The big catch word in education these days is “resilience” and much has been written and spoken about it around the world. It is believed that building resilience equips one to cope with the “slings and arrows” life has a habit of casting our way. It is a fundamental, underlying strength that helps to prevent a person from breaking down or falling apart during challenging times. A resilient person has learnt and practiced strategies for engaging in self-talk or mindful activities or having the wherewithal to have discussions with others to unpack feelings, identify them and deal with them effectively: coming out of it unscathed as much as is possible. Resilience is built upon, little by little, over time, as each challenge tests our fortitude.
This is one of those times.
It has been reassuring, as a Cycle 2 (Years 1 to 3) teacher, to see my students coping better with online distance learning this time around, during lockdown number five here in Melbourne. This is testament to their own degree of built-up resilience. It also highlights what the parents have put in place to support them. As well as our own learning as a school, with many staff working tirelessly to ensure each lockdown is as successful as is humanely possible, given the restraints that bind us and the circumstances surrounding and governing us.
With many years of teaching under my belt, it’s fair to say that teaching through a computer screen has not been easy, nor does it come at all naturally. However, I have had the pleasure of laughing out loud on a daily basis during whole class meetings and small group lessons. I have seen smiling faces and had positive, responses from my students.
Parents have supported me by helping their children log on for lessons and also by posting their children’s work onto our Transparent Classroom, so I can see completed work, provide feedback and gauge progress. This, in turn, provides me with ideas for further lessons to ensure I am providing our students with a deeper understanding or opportunity for more challenge.
I have enjoyed discussions with my students about a range of topics, fostering closer ties, building relationships, giving me deeper insights and teaching me things I didn’t know. Teachers are life-long learners, and distance learning certainly reminds us of this.
Our children have had to put up with the loss of certain types of freedom and have been learning how to voluntarily take on behaviours for the good of the collective, even when those behaviours impact upon their own personal freedom. They have had mini biology lessons, learning about how germs in our environment impact upon us and what measures to take to either eliminate or ameliorate the effects. Lessons in good hygiene are never wasted. After all, it was good hygiene that revolutionized medical practices.
Our children have also been learning about different ways to communicate, via technology, which requires a certain approach in order to make the communication effective. Trying to speak to someone via Zoom, whilst not actually being on the screen, is less effective and less satisfying than facing the screen and looking out of it to face the person they are talking to, albeit in a virtual sense. Students have learnt why putting up their hand to speak during online class meetings or small group lessons is so important. It ensures that no one is speaking over another person, which results in clearer communication and makes it easier for the listeners to hear what has been said. This is basic grace & courtesy, so important in a Montessori sense. One hopes these habits are continued when children return to their classrooms but, if not, this is a lesson in itself.
Children are also learning to be more independent, as their parents are often working whilst they are engaged on learning activities, so they need to ensure they have what is necessary for their lesson. They have been learning to view the school portal for their work, read instructions written by their teachers, so they know how to approach the activities. Reading instructions is a skill that students need to learn over time, as incorrect answers in tests are sometimes caused by a student not reading instructions carefully enough, but rather reading them in a perfunctory manner and assuming they know what the question is asking of them.
The continued and ongoing experiences of distance learning has challenged us all, and at the same time, brought us together as a classroom community as well as a whole school community. The resilience of my students has been a pleasure to observe, even when they are feeling most challenged by the situation. I feel as if I have learnt just as much as my students during this time, and look forward to bringing some of those lessons about stepping outside of my comfort zone, and letting go of being able to control every situation back into the classroom when we return.