Insert name(s) here

I hope this message finds you well. 
It has been a long time since we’ve been able to really; (circle one)
a. Chat
b. Catch-up
c. Connect
d. Collaborate
e. Other____________________________
f. All of the above (I circled this one)

I really miss the times when we were able to learn together, and to encourage each other in person too. Come to think of it, I miss a lot of things about the past year and a third. Most of all, I miss all of the joys, highs, lows, and in-betweens of being in our school. I’m not quite sure how all of these emotions built up so fast. Oh wait, COVID.

Our feelings are like CO2 being forced into a bottle and then put into a paint shaker to see what happens. I know what happens. It is messy. Other times its as if the soda bottle has been left out on the counter with the lid off all night. That sparkle and effervesence is long gone by morning. That was never the case when we were in school. 

Lately, it seems like all we do is view each other through layers of fiber optic signals and glass screens. Sometimes, I am not sure whether any of us feels like we are truly seen anymore. After all we miss the crucial dimension of proximity each time we meet in our virtual lockdown learning spaces. Well, at least our masks are off at home, yet somehow there is something really different, almost missing between being in each other’s presence and the telepresence we are forced to be engaging in right now. 

I know that it’s a struggle for me. I have meetings to teach now. I hear your voices, but our virtual interface might as well be a tin cans tied together with string like when we were kids. To me, it is becoming increasingly impossible to read small faces at 72 dpi. That’s if I see anyone at all after privacy and comfort levels are factored in. Decoding your complexity of emotions from what looks more like an animated postage stamp(gif) at best, or a motionless icon at worst never came with a training manual.

So I am writing my own. It starts every day with breaking down the digital walls that prevent us from proximity. COVID 19 may have moved our learning online for now, but it can’t prevent us from continuing the class community we have worked so hard to create. We’re chatting. We’re catching up. We’re connecting. We’re caring and then we are learning, but it is messy and it is draining. Everyone is bringing their best versions of their best selves to virtual school right now, and that looks different from day to day. 

I know you’re connecting because the little green metres rise and fall when you speak or type. Sometimes everyone is trying to answer at once and other times it is an awkward hush. How I cherish our variations from routine interactions and uniformity of it all. It is exciting to see the chat stream full of comments. I love it when the little virtual hands are raised up to respond. Each one not a pixel higher than any other. I know that there are others who want to say something, but are still feeling unsure about it and themselves too. There are even some who cannot participate because of limited tech/WiFi and that’s okay.

Whatever the reason(s) we will grow stronger and get through our days with:
Insert name(s) here, How are you?
Insert name(s) here, Would you like to share something with the class? 
Insert name(s) here, I notice you have been struggling with your tech. How can I help? 
Insert name(s) here, I wanted to let you know that you offered a really thoughtful answer in our discussion today, and I appreciated your perspective.
Insert name(s) here, I noticed you shared a lot of great ideas in the meeting chat today. I am glad you lead our class in that space.
Insert name(s) here, You are valued. You matter. I see you.

I know there is much more that follows, but everyday has to begin with our humanity before anything else. It may seem tough to give up that time at the start of each day, but the investment in knowing students, especially while we are in lockdown, will pay lifelong dividends in hearts and minds of your learners and self. It will make this time better than bearable while we prepare to return to our schools again soon.  

 

 

 

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Updated: April 27, 2021 — 8:21 am

The Author

Will Gourley

P/J lead learner and SERT at Adrienne Clarkson PS in the YRDSB. Focused on disruptive, and divergent modern learning. Member of the global TED-Ed(Club) movement, 1 of 110 TED Ed Innovative Educators, and Global Math Project Ambassador. Twitter @willgourley Proudly blogging here and at https://escheweducationalist.wordpress.com/

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