I’m been teaching remotely for just over 6 months, and as far as I can tell, I will be doing this for a few more months yet. It’s ok. I am thankful I work at a small school, with great families. We are doing all we can to keep the sense of connection that is the center of engagement. There has been a great deal of change, ongoing, unresting change, and I have been able to encounter it gracefully at times and other times I have not. I am ok with that.
In the midst of all of this, I signed up for an online course, and I am falling behinder with each day. The course is “Coping with Changes: Social-Emotional Learning through Play.” It is a focused exploration of how Play supports students in their learning. The course is focused on creating play experiences that support kids emotionally. They ask the question “What can we do to make sure our children are emotionally well,” and in this context I silently add “even in this new and challenging learning situation.”
While many things have changed these past months, what I know about education has not. Play is important, and now with many of our students informal avenues of play interrupted, teachers have an obligation to make room for play in class.
For all of the “change” that is possible during this time, there has been more adjustment to conditions than change. The importance of play isn’t news to me. Play isn’t new to my classroom. But the way most of the kids engage with play is telling. This is needed now more than ever. I am grateful that I can play this role in my community; Like all roles, this is also an obligation. This is why play isn’t silly or frivolous, or thoughtless. It is actually the center of the work. Can I get 20 some kids in different locations behind screens to engage playfully with their world and each other? The answer is yes, but how will I do it today?
My distance STEAM class has the advantage of stuff. Each month I can assemble a bag of stuff to go home to my students. It is mostly craft materials, I joke “Playdough, Pom POms, and Pipe Cleaners, this class is brought to you by the letter “P.” We get our mileage out of those pipe cleaners, I am convinced they can do almost anything. The only challenge to this is I have NEVER IN MY TEACHING LIFE been the kind of guy that can tell you what a class is doing for the next six weeks. The plans I have to make this year are so much more detailed, and prone to outside cancellation, than ever before. What is your winter program going to look like this year? I am grateful for the stuff, it helps with engagement when we all have materials. I am also endlessly challenged by the deadlines to order to allow shipping time before the “pack the bags to go home” deadline. Is this new? Not really. Is it different? So very.
I ache for my makerspace, I yearn for teaching like it is 2019.