STRUCTURE I have created for my distance learning.
Rather than feeling guilty and trying to please parents…I simply need to do my best to infuse MYSELF into my lessons.
“We teach from who we are” – Parker Palmer.
Click here for my “Under Construction” Week 6 lesson plan/student notebook. If you look closely you will see opportunities for simple hands on work, collaboration synchronously and asynchronously, and more intentional sparking of student curiosity early on. This should be completely by end of day tomorrow, Sunday, 9/20.