I’ve hit a bit of a writing block lately, mostly consuming – Books, TV Shows, articles, twitter feeds. It’s been enjoyable at times, but also frustrating. I’ve been frustrated at not creating, not because I can’t share it with others (very few people see this blog anyway), but the overall sense that I’m only taking in information. It is the opposite of productive. To be productive, to feel a sense of accomplishment, creation is necessary.
Is this how it feels to be a student most of the time? Maybe it’s worse because you don’t even get to choose what you consume most of the time because teacher’s decide for you.
The start of spring break, last Friday, felt confusing at best. As we were supposed to head off for rest and relaxation, our immediate plans changed and backup plans were limited. When the seemingly inevitable announcement of our school closure came, it changed the way spring break felt. All of the educators on my twitter feed were planning for their school closures without a spring break as a buffer.
My thoughts around being stuck in our house wavered, between wanting to continue my consumption of books and TV shows to wanting to create something, anything. Fortunately, I found a number of inspirations – twitter educators, my son, and a wonderful book.
If you’re not on twitter yet as a teacher, please start now. I honestly don’t go that often, but even if you only check in occasionally, you will find incredible resources. There are so many creative educators, using tools they already know or exploring new tools that they’ve only considered before, sharing their ideas and work with others. In a time of confusion, educators are demonstrating inspiring levels of creativity and collaboration.
One teacher shared a tweet about one thing he should definitely ask his students to do: write about their experience of Covid-19. Just imagine if a whole class shared their experiences together. Now imagine if that class shared their experiences with others. Imagine if they put it in a time capsule to be ready five, ten, or twenty years from now. Let’s build on that and ask the class to read historical fiction about similar times of concern, like Fever 1793.
Other educators shared what they’ve created to help teachers connect with their classes meaningfully.
Websites and apps are giving free accounts for the next month or the rest of the school year. Authors are giving permission for teachers to make read aloud videos of their books for students. There is this collective energy inspiring us to create so that students might benefit.
Along with the twitter-sphere educators sharing tools and ideas, others are saying let kids be kids, let teachers have time with their families. I’m going to try to do both, help the teachers in our building accomplish their goals and spend time with my family, particularly my son. Today he and I created a schedule, including free time and learning time. We designated one hour for project time. We started a graphic novel project together about a Koala and a Gecko traveling from Australia to Mexico. This was not on my to do list when I woke up this morning, but I am thrilled to see where it goes. We’ll see how it fits into the virtual learning that has to take place a week from now, but I’m sure we can find a way to make it work with the language arts work we receive.
Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi
Yesterday, I read the book Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi. First, Kendi Wrote Stamped From the Beginning. Next, Reynolds wrote his own version to make the learning more accessible to younger readers. It is such a unique book, a not-history book, as he calls it. Stamped flows so naturally, it is easy to tell that Reynolds took in all of Kendi’s ideas and information and created his own understanding. He compares a moment in history to “social media before social media.” This is clearly his own. Not somebody else’s version, but his version of learning and sharing with the world. Now I am inspired to go read Kendi’s original work.
Not that I expect us to recreate Reynolds’ and Kendi’s magnificent collaboration, but if we can inspire students in a similar way, we will undoubtedly be successful. If we can create a cycle, a balance, of consumption and creation, that means our students are not just taking in the information we share with them – through videos, packets, or any other tool – they are applying learning to their lives.
Inspired application of learning should be our goal for teaching and learning at all times, and I hope that this unfortunate circumstance leads to a fortunate outcome. I hope it helps teachers and students (and parents) connect in inspiring ways that not only make these next few weeks more valuable than we may imagine, but also make classroom learning more unique and inspiring when we return.
For more thoughts on creation and consumption, please find John Spencer’s work here. He is always inspiring.