Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Thoughts on Teaching & Learning..Day 5

Over the past several weeks, I have found myself doing a lot of reflection trying to get this online teaching right.  I keep meaning to get my thoughts on paper but then get caught up in the day-to-day work of teaching in this pandemic era.  I know if I can catch my breath, there is a lot to learn and reflect on during this time. So, I decided that every day in May, I will share my thoughts on Teaching and Learning.  This is Day 5.

Covid Slide and Deficit Model thinking....

In the past couple of weeks, I have read this and this and this. I am so alarmed at some of the things I am reading about the "Covid Slide" and how "far behind" our students will be when this is all over and how this will require "aggressive remedial plans" when we return. I am worried for lots of reasons. First of all, when did this deficit model thinking become our norm? How did we get to the point, that in the middle of a global pandemic, we are worried that kids might not "make appropriate growth" during this time?

There are several things that can happen if we allow ourselves to think like this. First, we are setting ourselves up to look at students with a deficit model lens as soon as this pandemic is over. Instead of celebrating and seeing what they bring to us, we will see what they are missing.  If we focus on what kids will be "missing" we might miss stories like this.  We might forget about all of the many families who BernNadette Best-Green reminds us are showing up. We might not realize there is a child in our classroom who spent the entire quarantine working on a novel or another who spent hours learning about space, since he had more time than ever to dig in and learn. We might miss the stories of a student who cared for younger siblings while parents were at work or of the student who spent time making masks for others.  We will miss all the things they learned that can't easily be measured with data.

We are also fooling ourselves if we actually believe that kids make equal, incremental growth and that they all end up in the same place at the end of a normal year. This article considers some of this and is worth a read.

We are inviting more work on figuring out kids' gaps, creating plans to fill those gaps and thinking about remediation before we even look to see which skills kids do come with.

And let's talk about the "slide".  I do not want to minimize the devastation that closed schools are causing for children and families. Or the importance of students losing some skills that they've had in place. But I want us to be careful buying into this idea--these confident declarations-- that missing 8 weeks of school is going to call for remediation or a "lost generation".

Instead, what it will call for is us, as teachers, to get to know our students, see what they bring to the classroom, see which skills they have and to build on those. And to look at these children as whole beings, whole beings who have been through a crisis, who may come back to school needing social and emotional support. And children who will all need something different to meet their needs. It will not be time to look immediately for data to prove what a big problem we have because kids are reading 2 months below grade level (whatever that means) and to make remediation plans for all of the skills they don't have.  We can't go in with that mindset. Not for ourselves or for our students.

Our students, our families and our world are in a pandemic, a crisis.  And we are teachers and we will know how to nurture them. so they heal and grow academically. We will be able to teach in ways that fill in whatever gaps they have because of this current crisis.  But it will be so much harder to do if we start by believing all that has been in the media these last few weeks--that our kids will be too far behind. Now, more than ever we have to remember that life is learning and that each child will come back to school--whenever that may be--as they do every year--with gifts and strengths and areas for growth. And as we do every year, we will celebrate and build on what they come with, to help them learn and grow.

(I love this image from Create-abilities' Facebook page.)


  1. Thank you for this post! I have been "spitting wooden nickels" over the hand wringing of the meme that our children are somehow going to be forever behind the curve because of the disruption this corona virus pandemic has caused. We can't let those who define schools and children only by data to define the state of our schools. They have had the stage for far too long and have nothing to show for their "leadership" but stagnation at the most. It is time for educators with no vested in the latest fad products to step up and take back the narrative.

  2. This is excellent. Thank you so much for your thoughts and advocacy. The people (sorry if I seem harsh) who believe this nonsense about "forever being behind" are fooling themselves. Learning, real learning, that lasts is not a straight, linear path upward.....our students will rise to whatever we want to help them learn. Some kids will need a little extra time, some will soar. Who believes there are these golden tablets that are hidden away that show what and when every child should learn and know how to do some skill or knowledge bit with accomplishment?.....The skills many kids will develop on their own during this crisis and their fears or interests will drive teachers who are capable of matching what they will teach to what children can do and need to learn next. Covering a curriculum....is old school. Kids can condense and learn more quickly. And the older they are the quicker they can learn some things as well. Analyze what the kids need then teach it. Using a book and being on page 1 today and p2 tomorrow for the entire class is meeting the needs of maybe 1/3 or less of the class. The top 1/3 are probably bored, and the lower 1/3 may find it too confusing to make steady progress......Keep sharing Franki!!! 199% with you. Thank you. Janet Clare F.

  3. Thank you for this post. I have shared it widely. I too am concerned with deficit planning as I have come to call our current phase 3 and 4 talk. I hope that we will regain our perspective and beginning today believing that it is a perfect place to start.


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