Full Remote Learning or FRL for short.
A concept that I had never even imagined myself being a part of in the position of the teacher. Remote learning for post-secondary students was something I was familiar with. In fact, I was learning myself remotely as a Master of Professional Education student, but how would this be possible with children?
I applaud any and all people who have dedicated themselves to ensuring Ontario’s students are safe, engaged and happy during this extremely challenging school year. Educators have put in countless hours and ongoing efforts to reimagine their classrooms (whether they are virtual or face-to-face) all while keeping student’s needs at the forefront of their priorities. This pandemic has forced us all to stop and think and required us to view the world through a lens in which we never have before. Each person with their own perspectives, hardships, wins and realizations. Each person has their own narrative, each educator has a different experience. Personally, my emotions are running higher this year as I feel more nervous, uneasy, confused and overwhelmed than I ever have before.
“The realization that life is absurd cannot be an end, but only a beginning” – Albert Camus
I am constantly reflecting on my teaching practice and how I can adapt to new changes, learn from them, grow with them and ‘realize’ from them.
In early October, I picked up my first supply call for FRL. I had no idea what to expect. How would I enter this classroom community and have a positive impact on these students? How do I ensure students are provided with chances for sharing? Collaboration? How do I ensure a safe space for students to take chances, ask questions and make mistakes in the era of ‘muting’ your microphones?
The resilience of children never ceases to amaze me. Here we are as educators feeling unsure, uncomfortable even, as students join in as though they have done this 100 times in the past. Teaching and learning online has reminded me to never underestimate the power of connection. Just a few days ago, I was teaching in an FRL grade 5 classroom where a new student had joined the class that same day. Before our scheduled ‘recess’ time, one of the students in the class asked me if he and the new student could remain online with me for a couple of minutes so he could introduce himself. When the rest of the class had left the Google Meet and the three of us remained, he said “Hey! Do you wanna be my friend?” and the conversation blossomed from there.
It was at this moment I had a realization. It became apparent to me that we cannot stop children’s will to connect, drive for relationships and the innocence in their hearts. Nothing will stop this. Not removing them from the physical school building, not the transition to learning online, not wearing a mask, not social distancing, not a pandemic. Nothing.