2 Truths and A Lie About Distance Learning - Cassie Dahl | Teaching + Technology

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2 Truths and A Lie About Distance Learning

Distance learning hasn't been easy. Here are two simple truths and a lie for how distance learning went for me this year.

I don’t know about you, but this global pandemic sure changed the look of my classroom. I never imagined I would be teaching from home and trying to keep my relationship with students going through a computer/iPad. So here are my 2 truths and a lie, all about distance learning… maybe you can relate.

Truth #1: The Kids Struggled

Let’s get real for a second. Were your students super engaged? Do you really think that your standards were delivered to the same level that they would have been in the classroom? Most importantly, do you think that your kids found distance learning to be easy?

The truth is, I can almost guarentee that your students struggled. Maybe it was that they struggled just getting logged on and using the technology. Maybe it was that they struggled getting work done with siblings around or their parents at work. Maybe it was that they struggled with not being in the classroom to make social connections with their peers.

No matter which aspect of distance learning they struggled with, every student struggled with something. We need to keep this in mind when we start back in the fall. This experience was hard for kids. They miss their classmates and their teachers. They haven’t had a routine that is similar to what we had established in the classroom.

So when (err… if) school resumes in the fall, keep this first truth at the top of your brain. Nothing will be the same moving forward. Your students struggled and they are going to need some compassion to move forward and reestablish what being a student looks like.

Truth #2: Teachers Struggled

I can’t lie. I LOVED wearing pajama pants/yoga pants every single day. Added bonus, I was home with our newborn and three-year old and DIDN’T have to take maternity leave. But at the same time, distance learning was hard for me.

My classroom is my home away from home. When I leave my classroom at the end of the day, I feel accomplished (and exhausted). Distance learning didn’t allow for that same feeling of accomplishment. I often felt like I was failing my students because the situation was so out of my hands.

So, if you are in the same boat I am… feeling like a failure of a teacher for the last few months. Take a deep breath. This fall will (hopefully) give you a chance to redeem yourself and allow you to find your groove again.

Even though I use technology in my classroom on a daily basis, using it for every single lesson was hard. How the heck do you troubleshoot with a student on how to send an e-mail with a kid through e-mail? It is not easy. Nothing about distance learning was easy for teachers. We completely reinvented what education looks like and it was hard. Take the next few weeks to recharge, reflect and ready yourself for what the next school year might bring.

A Lie: Relationships Thrived

Having a successful classroom environment is dependent on thriving relationships. Not only between the teacher and students, but also between students. Student relationships with their peers are crucial for students to grow and develop.

Collaboration between students is hard when you are miles apart. Teachers need the ability to work closely with small groups of students to build teamwork skills, help them learn to make compromises, and to meet social-emotional needs of all learners. That didn’t happen with distance learning.

Teachers are telling themselves a lie if they truly think that relationships thrived during distance learning. Yes, there were moments that my students worked together. Yep, there were days that we zoomed as a class and got to interact with each other. But none of it matches the relationships we can build in the classroom.

Being together in the classroom is something that all teachers and students missed out on. Greeting each other daily, learning to work side-by-side even if you disagree, pushing each other to be the best that we can be. All of that… was missed during distance learning.

My Final Thoughts

I hope that the fall brings all of us back together at school, even if it is with different regulations and different routines. Our normal is going to look so different. Keeping these truths and the lie in our brains will help us transition back to teaching in the classroom and help our students be successful.

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