by Lucia Sullivan on 04/15/2020
Dear Canyon Community,
I hope you are all doing okay. This is the start of our fifth week sheltering in place. I truly hope you are all safe and well. I hope your children are settling into their new routines and distance learning.
A word about distance learning. To be clear, this is not home schooling or correspondence class or an independent study plan. This is an attempt to create normalized routines, maintain community and an opportunity for learning for your children. I say an opportunity, because given the stress, trauma and grief kids and families are feeling right now, it is unclear who is learning or even, given the circumstances, what learning looks like right now. We know some kids (and adults) adopt a worker bee mentality in a crisis. For those people, creating a sense of order out of chaos (organizing closets, taking on projects, learning new skills) provides a feeling of control and reduces anxiety. Other people are not wired that way. They may retreat into themselves or they may seek social connection. They may sleep. A lot. Some people seek escape; for kids this might manifest as hours and hours of video games. Families are not monolithic. You may all be reacting in different ways.
We are providing education; we want kids to know that their community is there for them and that the adults in their lives show up, even when things are very hard and uncomfortable. And we want you to know that it is okay if kids choose not to do all their work.
School is a fundamentally social experience. What makes it powerful and important is that it brings swaths of people together across all manner of society and at school they form a common community. Each family has its own values, beliefs and priorities that drive decision making. At school, kids are exposed to myriad ways of thinking and approaching problem solving and they are part of another intimate community with a shared culture distinct from their family of origin.
So much of their learning on a given day is based on their observations of others. They watch how others complete tasks and emulate those behaviors. They act in certain ways because they know kids or adults are seeing them. They live out the identities they have created for themselves at school. They collaborate and engage in power struggles. They negotiate and come to agreements. They compromise.
In the absence of those opportunities, they have academic tasks. Those tasks may or not be meaningful or engaging depending on their energy level, their predisposed interest, perceived challenge and whether or not they are hungry or thirsty or hot or cold. They also have to bring focus and attention. It is completely expected that in a traumatic situation (and regardless of your personal situation at home, it is one) people react in different ways. Lack of ability to focus is a well documented reaction. These realities contribute to the challenges of this distance learning experience.
That is why we are not “grading” students at this time. We will provide feedback. We will notice and record what they accomplish. But there is not going to be any negative feedback from the school. Teachers do have “incomplete work” lists as this is a function of google classroom. It is not intended to haunt or torment kids.
Now that we are all at home together around the clock, what our children are observing is us and we are observing them. What I would hope that children experience in this very hard time is complete love and acceptance. Imagine if you were quarantined with your boss right now and they kept telling you your work wasn’t good enough or that you needed to do more? If your kids learn nothing else in this time I hope it is that we love them regardless of what they accomplish, that we notice what makes them happy and we seek to help them get more of that, that we recognize their limits and their boundaries and we do not push them at such a vulnerable time. Try to do less and let that be okay.
It is wonderful to hear from so many of you. I know how hard, exhausting and frustrating this time period is. Wishing you the best under very challenging circumstances,