The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned. ~Maya Angelou
As I often do, I give immense credit to my brilliant, deep-thinking, and reflective teaching colleague, Barbara Hargreaves, for her inspiration for this post.
In anticipation of our current home schooling scenario, we both struggled (collectively and independently) with what “learning could look like” for our learners. What to prioritize? What really matters (what doesn’t)?
In the midst of her personal rumblings, Barbara sent this article by Deborah Cohen, author and associate sociology professor at the University of South Carolina Beaufort.
Immediately, I felt an immense release. A release of pressure to create the perfect Google Classroom environment. A release of the pressure to devise and deliver the exception demonstration and lesson of Bernoulli’s Principle. A relief to get it right. A release to try, fail, adapt, learn, change, and grow as an educator.
What do we need to teach now?
Then prior to our first digital staff meeting several weeks ago, Barb sent this thought-provoking brainstorm to the entire team based on our four school values of empathy, nourishment, understanding, relationship, and courage.
[My mind: blown] (as Barb’s authentic rumblings often do).
Approaching these question from her essence and truth as heart-led educator, Barb simply flipped our perspective of what we need to do to support our learners from distance. Instead of attempting to effectively infuse ‘learning’ opportunities within the home, what if we asked the question differently: How can we support our students and their families with “ways to be at home” during the pandemic?
I read (and reread often) Barb’s call to arms as a ‘need to maintain relationships above all else’ and as much as possible during this time of uncertainty and family stress. What do our families and our students need? As much as possible, I felt that I needed to ready myself for the variety of student and family situations and related needs. It was time for honest and personal conversations to see where our students and their families are truly at in all of this.
Our first week of work (after returning from spring break) was spent connecting via phone with all 48 of our students and their families. With each call averaging 10-12 minutes, it was an exhausting exercise; but also an (oh!) so important, humbling, and inspiring one. No two families shared similar needs, schedules for home schooling, or expectations of us as teachers or emotional and social worries. However, their immense appreciation for our time and compassion that was evidenced throughout these connections was frequent and authentic. Actually, there was one commonality among all of the families that I spoke with: What does being at home look like?
My reply seemed to come naturally and genuinely: What being together looks like for your family? For me, it involves empathy, courage, understanding, nourishment, and yes, relationship.
It is a work in progress both as a parent and educator.
But work worth digging into.