In March we were “Emergency Learning”. Now we are either teaching “virtually” or “socially distanced” in classrooms. We never thought we’d be teaching from behind a screen, learning all kinds of new technology tools, wearing masks and shields in front of students or removing all of the manipulatives from classrooms. We don’t know how long this will last. We don’t know if COVID will worsen. Educators aren’t used to not knowing things. Most teachers I know like schedules, routines, knowledge and thrive on consistency.
However, in the midst of the new rules, changes and all of the things that we “can’t” do-teachers are still rocking it. Throughout the summer I worked with a team of teachers providing virtual professional learning for KPRETFO. Hundreds of teachers used their summer holidays to learn about technology tools before they even knew whether they were going to be teaching virtually or not. They logged in at 10 am some days in order to learn and some teachers even came to all twenty sessions that were provided. Educators were dedicated to their professional learning all summer long.
At the end of August, I had the privilege of working with another fabulous team of educators who dedicated their time to providing a three day virtual conference for over 500 Ontario Educators with ECOO. These educators gave up their time to organize all kinds of schedules, sponsorship, presenters, keynotes and much more. In addition, over a hundred educators created and presented webinars for their colleagues. It truly FELT like a face-to-face educational technology conference took place in my living room!
There was a feeling of sharing, helping and collegiality. It was exhausting but my bucket was over flowing.
As our school year is now well under way teachers are reaching out to me for assistance at all times of the day and night through email because they are dedicated to their students and want to do their best. They are attending our evening “PD in your PJs” webinar sessions through our local union office to learn new tech tools at 7 pm on the week nights. The educators that I work with continually astound me with their dedication to professional learning.
I recently binge watched a Netflix series called “Away”. It is a futuristic fictional narrative about the first manned mission to Mars. The astronauts were in uncharted territory. They encountered problems along the way for which they had not trained. They endured mental and physical fatigue beyond anything they had ever felt before. They were innovative and creative in order to solve problems and reach their goal. While watching, I couldn’t help thinking about the parallels between this movie and the present state of education. We’ve heard that as we design these new learning structures and environments it is like we are building an airplane while flying. If I am going to stay true to the analogy here it is really more of a rocket ship! Educators are facing situations that they hadn’t even thought about in Faculty of Education Programs. They are encountering issues of teaching without many of the tools they normally use such as manipulatives, group work or technology. They are suffering mentally and physically. They are being innovative problem solvers around tools, equipment and technology. They are building the rocket ship while they are flying it and it is full of students.
Are educators stressed? For sure. Are their nerves frayed? You bet. Are they innovative, creative, dedicated and passionate about learning and teaching? Absolutely, without a doubt. Every educator is a front line worker, doing their best, making a difference, being brave beyond imagination and truly an inspiration.