I Did Less Things, and it was Everything I Thought it Could Be. (A reflection on the 11th week of Distance Teaching)
I did a lot less this week.
I did less because before that, I was doing way too much.
Too many google docs full of too many steps, move from section A to B and don’t forget to also do your reading (with a writing component) and your writing (with a reading component). When we meet twice a week online, be ready for video, activities, and discussions that had devolved to me playing out both sides of an argument, trying to get students to fill in a work or two. It was too much, and more than that, it wasn’t doing enough. So, I did a lot less.
I didn’t do less alone.
A math teacher I work with shared that she had just started a new unit, and had just dumped everything from before that off of Google Classroom and started fresh.
I sat with my own kid, a fifth grader, as they showed me all the places they get work and all the places they turn them in, and how quickly they can miss two or five or ten assignments, and how many more they get assigned while they’re trying to catch up.
The teacher that runs our student anti-racist group and our EL teacher both got students to record videos about how distance learning feels. Our spanish teacher shared screenshots from a student’s point of view of every one of their classes, their schedule, their gradebook.
It is clear that we are asking our students to stay organized, motivated, and self-directed at a level we don’t usually ask until college, and we’re asking them to do it while spending almost all of almost every day inside their homes without friends or teachers to talk to in person.
Maybe the kids need a break. Maybe we all do.
My mantra this week was “do less and do better.” We started reading MAUS this week, and instead of doing an intro to the book and the context of Hitler’s rise to power and the ten stages of genocide and how they relate to the world now, we just read the book.
It was the best I’ve felt all year, and not just because I had a lot less to grade all weekend. One day, I mean, one hour of one day, I had to stop the students talking to each other about the first chapter so they’d have time to read the second. I had to stop them talking. About the book. To each other.
There’s a reason that art museums don’t just fill all the walls from top to bottom. They know that we need to see less in order to see important things better.