Like almost all Ontario educators right now, I'm finishing off my fourth week of remote learning. I can definitely understand the many teachers right now that are worried about upcoming report cards and Communications of Learning, and how they're going to manage to teach everything virtually. Most likely, even if we do go back to the classroom before the end of the school year, we'll have to have started writing reports before we return. I understand the desire to stay focused on expectations right now. But one thing that I'm noticing as my teaching partner, Paula, and I connect with our students each day, is that the opportunity to build and nurture community is more important than ever before.
We start all of our meeting times with "small talk." Kids share about everything from favourite foods to latest wonders to observations outside to quick "hellos" with friends. Yes, maybe for some of the parents that join our daily meetings, they wonder about this slow start. It can seem slow. But as more kids unmute, as children start to respond to each other's questions, and as we begin to develop a "hum" in our virtual class, a little bit of wonderful happens. The classroom community that we had pre-lockdown is evolving into a virtual one.
Right now, the weather continues to improve, and warm temperatures and sunshine make it harder to keep logging in online. I get it. We have almost perfect attendance every day though, and I have to wonder if starting with relationships makes the difference. This sign-off the other day had me believing that despite a growing awareness of the number of weeks of school left and the teaching still to do, focusing on community first still has value.
How do you nurture relationships online? These moments of connection each day give me a feeling of warmth inside and the hope that maybe, despite the ever-changing circumstances in Ontario education, we're giving kids what they need.