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You Can Say No

Once upon a time people talked with each other in the streets. Friends met and hugged and shared tea and cookies. People held celebrations and sang, danced and played together. In that time, there were big buildings called schools and every week day, all the children in all the lands would go to those buildings. The children would sit together in classrooms, they would share desks, markers, jokes and stories. The children would learn about the world around them, they would develop friendships, a sense of empathy and compassion for other people. The leaders of those classrooms were called teachers and they worked with the children to challenge them and lead them on a path to lifelong learning.

True story, I think. Is it just me, or is it nearly impossible to believe that 2 months ago that was regular life? I once spent my days working with kids on things that mattered. Now, I spend my work days reaching out blindly into cyberspace trying to connect to my students in any way that I possibly can.

I don’t want to speak for all teachers (there are over 100 000 teachers in Canada and I can’t possibly know what they are all thinking) but I can honestly tell you that most teachers right now just want to know that your kids are ok.

Of course we want the kids to be learning. We want them to be reading, writing, practicing their numeracy skills, interacting with the world around themselves and developing their sense of empathy and compassion.

But, mostly we want them to be ok. We want you, as their caregivers and their main connection to the world to be ok. We want to support you and guide you. We want to be teachers and we are sad and lost because we don’t know what that looks like anymore.

The reality is that in our current Coronavirus stasis it is hard to know what we can do to support our students and their families.

Do you wonder why we send you so many websites, links and emails? It isn’t because we want to overwhelm you. We want you to have options, we want to give you so many options, that you can find the one that works exactly for your family.

But I don’t think it works that way.

I’m afraid that in an effort to make sure you have everything you need, we have drowned you in information when what we were really trying to do was to send you a lifeboat.

Please, don’t feel like you have to follow every schedule, visit every link or website and do every activity that your child’s teachers gives you. It is ok for you to say no. It is ok for you to be working through this time in the way that makes sense for your family.

If you are watching the birds that perch outside your window with your children, trying to name them and recognize their songs instead of doing lessons on Seesaw, that’s ok.

If you are teaching your kids to play cribbage instead of putting them on a school assigned math website, that’s great.

If you are making bread, cookies or playdough with your kids instead of doing a worksheet on fractions, that’s awesome.

I encourage you to try to make a schedule, not because I want you to fit all the stuff that school has sent home into your day, but because a schedule can make the days less overwhelming for everyone. A schedule can give you a feeling of control in a world that is ridiculously topsy-turvy. Your schedule can include ice cream eating contests, Minecraft marathons and ping pong ball tosses, but having a schedule will help to define your days and keep you going.

In Manitoba, the guidelines that are set out by the province are aiming at 5 hours of curriculum-based learning for grades k-4 per week and 10 hours a week for grades 5-8. High School is a little trickier, here, teachers are supposed to deliver 3 hours of direct teaching per course per week assuming that all those kids have everything they need to be connected and online for those courses (which of course, many don’t).

This means that for your young children, if you read with them for a half an hour a day (them reading to you, or you reading to them), you are already halfway there! Don’t forget that music, art and physical activities are also a part of the curriculum. Maybe your older kid wants to learn the first Tae Kwan Do pattern, how to draw their favourite anime character, or a few chords on the guitar that’s gathering dust in the corner. It is all good. It is all learning.

I don’t expect any of my students to do every assignment I post online or send home. However, I have 5 students in my class, who do just about everything that I assign. Five students who I know structure their day around me posting lessons and that keeps me going.

That’s really what I want to say. Find what keeps you going and feed it. There is no business as usual. No matter what experts make predictions (dire or otherwise) about the future, the truth is that nobody knows what’s going to happen next.

This is a roller coaster that is unridden and untested. The seatbelts don’t fit quite right, the exit isn’t marked and I’m not sure if there is anybody controlling the ride, but I do know that it can’t last forever.

Take care of yourself, take care of your loved ones and please know that even if your kid’s teacher isn’t meeting your needs, know we are out here rooting for you. We love and miss your kids and will welcome them back with open arms (when that is safe and allowed.)

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